Hello everyone. To wrap up our fourth module, using technology to communicate science, Dr. James Slotta will be joining us today to share his perspectives on educational technology and science communication. James Slotta holds the president's sharing knowledge technologies that the Ontario Institute for Studies and Education, University of Toronto. His team investigates new models of K12 STEM inquiry, including powerful new roles for technology enhanced learning environments. These studies have advanced a pedagogical model known as Knowledge Community and Inquiry KCI, in which students and teachers collaborate as a learning community to engage in STEM inquiry projects. KCI activities are scaffolded by smart classrooms and distributed learning environments in which students develop a shared knowledge base that supports their inquiry. Slotta directs the encore lab and I'll post a link to his website in the resources at the end of this module. In the encore lab they look at KCI curriculum and technology environments. Previously Slotta worked at the University of California Berkeley where he created the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment or WISE. And his research topics include collective epistemology and knowledge building discourse, smart classrooms, and hybrid learning environments, active learning teacher, lip discourse, teacher knowledge and professional development. So welcome Dr. Slotta. It's great to have you. >> Thanks. Thanks for that introduction. >> Yeah. >> That's a lot of research topics, maybe I should cut those down a bit. >> [LAUGH] There's always more interesting topics than time for sure. >> For sure. >> So we heard a little bit about your background. You need to tell us a little bit more about yourselves. You're interested in technology to teach or communicate science and maybe how you got interested in educational technologies for science education. >> Sure. So I got my PhD in 97 working with a cognitive psychologist named Mickey key, and she and I were working on how students learned difficult science topics. So it was a psychology study of science learning. And it was interesting to me, but I wanted to be more connected to the kind of world and the institutions of education. And so when it was time for a post doc I found a great one at UC Berkeley, actually started a year early, [LAUGH] started before I even finished the doctorate. But it was an NSF funded project with Marcia Lynn who is still active at UC Berkeley. And the goal was to build a technology environment that would bring the web into science inquiry, because the web was new back in 95 ish. [COUGH] And so NSF was just funding, what is this web. And so I was lucky enough to get the post doc on that project. And it was square one, we were able to start thinking about how you would design web based activities, but also bring the resources from the web into those inquiry activities. And I had great students and faculty colleagues there, Phil Bell was there, Chris Hoadley, Betsy Davis, Sherry Shi. So it was a really great group of students, and myself, and faculty that were thinking about this. And in that project we ended up building WISE, which was the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment. And WISE was essentially a web. In the early days of the web, there was very little functionality. So you had to be creative on how you could scaffold and change content when they clicked on a link and keep something like a surrounding shell in the browser. But we figured that stuff out and we were always cutting the edges of technology. But the core idea was to build this scaffolding environment that would lead kids through an inquiry project. And that sounded almost like a CD ROM at the time. That sounded like a click through web quest, but it wasn't. And we didn't know, almost in a McLaren kind of way, you can't really know what these things are until you make them and then you watch them in the wild. And as we got to see what WISE really was, when you build something for the classroom, what you were doing was changing that culture or that ecology in the classroom. You were adding a structured learning experience that the kids were following what was on the web, which was new by the way don't forget. [COUGH] The teacher was, it's hard to remember before the web, the teacher was in there and hopefully doing more than just being a lab manager. Hopefully the teacher was listening and learning from what the students were thinking and talking about. So we began to understand that the technology was actually playing a role in transforming that ecology into, and a kind of a discursive environment of biologic environment where the topics became more contested and the ideas became more creative. And what we were building in the web content in the WISE curriculum were basically a bunch of opportunities for students to integrate their knowledge, to share, to discuss, to collaborate, to debate. And that was my entry into the field. So it was sort of understanding the power of these technology environments to transform traditional didactic or lecture oriented content communication that was characteristic of, and still is, a science teaching. Not completely, but you can do a fine job of lecture as well. But the idea was that technology wasn't something to add into that mix. It was something that fundamentally shifted the patterns of practice and the kinds of discourse that were happening, and allowed new affordances for those practices. And so then I left UC Berkeley came to Toronto, and here in Toronto we have a tradition called Knowledge Building. Knowledge building was advanced by Scarred Amelia and Brighter over the last 25, 30 years. And it's a really cool idea, people should look into it. It's not easy to do. It's a very hard pedagogy to enact, but essentially amounts to having the community of learners, all the kids in the classroom and the teacher to work as a community, and to have that community be committed to advancing ideas much like a scientific community. That was a not unpopular