Category Archives: Technology

Nerd alert: maybe we’re a bit closer to a real holodeck…

Both Casper and myself are a bit of trekkies, we have to admit. So this study is a bit different than the typical research I discuss on this blog. But do forgive me, there is a relation with education: elementary mathematics brings Star Trek’s Holodeck closer to reality

From the press release:

For many years we have been hearing that holographic technology is one step closer to realizing Star Trek’s famous Holodeck, a virtual reality stage that simulates any object in 3D as if they are real. Sadly, 3D holographic projection has never been realized. A team of scientists from Bilkent University, Turkey, again raised our hopes on Holodeck realization by showing the first realistic 3D holograms that can be viewed from any angle. Dr. Ghaith Makey, the lead author of the paper appearing in the April 2019 issue of Nature Photonics today, says “Our technique can work in realtime, and will surely pave the way to dynamic 3D video holography. Soon, it may be possible to create a simple version of a Holodeck”.

3D holographic projection relies on back-to-back stacking of a large number of 2D images. The problem is, they cross-talk! Interference between the images makes the 3D projection fuzzy and far from realistic looking. The expectations have always been placed on the development of optical technology. Prof. F. Ömer Ilday, the co-leader of the project, disagrees: “The reason of this cross-talk is the mathematics, not shortcomings of the physical components. Any pair of high-dimensional mutually random vectors tend to be orthogonal. This basic result is a consequence of the Central Limit Theorem and the Law of Large Numbers. We use this property, together with a neat, but straightforward wavefront engineering trick to add random phase to each image, to eliminate cross-talk without using any additional optics”. Prof. Onur Tokel, the other co-leader, adds “It was not possible to simultaneously project a 3D object’s back, middle and front parts. We solve this issue through a simple connection between the equations developed by Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier and Augustin-Jean Fresnel in the early days of the field. Using this math property, we advance the state-of-the-art from the projection of 3-4 images to 1000 simultaneous projections!”

“The best part is that 3D projection performance will become better and better with increasing hologram resolution because the orthogonality result becomes exact for infinite dimensions — as display technologies continue to improve and support higher-resolution, they enable ever more realistic looking holograms using our technique,” says Dr. Makey. The team believes that the full potential of holography may be unleashed if such a 3D capability is at hand. “Our holograms already surpass all previous digitally synthesized 3D holograms in every quality metric. Our method is universally applicable to all types of holographic media, be they static or dynamic holograms. Therefore, opportunities are vast. Immediate applications may be in 3D displays for medical visualization or air traffic control, but also laser-material interactions and microscopy” says Prof. Serim Ilday of the Bilkent team.

“The most important concept associated with holography has always been the third dimension. This is even more clear with our new 3D projection capability. Many challenges remain, but we are one step closer to the visions defined by Holodeck in Star Trek; or Holovision of Isaac Asimov in the Foundation novels. Even Jules Verne touched upon the idea, in his book Carpathian Castle published in 1892,” adds Dr. Tokel.

Abstract of the paper, published in Nature photonics:

Holography is the most promising route to true-to-life three-dimensional (3D) projections, but the incorporation of complex images with full depth control remains elusive. Digitally synthesized holograms, which do not require real objects to create a hologram, offer the possibility of dynamic projection of 3D video. Despite extensive efforts aimed at 3D holographic projection, however, the available methods remain limited to creating images on a few planes, over a narrow depth of field or with low resolution. Truly 3D holography also requires full depth control and dynamic projection capabilities, which are hampered by high crosstalk. The fundamental difficulty is in storing all the information necessary to depict a complex 3D image in the 2D form of a hologram without letting projections at different depths contaminate each other. Here, we solve this problem by pre-shaping the wavefronts to locally reduce Fresnel diffraction to Fourier holography, which allows the inclusion of random phase for each depth without altering the image projection at that particular depth, but eliminates crosstalk due to the near-orthogonality of large-dimensional random vectors. We demonstrate Fresnel holograms that form on-axis with full depth control without any crosstalk, producing large-volume, high-density, dynamic 3D projections with 1,000 image planes simultaneously, improving the state of the art for the number of simultaneously created planes by two orders of magnitude. Although our proof-of-principle experiments use spatial light modulators, our solution is applicable to all types of holographic media.

