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.

Coding in school: Finland takes lead in Europe

What is coding in school in practice? The Finnish national curriculum takes coding farther than any other European country. In Finland, starting fall 2016, coding is a mandatory, cross curricular activity that starts from first year of school. Coding becomes another learning skill for pupils to utilize when appropriate. No other European country has taken as advanced an approach to coding.
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Latest prototypes, publications and conferences

In the LeGroup we work with the principle theory based, design oriented. This means that relying on theoretical understanding of and empirical research on what makes sense in teaching and learning, we aim to create new ways of doing things with new tools designed in the group.

We have several new prototypes. Many of them have been already presented in some conference or in a research article. Some of them are relatively mature prototypes when some of them are still proof-of-concepts. We also have some new publications and conference presentations we have been working on lately. You will find a list of them from the end of this post. Continue reading

Ach So! – the end of the year

In the last post to this blog I was listing some of our latest publication and activities in conferences. Now I felt that it is good to write down about our major research projects and to highlight some outputs from them.

During the autumn term the iTEC: Designing the Future Classroom project has kept us busy. From the last six months the Edukata — design toolkit has been one of the major outputs of the project. Edukata — design toolkit is targeted for educators to help them to design great learning activities with their colleagues. We currently have an open beta of the guide book for downloading and gathering feedback from real situations of using it. The current plan is that the final version of the guide book will be translated to 16 languages and distributed widely in Europe.

In the Learning Layers research project we have designed and developed a new prototype for informal learning in construction sites. The Ach So!-prototype is an Android app to shoot videos, to annotate them and to share them. When starting a video you choose a genre for it. The options are: (1) site visit, (2) problem, (3) trick of trade, (4) good work. When you are done the video can be annotated so that you point at something in the video and write a text that is then displayed as a caption next to the pointer. The video will also come with all the available contextual metadata, such as location etc. The current development version of Ach So! is available for downloading. In order to install Android software from third party sources, “Unknown sources” setting needs to be enabled from the Android device. The setting can be found either under Settings > Security > Unknown sources or Settings > Applications > Unknown sources.

In the LEAD: Learning Design – Designing for Learning project we have focused on case studies with the Presemo participation platform and Feeler prototype that aims to combine data about wellbeing, such as physical activity and rest, with data about learning performance in order to generate visualizations that support learners’ reflection process. Our partners in the University of Tampere have continued to gather and analyze (big) data gathered from close to 900 schools in Finland. With the Square1 prototype we have been a bit on hold because of lack of programing resources. Also the Feeler project needs soon some developer resources. Anyone interested in working in open source projects like this? If yes, please contact us.

In the LEAD project we are also studying the future of online learning. For this purpose we have setup the OpenEdX platform for research purposes. The server is here: http://edx.aalto.fi and open for Aalto experiments (anyone can register as participants, but let us know if you wish to create courses in there). In the online learning research we are focusing on design. We are particularly interested in studying the user and learning experience of the online learning services, such ah EdX and Eliademy. Therefore the research touches some major pedagogical issues, too. Designing great services is hard and when it comes to complexity of different services, educational services are for sure high in the list.

We have noticed that although the most satisfactory part of the work for many of us is the design and development of prototypes we must publish about them, too. We do lab and design studio work, test our prototypes in the field and then report our finding from all the phases of the work. Getting this in balance is difficult but I have a feeling that we are learning. During the spring term we are expecting some major publications from the research group discussing results from the lab, studio and the field.

Finally, I just updated our Research -page of this site. It now gives an overview of all the research projects, both current and past.

Recent publications, conferences and workshops

From the last six-months we are happy to report several interesting new publications. I’ll simply list them in here with the links:

(1) To the first book in Finnish about design-based research in education (Kehittämistutkimus opetusalalla edited by Johannes Perna) I wrote a chapter with the title Muotoilututkimus: tutkimusta, kehittämistä ja prototyyppejä (Design Research: Research, Development and Prototypes).

Our fellow Juha, a doctoral candidate got a paper accepted to the Nordes 2013: Nordic Design Research Conference. The article is available in the online Conference Proceedings:

(2) Juha Kronqvist, Heini Erving, Teemu Leinonen (2913): Cardboard hospital: Prototyping patient-centric environments and services. Nordes 2013.

Our other fellow Hans Põldoja has been working on his final publications for his doctoral dissertation. The dissertation is expected to be ready in the the end of the year. With his colleagues at the University Tallinn they also have published the following article in the book Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning:

(3) Laanpere, M., Põldoja, H., & Normak, P. (2013). Designing Dippler — A Next-Generation TEL System. In T. Ley, M. Ruohonen, M. Laanpere, & A. Tatnall (Eds.), Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning (Vol. 395, pp. 91–100). Berlin / Heidelberg: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-37285-8_10.

In the end of July we will present some early results from the Learning Layers–project (Scaling up Technologies for Informal Learning in SME Clusters) at the ISTAS 13 -conference, The IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in Toronto, Canada:

(4) Teemu Leinonen, Jukka Purma, Kiarii Nguya, Alexander Hayes (2013): Scenarios for peer-to-peer learning in construction with emerging forms of collaborative computing. ISTAS 2013.

The following short papers will be published in the conference proceedings of the Interactive Technology in Education 2013 – conference’s research track.

(5) Jukka Purma, Kiarii Ngua, Eva Durall & Teemu Leinonen (2013): How to design learning in the 21st century.

(6) Anna Keune & Teemu Leinonen (2013): Square1 hypothesis: Building computational and collaborative learning tools in school.

(7) Eva Durall & Teemu Leinonen (2013): Digital dashboard for visualizing learning progress and well-being.

In the ECSCW 2013 (European Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Works) and in the EC-TEL 2013 (The European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning) we are organizing a workshop Backchannels and live participation tools.

(8, 9) In the ECSW / EC-TEL 2003 workshops we will present some results from the LEAD-project (Learning Design – Designing for Learning) and from the iTEC –project (Designing the Future Classroom).

(10) For the iTEC –project (Designing the Future Classroom) we are also working on a publication with the working title Edukata — Designing Future Classroom Learning Activities. The guidebook is intended to be a “source of inspiration for educators to strengthen their confidence as designers of future classroom learning activities”. It will be published before the end of the year and it will be translated to 16 languages.

(11) From the iTEC –project we are also preparing some research papers: one conference workshop paper about Ambire (an ambient display for 1:1 laptop/tablet classroom reflection) and a journal article with the working title Designing tablet apps for individual and collaborative reflection in learning.

(12) From the research done in the LEAD -project we also have submit a journal article with the title Design Thinking in Research of Collaborative Tools for Learning.

Publishing is good but demos / prototypes are great. We have some new demos and prototypes, too. The Fle4 – knowledge building tool has been redesigned with a map view. The Square1 (a collection of single-task dedicated learning devices) hardware, interaction design and software are nicely coming all together.

We are hiring postdoctoral researcher

We are looking for creative people with interesting ideas to work with us as a postdoctoral researcher. The postdoctoral researcher will lead and conduct research and design in externally funded research projects ongoing and starting in the research group, as well as teach (supervise MA thesis projects) these topics in the Department’s MA program. The postdoctoral researcher will also act as the vice leader of the research group.

The position requires a Doctor’s degree (preferably completed within the last five years), management skills, design portfolio as well as research and design skills necessary for the development of digital tools and systems (prototypes) in various contexts of learning.

How to apply? You will find the instruction from the Aalto.fi -site.