way of imagining the world back in the late 80s was to ask what if the kids could be little scientists like an Brown did the same, right? And how can we get them to advance on someone else's idea, and to build, and to come up with a question, and to test it, and to critique each other's ideas. And so the knowledge building principles were advanced through a lot of work in Toronto. When I arrived here, I was influenced by that, but I thought I wanted a little bit more structure than Knowledge Building would allow. I wanted more like what I had had with WISE where we could actually click through and guide you and you could be scaffold it that way the teacher could feel comfortable that there wouldn't be five hands up in the air. And so I started to build my own model of community based learning. And I kept seeing technology as that kind of role player as you read in the opening remarks. And I began to develop these models where the students worked as an inquiry community. They built knowledge together like a wiki that starts off kind of empty and ends up full, and it represents their collective contributions. And then that becomes a very valuable resource for later steps that you as the instructor have to design that helps them advance their knowledge. So it was it was from- That the 2005 point, where I've been working on that kind of model, where it's about the classroom. Building a coherent inquiry community using technologies to support everybody's activities, distribute materials, connect people. A little bit of AI now coming in and a whole lot of new open topics to research. Which you listed at the beginning so, hopefully that's not too long about answer for you. >> No, no, that's just fine, thank you, so you mentioned something about the affordances of new technology. So, so far in this course, we've learned about kind of your traditional avenues for science communication. We've talked about oral forms of communication, we've talked about written forms of science communication. So, what do you think is the most exciting or maybe the unique contribution of technology for communicating science? >> Yeah, well, there's probably a lot of different ways you can answer that, some people would say through the power to make ideas visible. For example, simulations which are a very, very powerful way to learn and they have a long tradition back into even before the internet. This idea that simulations can embed scientific content in ways that are accessible. And can be discovered and can be leveraged by the instruction and I do believe simulations are great. And so is modeling the use of data so, real time data and visualizations are a big thing now as well. Those are all coming in, I'm not sure how I would, this question, i t really engages the notion of of knowledge media. And learning media information and communications around that media and so those affordances are beyond science communication. Things like real time aggregation, semantic tagging such that you can develop an emergent visualization. That showed things that were reflecting the community that built them. I use that kind of thing, the instrumentation of our world where we can now get graphical information over laid with all kinds of geo social political content. So, this kind of layered information I think, is a huge value to scientific communication, I can ask questions about where I am right now. I can see patterns of data, the whole IOT thing where we, I'm sorry, the whole IOT thing means the Internet of things which has made its way slowly into education. It's not an easy problem to solve how to best use the maker space and how to best use the affordances of embedded technologies. Internet of things, Arduino and this kind of stuff for science learning, it's still being researched. But it offers a lot of opportunity for, let's say, the instrumentation of your surroundings. You could have students out in their community building monitors and detectors, camera traps. And air quality sensors and measuring food deserts and all kinds of inquiry activities that way. There's also lots of virtual stuff which does have a place in the world, especially right now, but going forward, it will, you'll have online collaboration. You've got Google Docs, I think Google Drive is a transformative technology. The idea that we can co develop not just a document, but an entire drive, right with links all over the place. That we can build spreadsheets together in real time, collaboratively editing that those things can be indexed to a permission space. That's a huge technology for me and I think for teachers to, I think we've seen that's one of the new ones that teachers are able to really get their heads around. They can make a survey form for their students, they know it goes just to their students for that period and they can use it. It's a usable powerful tool and you've got games, right you've got multi user virtual environments for learning. There is a serious games community that are out there looking at real role playing games and thinking about how to translate that into science learning. And I believe that is, there's always progress every year on that, there's a whole community of people looking at that so, those are exciting ones for me. Communicating science is already a little bit odd for me, it's almost a little transmissive, I'm thinking more about like communication as participation. So, if you're going to communicate science to me, you really need me to participate in that science. I'm not just going to listen and here I need to be working with it, I need to have a position on it. I need to be active around it and that fits within communication, right? >> Yeah and I think that's an excellent point to that really highlights I think what you're getting at with with some of the real opportunities with technology. Is that when we were right something we write a blog article, we read a news article, it is very, very transmissive. Whereas technology, that we have this opportunity to really engage and participate more. >> That's