Latest projects, prototypes and experiments 

When people ask what are we working onright now at the Learning Environments research group, it is often difficult to summarize all the different prototypes, experiments, and projects. The university keeps track of all our publications, but there is so much more with impact.

Therefore, it is good to write down these once in a while.

This spring we started a new major European research project. SySTEM2020 project tackles scientific literacy and STEM education – i.e. education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – of young people aged 9 to 20 years old. The aim is to provide high-quality science education for all by exploring and designing science education outside the classroom. Key questions and themes are how to trigger learners’ interest, motivation, and autonomy, but also how to design services, practices and tools that will advantage inclusion and equity.

SySTEM2020 kickoff meeting took place last May in the spaces of Science Gallery Dublin, the institution coordinating the project. The next project meeting will be hosted on our campus in March 2019 and will focus on co-designing science education outside the classroom. The workshop participants will come with project partners and science education stakeholders. If you are interested in to join the workshop, drop Eva Durall (@aalto.fi) an email. SySTEM2020 project is supported by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 Programme.

HUMEX is a national, interdisciplinary research project aiming to improve digital and face-to-face interaction. At the LeGroup we have studied how people feel about personal data tracking in order to design prototypes that are capturing people’s emotions and behaviors for the purpose of enhancing the quality of interaction that is digitally mediated. With an aim to design prototypes we have conducted a contextual inquiry with interviews, focus groups, field observations with various stakeholders. This way we have mapped challenges and opportunities related to possibilities to augment communication with physiological data. Three first functional prototypes are already under construction.

(1) “The Nodders” is a headband device that captures the movement of the head. The audio conference is enhanced by communicating nodding with visuals to fortifies presence and sense of shared understanding. Agreement or disagreement is represented with animated emoticons. The team designing and developing the prototype is Jana Pejoska, Eva Durall, Merja Bauters and Joaquin Aldunate Infante (@aalto.fi).

(2) “FIRA” is a situational translator designed for construction work. The aim is to improve fluency in the communication between foremen, subcontractors and construction workers by overcoming the language barriers. The prototype is designed and developed by Jana Pejoska & Merja Bauters (@aalto.fi).

(3) IF – messenger with a heartbeat is a design concept for messenger tool that is used between customer and customer service. To enhance the sense of human presence in remote communication the messenger provides heartbeat of the customer service personnel, captured with a wearable device equipped with sensors to the customer’s chat window. The prototype is designed and developed by Jana Pejoska (@aalto.fi) & Valtteri Wikström (@helsinki.fi).

HUMEX is an interdisciplinary research project of the University of Helsinki, Oulu University and Aalto University. Our company partners are Reaktor, Avaus, Wunder, If, Fira, Fondia, Mehiläinen, Affecto, Wörks, and Elisa. The project is funded by Business Finland.

In the year-long national project Pänttäyksestä printtaukseen – ’from cramming to printing’ –  we have studied the adoption of 3D modelling and printing in real school settings. In the last couple of years, elementary schools in Finland have embraced 3D printing as a learning tool for their multidisciplinary learning modules. Earlier studies suggest these maker-oriented, hands-on activities provide new learning possibilities for children. Based on our study utilizing ethnographic methods, 3D teaching and learning focus on technical skills instead of advancing creativity and design thinking. However, 3D projects seem to empower children through newly learned skills and the freedom to fabricate almost anything. The project is coming to its end, and the results will be presented in research articles and at a conference in the near future. The research is conducted by Iida Hietala & Jaana Brinck (@aalto.fi). Pänttäyksestä printtaukseen is funded by Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI).

The EU project Learning Layers has released a website with the results from the project, which ran from 2012-2016. From the site’s tools-section you will find our research prototypes: AchSo! – a mobile application for recording, commenting and sharing commented videos at work in situ and Social Augmented Reality, SoAR –  a mobile app for collaboration and communication in physical work environments. The aim of the new website is to make the results of the project accessible and usable for many. If people want to dive deeper into the topic they may read the research articles. Learning Layers was financed within the 7th Framework Programme.

In thelast couple of months, we have presented our research in two conferences. In June in the European Distance and E-Learning Network EDEN annual conference at the University of Genova Teemu gave a  keynote. You may want to check the slides or the video recording of the talk titled:  From Non- and Informal Learning to Documented Co-Learning.