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Multitasking increases in online courses compared to face-to-face (and yes that is a bad thing)

We can’t multitask. But… when you are doing an online course it’s so tempting to do something else at the same time. So this Kent study won’t come as a surprise to many people, from the conclusion:

Students reported significantly greater multitasking behavior in online versus face-to-face courses (Table 2). Specifically, students were more likely to send text messages, email, visit online social networking sites, watch videos, use the Internet for purposes not related to class, play video games, listen to music, and talk with friends in online courses than in face-to-face courses (|Z| ≥ 1.95, p ≤ .05). Only doodling (i.e., scribbling absentmindedly) was a more common multitasking behavior in face-to-face courses than in online courses (|Z| = 5.54, p ≤ .001). After comparing individual items, the total online and face-to-face multitasking scales were compared (Table 2). Again, results demonstrated that students reported greater multitasking behavior in online versus face-to-face courses (t = 16.541, df = 289, p ≤ .001).

This press release gives more background information:

… (the) phenomenon of multitasking across three or four internet-connected devices simultaneously is increasingly common. Dr. Lepp and his colleagues Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., and Aryn Karpinski, Ph.D., of Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services were curious to know how often this happens during online education, a method of delivering college and even high school courses entirely via an internet-connected computer as opposed to a traditional face-to-face course with a teacher physically present.

Nationwide, millions of students take online courses each year, and the trend is increasing rapidly. Dr. Lepp and his colleagues wondered if students multitask more frequently in online courses compared to face-to-face courses.

“This question is important to ask because an abundance of research demonstrates that multitasking during educational activities significantly reduces learning,” Dr. Lepp said.

Dr. Lepp, Dr. Barkley and Dr. Karpinski, along with the help of Kent State graduate student Shweta Singh, surveyed 296 college students. Each student surveyed had recently completed an online, for-credit college course and a traditional face-to-face college course. The survey asked students how often they participated in common multitasking behaviors during their previously taken online courses as well as their previous face-to-face courses. These behaviors included texting, using social networking apps, emailing, off-task internet surfing, talking, doodling and other distracting behaviors. The survey also measured students’ preference for multitasking and their belief in their ability to self-regulate their behavior.

Results of the study revealed that students’ multitasking behavior is significantly greater in online courses compared to face-to-face courses. Additionally, in online courses, the students who prefer to multitask do indeed multitask more than students with less of a preference for multitasking; however, in face-to-face courses, the students who prefer to multitask do not multitask more frequently than students with less of a preference for multitasking.

“This is likely because in face-to-face courses, a physically present teacher and the presence of conscientious students help to enforce classroom policies and behavioral norms against multitasking,” Dr. Lepp said.

Finally, students who were confident in their ability to self-regulate their behavior multitasked less in face-to-face courses when compared to students who were not so confident in their ability to self-regulate behavior. However, in online courses, even those students who believe they are good at self-regulation could not resist multitasking. Indeed, they multitasked at a similar frequency to other students.

“This suggests that how we teach students to self-regulate for learning applies well to traditional face-to-face courses, but perhaps it does not apply well to online learning,” Dr. Barkley said. “Because multitasking during educational activities has a negative impact on learning, it is important to develop methods for reducing this academically disadvantageous behavior, particularly in the increasingly common online learning environment.”

The researchers say that students can learn to be more singularly focused and to minimize multitasking.

“For example, during online learning and any other educational activity, put all distractions away, including smartphones and tablets,” Dr. Lepp said. “This should become habit. This can even be practiced during leisure. For example, when watching a favorite TV show or sporting event, focus on the show and don’t get distracted by texting friends and posting to social media.”

For students struggling with multitasking in required online courses, Dr. Karpinski suggested that students try taking the course on a computer in a quiet part of the library where there are already norms in place which discourage many distracting behaviors.

“Additionally, as universities increase their online course offerings, even for students already living on or near campus, these same universities might consider computer labs dedicated to online learning that are proctored in an effort to keep students on task,” Dr. Karpinski said.

This study is very relevant, but would have been even better if they had examined the results. To be expected next time, I guess.

Oh btw, did you multitask during the read of this post?

