How do online technologies shape how we learn, work, play, socialize, and use information? We sought to explore this question by integrating innovative robot technologies and social media to enhance inclusion and participation in a doctoral seminar. In 2017, our team won Honorable Mention in Michigan State University’s AT&T Awards for Excellence in Technology-enhanced Teaching. Drawing on an interdisciplinary, emerging base of research and students’ experiences, CEP 956: Mind, Media & Learning takes a critical and informed approach to evaluating contemporary online and social media practices for teaching and learning. The course explores the psychology and sociology of new media; media effects and learning with media; issues of identity, literacy, and culture in technologically mediated environments and the reciprocal relationship between educational psychology and educational technology. Most importantly, the course is designed to help students debate current issues and develop their research interests to situate their work in the field.
Aspects of the course that are technology-enhanced: students used robots to mediate discussion; a course website served as a hub to other technologies used (e.g., online discussion forum, D2L gradebook, Twitter); students engaged each other and their instructor via Twitter as a backchannel for the course.
Greenhow sought out robot technology because she had used it to reduce transactional distance in a previous course (i.e., CEP 901 Proseminar), especially among those individuals physically present and those who are online. In partnership with a colleague in the College of Education’s Design Studio (William Cain) and the Accessibility Specialist in the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (Ginger Martz) along with two ASL interpreters, she sought to investigate students’ experiences of social presence and embodiment in robot- mediated compared to videoconferencing communication in order to understand better how to improve the overall quality of the synchronous class discussion.
Robot technology is being tested as a solution when students are not able to be physically present due to health issues; schools and hospitals are working together so that hospitalized children may be “present” in school classrooms in robotic form (Kristofferson, et al., 2013). In our case, we sought to understand if this technology offered some affordances for hybrid students with auditory disabilities and their interpreters. According to evaluations of the Beam robots from the ASL interpreters taken at the end of the course, the robot technology gives students with auditory disabilities the same options and access as students without these disabilities. Students have the option to choose face-to-face or take advantage of the technology and access the class remotely. Most important, the technology gives interpreters the ability to do their job more effectively because the interpreters have access to seeing and hearing all the other students to accurately interpret for the Deaf student. Learn more about our scholarship of teaching with robot technologies in this short video. Read our full project summary here.