In the end of the EDEN talk, a prototype called Dialogos was briefly presented. In the Connected Learning conference in August in MIT Media Lab, the Dialogos prototype was demonstrated for and discussed with the conference delegates. You may check the video.

Dissertation, publications, prototypes

In 2016-2017 we have had some very very low, but also some high moments. Let’s focus on the good things.

Dissertation

In late 2016 Hans Põldoja defended his doctoral dissertation: The Structure and Components for the Open Education Ecosystem: Constructive Design Research of Online Learning Tools. (Download the PDF)

The pre-examiners were Professor Vladan Devedxic and PhD Lisa Petrides. The opponent in the public defences was Professor Terry Anderson from Athabasca University.

Hans work is worth of reading for all interested in the topic of open education. These days Dr Põldoja is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology and a Head of Studies at the School of Digital Technologies at the Tallinn University. Congratulations Hans!

Publications

The best way to check our latest publications is to visit the Aalto research databases and to check all the research outputs of the Learning Environments research group.

Here are three examples of our recent research publications.

Pejoska, J., Bauters, M., Purma, J., & Leinonen, T. (2016). Social augmented reality: Enhancing context‐dependent communication and informal learning at work. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 474-483.

Our design proposal of social augmented reality (SoAR) grows from the observed difficulties of practical applications of augmented reality (AR) in workplace learning. In our research we investigated construction workers doing physical work in the field and analyzed the data using qualitative methods in various workshops. The challenges related to learning in the construction sites were: sharing of specific situation processes or details, need of direct communication channel over distance and support for social appraisal. The second result of the study is a prototype. SoAR is a design solution, an application for smart phones. The primary target for the SoAR design builds on the discoveries and idea that current AR developments in the area should focus on enhancing human-to-human interactions: messages, gestures, words and other small elements of communication. We present the current SoAR prototype that enhances video calls with overlaid drawings therefor SoAR is a tool for asking and providing guidance in context-reliant work situations. Our guiding theoretical framework is drawing from phenomenological discussion dealing with embodied interaction expanded by a process of research-based design.

Durall, E., Leinonen, T., Gros, B., & Rodriguez-Kaarto, T. (2017). Reflection in Learning through a Self-monitoring Device: Design Research on EEG Self-Monitoring during a Study Session. Designs for Learning, 9(1).

The increasing availability of self-monitoring technologies has created opportunities for gaining awareness about one’s own behavior and reflecting on it. In teaching and learning, there is interest in using self-monitoring technologies, but very few studies have explored the possibilities. In this paper, we present a design study that investigates a technology (called Feeler) that guides students to follow a specific learning script, monitors changes in their electroencephalogram (EEG) while studying, and later provides visualization of the EEG data. The results are two-fold: (1) the hardware/software prototype and (2) the conclusions from the proof-of-concept research conducted with the prototype and six participants. In the research, we collected qualitative data from interviews to identify whether the prototype supported students to develop their reflective skills. The thematic analysis of the interviews showed that the Feeler’s learning script and visualization of the EEG data supported greater levels of reflection by fostering students’ curiosity, puzzlement, and personal inquiry. The proof-of-concept research also provided insights into several factors, such as the value of personal experience, the challenge of assumptions, and the contextualization of the data that trigger reflective thinking. The results validate the design concept and the role of the prototype in supporting awareness of and reflection about students’ mental states when they perform academic tasks.

Toikkanen, T., & Leinonen, T. (2017). The Code ABC MOOC: Experiences from a Coding and Computational Thinking MOOC for Finnish Primary School Teachers. In Emerging Research, Practice, and Policy on Computational Thinking (pp. 239-248). Springer International Publishing.

The Finnish primary school curriculum will feature programming and computational thinking as mandatory cross-curricular elements in all teaching starting from the first grade. Many teachers are quite concerned about this and feel ill-prepared. A group of volunteers created a MOOC for teachers and, with no budget, trained over 500 primary school teachers to be competent teachers of programming (38% of the participants). The results from a study conducted within the course indicate that Finnish teachers seem to think that coding is an important addition to the school curriculum and they exhibit low levels of anxiety over it. The MOOC design focused on connectivist design principles (cMOOC) and was considered extremely successful by the participants. The MOOC participants seemed confident that the MOOC would equip them to face the new challenge, and indeed, the feedback from the MOOC and its results support this.