Abstract of the study:

This study compared college students’ multitasking in online courses with their multitasking in face-to-face courses and explored the significance of potential predictors of multitasking in each setting. Students taking both online and face-to-face courses completed surveys assessing multitasking in each setting, self-efficacy for self-regulated learning (SE:SRL), Internet addiction, multitasking tendency, age, and sex. Multitasking was significantly greater in online than face-to-face courses. Internet addiction was positively associated with multitasking in online and face-to-face courses. Multitasking tendency was positively and age was negatively associated with multitasking during online courses only; SE:SRL was negatively associated with multitasking during face-to-face courses only. In conclusion, multitasking was greatest during online courses. Furthermore, there were different sets of predictors for students’ multitasking in online courses compared with face-to-face courses. This implies that multitasking in online and face-to-face courses are different phenomena and therefore may require different pedagogical methods to successfully minimize multitasking behaviors.

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Will the effect last? Math on a tablet helps low-performing second graders… for a while

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with among others, this study that shows how important it can be to check the lasting effects of what you do.

Published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Martin Hassler and colleagues carried out a randomized controlled trial of a mathematics intervention on tablets (iPads).
The trial involved 283 low-performing second graders spread across 27 urban schools in Sweden. The children were randomized to four groups:
  • A math intervention called Chasing Planets, consisting of 261 planets on a space map, each with a unique math exercise (addition or subtraction up to 12). Students practiced for 20 minutes a day.
  • The math intervention combined with working memory training, where students spent an additional 10 minutes each day on working memory tasks.
  • A placebo group who practiced mostly reading tasks on the tablet (again for 20 minutes each day), including Chasing Planets-Reading, which had a similar format to the math intervention.
  • A control group who received no intervention, not even on improving their skills on the tablets.
The intervention lasted for around 20 weeks, with children completing nine measures at pre- and post-test, and then after 6 and 12 months.
Both math conditions scored significantly higher (effect size = +0.53-0.67) than the control and placebo groups on the post-test of basic arithmetic, but not on measures of arithmetic transfer or problem solving. There was no additional benefit of the working memory training. The effects faded at the 6-month follow-up (effect size = +0.18-0.28) and even more so after 12 months (effect size = +0.03-0.13)
IQ was a significant moderator of direct and long-term effects, such that children with lower IQ benefited more than higher IQ students. Socioeconomic factors did not moderate outcomes.

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Good, short video on why algorithms aren’t objective at all: “an algorithm is an opinion embedded in math”

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New meta-analysis begs: Don’t throw away your printed books in education

I just found a new meta-analysis soon to be published in which Pablo Delgado, Cristina Vargas, Rakefet Ackerman & Ladislao Salmerón examine the effects of reading media on reading comprehension. Well, the title gives away the conclusion, I guess.

But this is the longer version:

The results of the two meta-analyses in the present study yield a clear picture of screen inferiority, with lower reading comprehension outcomes for digital texts compared to printed texts, which corroborates and extends previous research (Kong et al., 2018; Singer & Alexander, 2017b; Wang et al. 2007). These results were consistent across methodologies and theoretical frameworks.

And while the effects are relatively low, the researchers do warn:

Although the effect sizes found for media (-.21) are small according to Cohen’s guidelines (1988), it is important to interpret this effect size in the context of reading comprehension studies. During elementary school, it is estimated that yearly growth in reading comprehension is .32 (ranging from .55 in grade 1, to .08 in grade 6) (Luyten, Merrel & Tymms, 2017). Intervention studies on reading comprehension yield a mean effect of .45 (Scammacca et al., 2015). Thus, the effects of media are relevant in the educational context because they represent approximately 2/3 of the yearly growth in comprehension in elementary school, and 1/2 of the effect of remedial interventions.

The analysis also has some clear practical consequences:

A relevant moderator found for the screen inferiority effect was time frame. This finding sheds new light on the mixed results in the existing literature. Consistent with the findings by Ackerman and Lauterman (2012) with lengthy texts, mentioned above, Sidi et al. (2017) found that even when performing tasks involving reading only brief texts and no scrolling (solving challenging logic problems presented in an average of 77 words), digital-based environments harm performance under time pressure conditions, but not under a loose time frame. In addition, they found a similar screen inferiority when solving problems under time pressure and under free time allocation, but framing the task as preliminary rather than central. Thus, the harmful effect of limited time on digital-based work is not limited to reading lengthy texts. Moreover, consistently across studies, Ackerman and colleagues found that people suffer from greater overconfidence in digital-based reading than in paper-based reading under these conditions that warrant shallow processing.