right, well I'm happy to go on about any of those things, you have other questions, maybe I can tie them in. >> Yeah, sure so, we know how fast the technological world moves and so, when we think about technology based on. >> Do we [LAUGH]? >> Form so games, simulations, online learning, how much is really flashy and how much is effective. And what's really going to stand the test of time, I thought it was interesting one of your early answers talking about what the web used to look like. And I remember using computers in the late 90s and what the Internet looked like and so what what do you think it's going to last? So, we see a lot of stuff that's just kind of hot and flashy and I remember there was a series. Of I think there were serious games, they could have been simulations to their developer for PalmPilots. >> Yeah PalmPilots, I was in that book I was one of those people that built those and they didn't last and why not because the phone came along right. And the phone replaced where they used to call those personal digital assistants, the PDA, there is no more PDA, we got these things. >> [LAUGH]. >> And in fact that's really going to be one of them, that's going to be an ecological variable like this. The evolution will converge on those technologies that are showing up in the broader background of practices and patterns of participation. So, we're all using our phone for everything now therefore, phones are going to be in the picture, in the classroom and that's still being figured out. And I don't love the form factor of phones for everything, I don't love trying to get things through such a small screen. And there's different user interfaces that really tricky on phones so, I know phones won't be the only thing but you can pretty much say with confidence that phones will be in the mix. And I think ubiquitous computing as an area, a way of thinking about this kind of technology evolution. Is still going strong, Mark Wiser, I guess in the 90s, early 90s, maybe late 80s was Famous for saying there will be cabs, pads and boards, right? And this is kind of cab size like a post it note. And the pad is kind of the Microsoft surface or the iPad. And the board is, [COUGH] what we've seen with smart boards which I believe are not dead. And I think they showed up a bit too soon to really find the right fit and right niche. But I think they're going to come back. I'm certainly not done with them. [COUGH] I don't necessarily know if the touch is that important but the common large visual display that's dynamic and maybe responds to individual inputs that we're seeing a lot of that with clicker questions and pure instruction models in higher education. So I think you can safely say that there will be the psychology of pads, tabs and boards. There will be applications developed, some of those will be generic [COUGH] or meant for building universes of content and interaction. I think nearpod is an example of that, nearpod sort of opens up the space of the end user device in the power point presentation. There's many of those kind of tools coming out, padlet. So it's hard to say what's going to stick, what's going to be the killer app, but my feeling is, it needs to kind of fit the background practices of the world and that nobody will be trying to add a new thing. They'll be using something they kind of know. And the other one for me, I think is the ones that are going to get valued the most are the ones that really changed the discourse in the classroom or the virtual environment. If it's e- learning in a way that feels a step forward that somebody says, wow, well that was really cool, that was exciting, that was better. For me that typically means that it adds a sense of meaning and purpose to learning. It adds a connection to not just how we're learning, how you learn definitely influences what you learn, we know that from years, but why you learn is an even bigger pivot. And I think when we bring the why question into our curriculum designs, we get some exciting moment for thinking and for change. So when we develop innovations that everybody who participated in them, steps back and says, wow to me, those are the ones that I think, well, the value is existential, that the value is felt and we'll hopefully find fertile future research and development around that. My own work, for example, he said, hopefully. >> Yeah, absolutely, I mean, we think of a lot of the serious games, they're designed to be fun that somebody wants to do, and then there's all these little covert learning objectives associated with them. >> Yeah, you've gotta change the discourse patterns, if you think about why is it so hard to change any institution? And you've seen books, about educational change, Cuban and Thai Act that observed that into since I had a book in 2000 and in fact, even Allen Collins and Halverson wrote a book in 2010 or so, they all observe that these kind of these institutions of schooling are so resistant to change. And if you understand communities of practice, which is misunderstood by a lot of people, it's not a community that's about practice, it's a community that's deeply woven and whose knowledge is made real in and through its practices in its discourse. And these kind of communities, the classroom where school is a good example of one, [COUGH] and it's very hard to just swap out those practices for new ones. They don't like to change the patterns of discourse, have to change if the patterns of practice change, if the media change. So on the one hand, you can say, it's impossible for them not to change because the media are changing and you will see concomitant changes with the discourse of the practice. But on the other hand, until something really comes along, that makes people feel like this is worth letting go of my 10,000 hours that I put into getting good at what I do, or even to be able to survive the day, which is how a lot of teachers feel. It's going to be hard to move that needle to just drop something in nearpod and say, isn't it great that lets you do all this new stuff? Well, I've