Prototypes

Design research, the way we think it is important to conduct, is possible only when we can build prototypes. Here are some resent prototypes build in the group:

Feeler v.2.0. “The Feeler prototype guides students in self-study, which starts with meditation and ends with self-analysis. During the sessions, students self-monitor their brain activity through EEG. The EEG data are used after the self-analysis stage, to foster students’ metacognitive skills by triggering questions about the mental state of studying and then improving it. With Feeler, reflection is expected to happen during the revision and interpretation of the EEG data visualization. The prototype is composed of the following elements: three smart objects with which the user physically interacts (the blocks), an EEG monitoring device, and Feeler software running on a laptop.” (Durall e.t.all. 2017)

SoAR (Social Augmented Reality) is a mobile app for collaboration and communication in work environments. It consists of one-on-one video streaming with a bidirectional drawing layer for emphasizing details. SoAR is ideal for cooperating in situations that require an effective, visual assessment.

Ach So!. “Ach so! is an open source application for video recording, annotating and sharing (Fig. 1). It is implemented as an application for Android platform to be used with tablet computers or smartphones. With Ach so!, the users record short videos and categorize them under four genres. Ach so! creates MPEG-4 video with serialized semantic annotations. Video descriptions automatically include location, date and creator, and they can be annotated by adding textual annotations, ‘points of interest’, to specific points on screen and in video timeline. The annotations are placed in the video timeline and have screen coordinates for each, and the playback automatically pauses on each annotation to allow reading the annotation acknowledging the point of interest. The annotated videos can be saved in a cloud or exported from the device with Android’s share-intent. The exported videos can be viewed in a browser-based Ach so! Player.” (Virnes 2015)

Kinemata is a wearable device for training movements for the purpose of learning.

New projects and collaboration

It’s been a hectic end of the year.

The iTEC -project is moving forward with testing in school and new cycles of scenario creation and design work. The annual review of the project went fine. The reviews are important: they are quality control but also an opportunity to learn. We past the “control” and learned a lot.

The formal results of the iTEC project’s first year are available in the project website. We think the Report on Design Prototypes and Design Challenges for Education is worth of reading.

We have, however, some new and exciting projects going on and coming up. Some are small, some are large.

With the Learning + Technology Group at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering we have started a project studying, developing and designing online learning tools and social media for computer science learning. The group has developed many great software tools serving computer science studies and has interesting educational practices of teaching computer science. In the research project we are now looking possibilities of integrating the services, motivational questions of students and coherent design of all this.

Another national project we are involved in is called (in English) Open Networks for Learning. In it we support production of open educational resources by training teachers and other experts, creating and supporting networks and services and this way strengthening active citizenship and democracy. For this project we are, for instance, maintaining, supporting and training people to use LeMill, Wikimedia -services, and Creative Commons Finland -services. The project does not include a lot of research per se but provides as possibilities to bridge research and practice.

A third national project is service design project with the Pirkanmaa Hospital District renewing their organization to focus on value created for patients and to prepare the way for a construction of a new wing in the hospital building. In the project we are applying some learning theories and participatory design methods, as well as considering the role of new media (online, an in hospital) services and devices in the hands of the patients and hospital professionals. The first research publication (in press) from the research project is titled Games as Design Medium —
Utilizing Game Boards for Design Enquiry with Cancer Patients
by Juha Kronqvist et al.

Our colleges in the Tallinn University are getting together an interesting consortium of European top research groups in the field of mobile learning. With them we are right now preparing a research and project plan with several companies to start a new project in mid 2012.

We also have ongoing discussions with library operating bookmobiles: to study and redesign the service by introducing new media tools (tablets, projections, touch screens/tables, RFID etc.) and services in their offering. The possibilities to implement new kind of media education, youth work etc. with bookmobiles are huge. It is a great opportunity to do people-centric and participatory design research.

In addition to the European research in 2012 we are interested in to take part in the national Learning Solutions program by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. Let’s seen.

One more thing: As part of the Aalto on Waves we organized a Future of Learning study project with graduate students coming from the fields of art and design, engineering and technology and economics. We may expect interesting results.

iTEC, LeMill and some new projects in the pipeline

We have some news from the research group, which you may have read already from some other sources.