Our findings call to extend existing theories about self-regulated learning (see Boekaerts, 2017, for a review). Effects of time frames on self-regulated learning have been discussed from various theoretical approaches. First, a metacognitive explanation suggests that time pressure encourages compromise in reaching learning objectives (Thiede & Dunlosky, 1999). Second, time pressure has been associated with cognitive load. Some studies found that time pressure increased cognitive load and harmed performance (Barrouillet, Bernardin, Portrat, Vergauwe, & Camos, 2007). However, others suggested that it can generate a germane (“good”) cognitive load by increasing task engagement (Gerjets & Scheiter, 2003). In these theoretical discussions, the potential effect of the medium in which the study is conducted has been overlooked. We see the robust finding in the present meta-analyses about the interaction between the time frame and the medium as a call to theorists to integrate the processing style adapted by learners in specific study environments into their theories

What I really appreciate is that the researchers also checked for publication bias, and good news, the different indicators that were used, suggested no risk of publication bias.

There is only a small bit of irony… I read the study online and you read this online too.

Abstract of the meta-analysis:

With the increasing dominance of digital reading over paper reading, gaining understanding of the effects of the medium on reading comprehension has become critical. However, results from research comparing learning outcomes across printed and digital media are mixed, making conclusions difficult to reach. In the current metaanalysis, we examined research in recent years (2000-2017), comparing the reading of comparable texts on paper and on digital devices. We included studies with betweenparticipant (n = 38) and within-participant designs (n = 16) involving 171,055 participants. Both designs yielded the same advantage of paper over digital reading (Hedge’s g = -.21; dc = -.21). Analyses revealed three significant moderators: (1) time frame: the paper-based reading advantage increased in time-constrained reading compared to self-paced reading; (2) text genre: the paper-based reading advantage was consistent across studies using informational texts, or a mix of informational and narrative texts, but not on those using only narrative texts; (3) publication year: the advantage of paper-based reading increased over the years. Theoretical and educational implications are discussed.

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Oh, I missed the new Hype Cycle for education. Well…

It’s a yearly tradition for Gartner to publish a string of hype cycles, including one for education in July. And I admit: I didn’t pay attention to it.

So, there is a new one, but besides the many issues one can have with the hype cycle by this company, I do think this time it’s pretty bland as if everybody with a bit of knowledge about EdTech could have written it.

  • On the Rise
    • AV Over IP in Education
    • Social CRM: Education
    • Li-Fi
    • Emotion AI
    • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Applications in Education
  • At the Peak
    • Blockchain in Education
    • Artificial Intelligence Education Applications
    • Design Thinking
    • Exostructure Strategy
    • Classroom 3D Printing
    • Digital Assessment
    • SaaS SIS
  • Sliding Into the Trough
    • Education Analytics
    • Competency-Based Education Platforms
    • Bluetooth Beacons
    • Semantic Knowledge Graphing
    • Citizen Developers
    • Digital Credentials
    • Alumni CRM
    • Master Data Management
    • Adaptive Learning Platforms
  • Climbing the Slope
    • Student Retention CRM
    • IDaaS
    • Enterprise Video Content Management
  • Entering the Plateau
    • Integration Brokerage


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Do read this great little tweet tirade on #edtech predicting the future and cognitive science by Benjamin Riley (Deans for Impact)

When I read the first tweet of this thread by Benjamin Riley I had the feeling we were up to something good. And Benjamin didn’t disappoint. I won’t make it into a habit of posting something like this on this blog, but I do wanted to share this here as I know that many of my readers would otherwise miss this:

And thus the conclusion?


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What works and doesn’t work with instructional video, a new short overview

There is a special issue of Computers in Human Behavior on learning from video and in their Editorial Fiorella and Mayer give an overview of effective and ineffective methods that are being trialed in the special issue:

What are the effective methods?

…two techniques that appear to improve learning outcomes with instructional video are segmenting—breaking the video into parts and allowing students to control the pace of the presentation—and mixed perspective—filming from both a first-person perspective and third-person.

And what isn’t worth the effort?

…some features that do not appear to be associated with improved learning outcomes with instructional video are matching the gender of the instructor to the gender of the learner, having the instructor’s face on the screen, inserting pauses throughout the video, and adding practice without feedback.

Abstract of the editorial:

In this commentary, we examine the papers in a special issue on “Developments and Trends in Learning with Instructional Video”. In particular, we focus on basic findings concerning which instructional features improve learning with instructional video (i.e., breaking the lesson into segments paced by the learner; recording from both first- and third-person perspectives) and which features or learner attributes do not (i.e., matching the instructor’s gender to the learner’s gender; having the instructor’s face on the screen; adding practice without feedback; inserting pauses throughout the video; and spatial ability). In addition, we offer recommendations for future work on designing effective video lessons.