got to understand the value of that new stuff, I've gotta actually put it into play, I've gotta watch the learning, I've developed some new kinds of pedagogical content knowledge. And so those kind of changes will happen gradually and in my feeling is that when we add value, when we add meaning and purpose to the learning, when we helped the students feel motivated, have a better, deeper understanding of why they're even in the classroom teachers to, why are we all here? I think that's going to be a good, your innovation will be more likely if it brings that to the table. >> Yeah, absolutely. And something we talked about earlier in this course to is learning engineering approaches and really being intentional about integrating what users need and what researchers are looking at to really get to actionable change. So if someone is interested in music technology is a form of science communication. So students in this course might be administrators at the science museum or they might be scientists and university who want to do something or someone who just wants to kind of change their career direction. What do you think are the most important things to know or skills to foster because there's a lot out there and we've already mentioned several things about simulations in gaming? And I we've talked about learning analytics in this course. Where should someone start? Or what should they look at or what are skills that they should think about? >> Well, I'm worried about education as much as I'm excited about it, I'm kind of worried about it. [COUGH] And for me, that's mostly in the higher education realm. My work happens in the K- 12 realms where I'm trying to help students develop these kind of more clear, meaningful relationships to stem and other topics and to work with their peers and value their peers as a learning community [COUGH]. The stories we tell about higher education are still kind of fixed in the 20th century. [COUGH] And don't forget, the higher education is where I'm unable to do my work. That's how I have the job that I have, and the PhD students that I have, and so this whole ecology of higher Ed is going through a climate change of its own. And it's easily as evident as the other kind of climate change that we all know, talk about a lot. There are just things opening up in some good ways, but also in some ways that are going to put a lot of universities out of business. They're certainly going to change, some of the patterns of practice, of that community, of the higher Ed community, and they're definitely going to change the kinds of options that students have and that continuing education allows. [COUGH] So as somebody going into any kind of career, we've gotta be aware that, the job space itself is under massive evolution. You've read enough about the worries about the future of employment. With automation and with AI coming in, and how many jobs are going to disappear. And we've seen an acceleration of some of that with the pandemic, or at least we've seen proof of concept, my daughter had her orthodontist appointment the other day on the phone for 15 minutes, so there was no driving to a place or sitting in a waiting room. I don't know what the cost factor is there, like this stuff is all going to be exercised a lot in the next 5- 10 and so of course, that implicates higher education, which has always been purposed to prepare the workforce. Right? Well, not always, but since certainly since post World War Two, that's the identity of higher ED and that's great, it's become accessible to everyone, it didn't used to be, it's become the essentially the narrative for success, that if you can the more education you get a better job, you get, the better school you go to, the better job you get. And at some level, there's a lot of inference you have to do, but it is that you would get some sort of preparation there, some magic content or knowledge that you would achieve in those four years or more, that would ready you for that workforce. Well, if the workforce is a moving target as we know it is, and some of the movement is into spaces that are way beyond what's, currently covered by these undergraduate programs, you can see that there's a lot of movement that's going to be happening, new programs are going to emerge, whole disciplines are going to kind of combine. I think the nature of the undergraduate program is going to change I think the nature of the sort of standard tuition room and board kind of four year program is going to be threatened and so you're going to have a lot more diversity in that higher education space. You're going to have up skilling continuing education, you're going to have badges, you're going to have block chaining just for me curriculum, you'll probably have industry sponsored curriculum, you might even have industry sponsored universities. >> Interesting. >> That's all really in the near future that's in the next decade so that, to me is a little bit more frightening because it's not under control Universities are fighting hard to get a sense of how to make a change without, deleting whole departments are closing their doors altogether and making sure they have a revenue stream and e- learning is cheaper, but is it better? Is it better? >> I don't know. And don't forget, there's an entire ecology of a university that is not just about the learning, that's where Steve Jobs, credits the beginning of Apple was just being around those like sidebar discussions and getting motivated and interested and meeting people from different walks and that the biodiversity there of the university is like any climate change, probably going to be one of the casualties. And you'll just end up if we're not careful with a very powerful, very customizable, personalized, able, what learning programme largely online and then that starts to obviate the certainly the undergraduate experience at traditional universities. This is a long way of answering the question about how you would pivot or how you would choose but I guess the answer would be look for where the