The iTEC project — the designing the future classroom — is now in a full speed. It is a four year project we started in September so the first results are expected to be out around April-May. To follow our work focusing on to engage teachers and learners in the future classroom you may visit the blog and wiki just set-up last week. Here is the link:

http://itec-wp3.taik.fi/

LeMill — the web community for finding, authoring and sharing open educational resources — developed and hosted by us is something that is getting better and better almost every week. The latest updates are reported in the blog of the service:

http://blog.lemill.net/en/

The LeMill community is also growing steadily. The statistics show that most of the growth right now comes from Lithuania, Russia and Hungary. Why from these countries? I think it is all word-of-mouth marketing from our stable community members in Estonia and Georgia. Where is the rest of the Europe, United States, Asia and Latin America? What are the competitors of LeMill in these countries or is it simply that teaches do not care? A lot of open questions. A good thing is that LeMill is getting better and better.

We are also soon starting some new projects. They are related to service design and use of ICT in informal learning in open spaces: offline and online.

Fle4 – Knowledge Building for the rest of us

We finally decided to bite the bullet and create a plugin for WordPress to allow knowledge building discussions, such as progressive inquiry. While Fle3 is a very good tool for doing KB, it’s quite challenging to install. The impulse came from Hans, when he (jokingly) said that he needed knowledge building on WordPress by “next Tuesday”.

Well it turned out that implementing KB discussion onto WordPress blogs wasn’t such a difficult task after all. I’ve now written a functioning plugin that does this, and it even uses the knowledge typesets from Fle3. Meet: Fle4 – Knowledge Building for the rest of us. It’s still very much in beta. There’s a live demo so you can test out Progressive Inquiry and Six Hat Thinking, but easy plugin installation is still a few days in the future (waiting for acceptance into the WordPress Plugin Directory).

So… Take a look and send us comments.

Mobile Community Wiki presented at GTF’08

We’re right now at GTF’08, presenting a new application of our MobilED platform, the Mobile Community Wiki.

MobilED is an open source platform for connecting phone call and SMS functionality to a data source, such as a wiki. We’ve previously piloted another application, the Audio Encyclopedia, in South Africa. The community wiki is more geared for easy asynchronous communication within a community or distributed team, and thus more applicable in informal and nonformal learning scenarios.

MobilED – mobile audio wiki engine

For some time we have been doing design research with the MobilED mobile audio wiki prototype we designed and implemented with our partners in South Africa.

The research has relied on research-based design approach with contextual inquiry, participatory design, prototyping and piloting of the prototype with real people in real life situations. In number of event and forums we have present the results of the research (we are still woring on with the main article). It’s been an interesting journey.

Now someone should take the MobilED technology – the mobile audio wiki engine – to a new level. If there is somewhere some software developer with coding skills related to one or more core technologies used in the MobilED, these are Asterisk and MediaWiki, we are happy to give the leadeship of the development for you.

We are happy to keep on hosting the development site (http://dev.mobiled.org/trac/), the SVN and give all the support one may need to get on working with this. Let us know if you are interested in.

LeMill ITK-päivillä

Tarkoituksemme on tuoda LeMill opettajien tietoisuuteen Suomen suurimmassa opetusteknologiatapahtumassa:

ITK’08 – Opi valitsemaan, olet aikaasi edellä

Toivottavasti pääset paikalle, tilaisuus on aina mielenkiintoinen ja meiltä on luvassa kolme ohjelmanumeroa. Tärkeimpänä workshop, tämä kutsu koskee sinua:

LeMill logo, green

ITK-08 workshop “LeMill opettajan työkaluna”

Järjestämme ITK-päivillä kaikille perus-, keski- ja korkea-asteen opettajille sopivan työpajan, jossa opitaan löytämään, käyttämään ja luomaan avoimia oppisisältöjä LeMill-ympäristössä. LeMill on vapaiden oppimateriaalien etsimiseen, jakamiseen ja luomiseen keskittyvä verkkoyhteisö opettajille. LeMill on MediaLabin Oppimisympäristöjen tutkimusryhmän ja eurooppalaisten yhteistyökumppaneiden kehittämä ja Euroopan opetusministeriöiden rahoittama ja tukema, joten sen käyttö on kaikille ilmaista ja tulee pysymään ilmaisena. (Käy ihmeessä tutustumassa ja ota käyttöön saman tien! http://lemill.net)