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Again: the bad effect of checking your phone in class

There has been quite some debate because of the French decision to ban mobile phones from schools from this school year on. While I’m also a bit critical – I think we should rather teach children how to deal with phones and focus – I do understand where this thinking stems from, from studies like this: the negative correlation between mobile phone use and grades.

From the press release:

Students perform less well in end-of-term exams if they are allowed access to an electronic device, such as a phone or tablet, for non-academic purposes in lectures, a new study in Educational Psychology finds.

Students who don’t use such devices themselves but attend lectures where their use is permitted also do worse, suggesting that phone/tablet use damages the group learning environment.

Researchers from Rutgers University in the US performed an in-class experiment to test whether dividing attention between electronic devices and the lecturer during the class affected students’ performance in within-lecture tests and an end-of-term exam.

118 cognitive psychology students at Rutgers University participated in the experiment during one term of their course. Laptops, phones and tablets were banned in half of the lectures and permitted in the other half. When devices were allowed, students were asked to record whether they had used them for non-academic purposes during the lecture.

The study found that having a device didn’t lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures, but it did lower scores in the end-of-term exam by at least 5%, or half a grade. This finding shows for the first time that the main effect of divided attention in the classroom is on long-term retention, with fewer targets of a study task later remembered.

In addition, when the use of electronic devices was allowed in class, performance was also poorer for students who did not use devices as well as for those who did.

The study’s lead author, Professor Arnold Glass, added: “These findings should alert the many dedicated students and instructors that dividing attention is having an insidious effect that is impairing their exam performance and final grade.

“To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention – not only for themselves, but for the whole class.”

Abstract of the study:

The intrusion of internet-enabled electronic devices (laptop, tablet, and cell phone) has transformed the modern college lecture into a divided attention task. This study measured the effect of using an electronic device for a non-academic purpose during class on subsequent exam performance. In a two-section college course, electronic devices were permitted in half the lectures, so the effect of the devices was assessed in a within-student, within-item counterbalanced experimental design. Dividing attention between an electronic device and the classroom lecture did not reduce comprehension of the lecture, as measured by within-class quiz questions. Instead, divided attention reduced long-term retention of the classroom lecture, which impaired subsequent unit exam and final exam performance. Students self-reported whether they had used an electronic device in each class. Exam performance was significantly worse than the no-device control condition both for students who did and did not use electronic devices during that class.

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Don’t multitask during class (again)

Yesterday I discovered this small randomized controlled trial via a tweet by Daniel Willingham. The study confirms what we’ve seen in different other studies: multitasking in class is bad for learning.

The results showed that when students were given the opportunity of non-lecture-related multi- tasking using mobile phones writing/sending SMSs and looking at Facebook profiles/reading news feed/looking at shared multimedia/reading wall messages during the lecture, their grade performance was hindered compared to traditional pen and paper note-taking.

Although I have to correct myself, one should better say: not multitasking is better for learning

Although there was a significant difference between participants on the traditional pen and paper note-taking lectures (no technology multitasking) and social media and SMS multitasking groups in terms of academic achievement, students in multitasking with social media and SMS groups also improved their pretest results.

As said, the study isn’t that big with 122 participants spread over 3 groups, but adds to the existing body of knowledge.

Abstract of the study

The purpose of this study is to investigate whether off-task multitasking activities with mobile technologies, specifically social networking sites and short messaging services, used during real-time lectures have an effect on grade performance in higher education students. Two experimental groups and one control group were used in this research. While participants in experimental groups 1 and 2 were allowed to navigate Facebook and to exchange short messaging service messages via mobile phones during real time in class lecturing, the control group participants were allowed to take notes using only pen and paper in the same lecturing conditions during three consecutive experimental sessions. The results showed that when students were given the opportunity of non-lecture-related multitasking using mobile phones writing/sending short messaging services and looking at Facebook profiles/reading news feed/looking at shared multimedia/reading wall messages during the lecture, their grade performance was hindered compared to traditional pen and paper note-taking. Engaging in social media use while trying to follow instruction may reduce learners’ capacity for cognitive processing causing poor academic performance.

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