action is, look for what's emerging I know if Green New deal comes up, find the communications around science in the Green New deal, you can look at the politics right now and see how important both education and public communication really is. We have had a disaster that has resulted in people, essentially not trusting the media anymore not believe in anything that anybody tells them that this kind of information bubbles so, I would say in times of kind of rapid change that we are in right now, there's no doubt about it. You will see the next 20 years will be as fast moving as the last 20 and that's saying something so, all you can do is kind of an avalanche you're just supposed to make swimming motions with your arms and trying to keep your head up above the snow. But from my understanding, finding a job at all is going to be not straightforward it's going to be rapid changes like these gigs, they talk about the gig economy, so finding a long term profession and career is a model and a narrative that may not be quite what it used to be. And so staying tuned in, watching where the action is finding what is needed and getting involved that's probably the best advice I can think of communication is probably best to equate with participation. Right? So, getting involved in getting connected then hopefully somebody will see something you can do that they want to pay you money for, or entrepreneurialism, which is being offered as the new panacea. Right? Everybody can just start their own, but it's going to be messy I actually think there's going to need to be some basic income, the governments are going to have to hand out a lot of money, but we'll see that's just an opinion. I think this green economy is going to be a driver I think we're going to see a lot of need for innovation in the energy space in the kind of urban futures kind of space we're going to need to see if greater efficiencies, so you'll have openings, you just have to keep your eye on where those might be showing up. >> Yeah, absolutely, a lot to think about so, our last question is a short one. >> Okay? >> And we're just about out of time so, what is your favorite technology for science communication or science participation? >> Mmm, that's a good one. >> Yeah, mine is Eterna the RNA folding game. >> Yeah, I've actually seen something a little bit like that from a VR virtual reality research project I wouldn't call it my favorite, but I called it at the time that I saw it, I called it the first time I had actually seen virtual reality convinced me that there was something profound there for learning and it was in an RNA replication paradigm where there was some sort of inhibiting process of involved in some amino acid of some guy. And it's one that's particularly hard for people to get what we call a robust misconception or it's one of the difficult parts for communicating, and because you could take that molecule and rotate it and visualize and see the inhibition happening and the person that designed it was able to actually let you participate in that. It was getting some pop out experiences, people saying, I get it now, so that was cool and I think that VR is certainly not going to go anywhere that people are going to be working on, that the technology is getting better. My favorite ones are ones that connect people so, learning communities for me are an exciting value add you have traditionally, in the classroom paradigm talk to the lowest common denominator. Okay, you know, your kids are coming in with all kinds of vectors of, some of them are stronger and they're just different all over the board. And so what you have to kind of do is the vector subtraction and find that component that you can quote unquote teach too, that gives everybody maybe that little vector component, right? That's traditional but what if you could do the vector ads, right? And you see a community of people as just that where you actually have a spread of assets, a spread of interest, spread of serendipitous alignments where with the right kind of alchemy, you can get the students to build off one another to get excited to share and distribute expertise. And so for me, the technologies that allow those collective advancements are some of the most exciting ones, Google drive, included and Google Drive has really opened up ways to get the classroom to build its own set and I use that for all my own teaching in the graduate level. >> Absolutely. >> There's also plenty of new, very late breaking technologies in the space of artificial intelligence user modeling systems that can be tuned just for me or that can let me find you, that can let us find each other and connect us to resources and people and communities. I think this kind of power of technology is going to allow growth of ideas, advancement, innovation, spreading of innovation and hopefully responding to the world's problem. And in fact, the way that the world's problems issue based learning or they used to call it social scientific issues, if everyone heard about that, that has always had a mixed value. There's some people who really value the kind of grammar school approach where you want to keep the kids from being too plugged into the world and to worried about things and let's just help them learn the basics and they're going to have enough time to get out there and and discover the issues, right. But I think kids have their phones now and I know I have a teenager of my own and and she's very connected to the issues and very worried about some things and very excited about other things and so I think those kind of abilities to bring the world and the issues into the classroom and make learning more meaningful and purposed are going to be another, there another part of things that's exciting to me. >> Excellent, well thank you so much for your time today, was great having you. >> You're welcome, great to be here, good luck to everyone doing this mook and feel free to reach out if you want, we're here, we're in Toronto and I'm excited to sort of see what you put together for all of this.