Työpajassa perehdyt siihen mitä LeMillistä löytyy ja saat kokemukseen pohjautuvaa tietoa Internetistä löytyvistä vapaista opetusresursseista ja siitä, miten niitä kannattaa hyödyntää opetuksessa. Työpajan osallistujasta tulee omassa koulussaan se henkilö, joka tietää mistä taikoa tehtäviä, materiaalia ja ideoita tarvittaessa ja jonka luomat oppimateriaalit tunnetaan myös oman koulun ulkopuolella. Yritämme myös saada suomalaisen LeMill-yhteisön käyntiin ja kasvamaan –muu Eurooppa on jo edellämme.

Workshop pidetään Hämeenlinnassa, ITK-päivien workshop-päivänä 16.4. klo 14-17 Hotelli Aulangossa. Osallistuminen maksaa 50 € /osallistuja. Vetäjinä toimivat Tarmo Toikkanen (TAIK), Hans Põldoja (Tallinnan yliopisto) ja Jukka Purma (TAIK).

Ilmoittaudu workshopiin ITK-päivien ilmoittautumissivustolta, valitse workshop-lomakkeesta “WS:LeMill opettajan työkaluna”.

Ota workshopiin kannettava tietokone, jossa on langaton verkkoyhteys. Jos sinulla on verkkomateriaalia, jonka haluaisit julkaista avoimesti ja saada muilta opettajilta apua sen jatkokehittelyssä, ota kyseinen materiaali mukaan tietokoneellasi.

Aikataulu (joustaa osallistujien intressien mukaan):

14.00 Yleiskatsaus LeMillistä

14.20 Tunnusten luonti osallistujille ja ITK08-workshop-ryhmän perustaminen.

14.40 Omien kokoelmien laatiminen

15.00 Tauko15.10 Materiaalin tuottaminen

15.50 Katsaus sosiaaliseen mediaan ja avoimiin sisältöpalveluihin

16.10 Tauko

16.20 Oppimis- ja opetustarinoiden laatiminen

16.40 Seuraavat askeleet: Neuvoja LeMillin ja avoimen sisällön hyödyntämiseen

17.00 Workshopin päätös

Workshop-kutsu julisteena (pdf)

Jos aiot osallistua workshopiin, tai on ihan mitä tahansa LeMilliin tai ITK-päiviin liittyvää kysyttävää, jätä kommentti tämän postin perään!

Lisäksi Teemu, Tarmo ja Hans esiintyvät englanninkielisellä foorumilla torstaina 17.4, klo 14.30 otsikolla:

LeMill – Facebook for learning resources

Esityksessä he kertovat, miten sosiaalisen median ilmiöt voidaan valjastaa äärimmäisen hyödylliseen käyttöön, oppimateriaalien kehittämiseen.

Avoimet sisällöt -tori

Tarjoaa mahdollisuuden käydä konferenssin aikana
juttelemassa kehittäjien kanssa ja kokeilemassa LeMilliä.

Nähdään siellä,
Teemu Leinonen
Hans Põldoja
Jukka Purma
Katrina Silfvast
Tarmo Toikkanen

(Teemu toimii panelistina myös torstain Wikipedia-teemaseminaarissa, 15.15 [B] ja perjantain Sosiaalinen media ja oppiminen-teemaseminaarissa, 10.30 [A])

LeMill 2.0

Our final deliverable for CALIBRATE project is ready. The original promise was to develop an ‘open source learning toolbox for collaborative learning’ and this should be it.

It looks like our latest version announcement was from version 1.9, so 2.0 doesn’t seem so big a step, but really, we have gone a long way from that: 1.13 was our latest previous release. Our community has grown close to 900 people, 800 learning resources, 2300 media pieces plus tools, methods, groups and references. This is good growth, yet not explosion of popularity. One notable feature of LeMill has always been our multilingualism (12 working translations for LeMill, 3 partial) and this is really affecting our feeling of community: there are few very active countries (Estonia, Georgia) and for me having those visible, but difficult to understand, gives me a good general feel of what we want for our language group to do together. Instead of one story about evolution of LeMill community, there probably will be as many stories as there are teachers native languages.

For next few weeks we’ll have a lighter touch on development, and concentrate more on just observing how people use LeMill. Welcome.