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Steam, crises, puppetry and more . . .

It's been a while, since we wrote an update covering what's going on in the Learning Environment research group. A lot has happened and a lot is happening. We have done research on learning science-technology-engineering-art-math (STEAM), design for crises communication, telerobotic puppetry and machines that teach and learn creativity. We have number of new publications, prototypes and projects.
Sign of swinging

In the following I will try to summarise some of the interesting things going on the Learning Environments research group. Let's start with the "STEAM", which means Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics education, learning and teaching.

The SySTEAM 2020 project was successfully completed last month. EU Horizon2020 funded, 4 year research and development project was reviewed with the statement that the project have achieved "exceptional results with significant immediate or potential impact”. I recommend you to read two documents: 

Reshaping Science Learning Outside the Classroom: Findings and Recommendations

White Paper on Equity

The other "steam" project that has kept us busy is called The STEAM INC. The Erasmus+ project is a partnership made up of six higher educational institutions currently delivering STEAM approaches. The main results are published next year, but you may want to add the site already now to your bookmarks.

Our very latest research is a collaboration with the Aalto Department of Computer Science and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. In a  a three-year project funded by the Academy of Finland we are exoloring how crisis narratives emerge in society during the global pandemic and how we can improve risk communication strategies and cooperative models for crisis preparedness and response. We also experiment with a digital platform that will represents and visualizes information to engage decision-makers, front-line responders, stakeholders, and the general public to learn from the crises: making sense and perceptions of risk and trust.

Related to crises we have also contacted research on the potential of telepresence robots for intergroup contacts. The first publication from the projects frames what we consider important and possible:

Peled, A., Leinonen, T., & Hasler, B. S. (2020, November). The Potential of Telepresence Robots for Intergroup Contact. In CHIRA (pp. 210-217).

The first prototype of the telepresence was a soft robot but the latest prototypes are hand puppets controlled with your hand movements.

At some point next year, we will have a hand puppet shows over borders with an aim to have constructive contacts between groups. The research is supported by the Kone Foundation.

Some people may know that in our group we have been somehow critical about the artificial intelligence and learning analytics hype. For a reason that complaining do not bring us far we have decided to contribute to the research with a different approach. From this track of research we recently published one position paper: 

Lim, J., & Leinonen, T. (2021). Creative Peer System An Experimental Design for Fostering Creativity with Artificial Intelligence in Multimodal and Sociocultural Learning Environments. In CEUR Workshop Proceedings (Vol. 2902, pp. 41-48). RWTH Aachen University.

In the next steps of the research we are building a prototype where students and machines are aiming to learn creativity together as peers. The experiments take place among art and design students and kindergarten children. The research is conducted in collaboration with Professor Lasse Lipponen from the University of Helsinki.

About being critical. Other things we follow closely but are same time critical is the discussion about "metaverse", AR and VR and how these will be used in a learning situation (and in manipulation of people). Related to this theme we published this year a research article:

Leinonen, T., Brinck, J., Vartiainen, H., & Sawhney, N. (2021). Augmented reality sandboxes: children’s play and storytelling with mirror worlds. Digital Creativity, 32(1), 38-55.

Another long-term study was also completed this year. To understand the evolution of a teacher' Facebook group, containing nearly 20,000 teachers, we studied eight years of activity by employing a mixed-methods research design; data science and participatory observation. The publication is available here: 

Nelimarkka, M., Leinonen, T., Durall, E., & Dean, P. (2021). Facebook is not a silver bullet for teachers’ professional development: Anatomy of an eight-year-old social-media communityComputers & Education173, 104269.

I am probably missing something important and relevant. You will, however, find (most of) the publications and the projects from the Research Information System. Search: Learning Environments research group.

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