Blog for Integrating Emerging Technologies into Teaching Practice

Posted by: Tom Moher and Wendy Martin on January 29, 2021

While every era has its own set of "emerging" technologies, the focus in this webinar is on those that lie within a kind of "zone of proximal technology" for teachers: somewhere beyond the technologies that have already been widely adopted in practice, but within the realm of imagination as a classroom tool for teaching and learning. Some examples of emerging technologies that are not commonly used in educational settings today but which some innovative researchers, educators and funders believe show promise for enabling ambitious learning opportunities include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, big data visualizations, immersive or augmented reality technologies, and interactive digital displays. For these technology-enhanced experiences to one day become reality in educational contexts, researchers need to involve educators in the design process from the beginning to ensure that the experiences are aligned with learning objectives that teachers have while also enabling forms of engagement that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

About the webinar


To seed our discussion of ambitious digital learning, we will begin the webinar with presentations from leaders of three research projects that use emerging technologies to design experiences in which the physical space of the classroom, the spatial arrangement of digital resources, and the locations and movements of learners within those spaces play central roles in enactment of learning activities. We'll hear about the learning goals for each project, the kinds of emerging technologies that were used, the expectations for the roles of learners and teachers during enactment of learning activities, and how formative research with teachers informed the evolution of the project. Following these presentations, teachers who worked on two of these projects will offer their perspectives on their participation in the projects, then be joined by the researchers for a broader discussion of the opportunities and challenges facing teachers in incorporating and sustaining ambitious digital learning activities within their practice. Finally, we will form breakout groups inviting audience members to share their own experiences with emerging technologies in the classroom and involving teachers in the process of designing and testing innovative learning experiences.


About the panelists


Noel Enyedy, professor of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University, will talk about his work with young learners in the Science through Technology Enhanced Play (STEP) project that he leads with Joshua Danish from the University of Indiana. In the STEP project, young learners engage with emergent phenomena in the context of productive play, assuming roles as bees in a field, or as molecules in a substance, moving around the room to interact with one another and elements of an imaginary place. A large projected display, driven by camera-based location tracking technologies, transforms their movements into representations of their collective interaction. 


Emma Mercier, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will present the SynergyNet project conducted at Durham University (UK) with Steve Higgins, Elizabeth Burd and their team. In this project, multi-touch tables and a network of devices were used to allow elementary school students to collaborate over math and history tasks, and to provide tools for teachers to manage the technology and content. The team experimented with a variety of technologies for the teacher – including large touch screens, tablets and Kinect devices in order to allow different forms of interaction with the classroom technology. 


Jim Slotta, professor of Knowledge Technologies at the University of Toronto, will talk about his work with Tom Moher from the University of Illinois at Chicago in transforming classrooms into immersive spaces for collective STEM inquiry in their Embedded Phenomena for Inquiry Communities (EPIC) project. In Jim and Tom's project, students adopt the conceit that an 'embedded' scientific phenomenon is unfolding in their room, scaled to fit the space. Over multi-week units, learners access and interact with the simulated phenomena through simulated instruments distributed around the classroom, collectively working as a knowledge community to build and improve their understandings of the phenomenon under investigation.


Ben Peebles is a Grade 6 teacher at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School in Toronto, Ontario. For the past 15 years, Ben has served as a teacher collaborator on a variety of research projects involving the use of emerging technologies, including multiple cycles of design and revision as part of the EPIC project.


Noelani Morris has served as a primary Demonstration Teacher at the University of California Los Angeles Lab School for the past 13 years. Noelani was an early member of the STEP collaborative design team, including her work on another STEP learning environment focusing on molecular motion and states of matter.


About the playlist


We encourage you to check out the videos that you'll find on our Multiplex playlist. Two of our panelists are included in the playlist; Noel Enyedy's video presents a nice overview of his Bees activity, and Emma Mercier's video features some of her recent work in collaborative sketching in first-year engineering classes. Naomi Thompson, Joshua Danish, and Kylie Peppler's video offers a different take on bees, with students visiting and collecting nectar from technologically enhanced plush flowers distributed around the classroom. Ivan Arroyo and Erin Ottmar introduce the Wearable Learning Cloud Platform, which allows elementary school students to design their own games by attaching color-coded tags to objects in their room that can be recognized by cameras on handheld devices. The remaining videos on the playlist feature emerging technologies that allow learners to engage in compelling new ways, both in and out of the classroom.

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