Northern Illinois University is set to open the Cross-Disciplinary Research on Engaging Advanced Technology for Education Center this year, dedicated to developing new education technology solutions.
NIU plans to leverage this center as being at the forefront of technology research, led by education professionals with key insights into what schools should focus on now and where education technology is falling short.
Researchers are working on a project using virtual advisers to help underserved community college students, and developing a robot to help mediate K–12 student collaboration, Campus Technology reports. The university is already planning for future studies.
“The center builds on NIU’s history as a normal school committed to producing teachers capable of using state-of-the-art knowledge to address educational challenges for learners of all ages,” said university President Kim Freeman on the university’s website.
CREATE Center Will Utilize Educators for Greater Insight
The new center’s plan to have studies conducted by a multidisciplinary group of education professionals is intended to make sure research specifically targets how to improve education outcomes.
Educators have voiced concerns over the validity of available studies around education technology, worried those leading the studies do not understand the nuances of classroom integration.
Technology research is often conducted by engineers or computer scientists who are focused on technical efficiencies, as opposed to educators who are looking for research to support learning initiatives.
This can pose as a problem for administrators trying to implement new education tools. If professors do not trust the data on how technology will improve student outcomes, it will be harder to convince them to put in the time and effort to embrace new tools.
The CREATE Center plans to use researchers with academic backgrounds in learning sciences, psychology and communication as well as engineering and computer science. University students will be invited to use the facility as well.
“Research on advanced technology to tackle real-world educational challenges involves a myriad of research topics, which also involve diverse groups of learners and teachers in various domains of learning.” Kim said.
Center Develops Research Around Technology and Education Equity
One of the main focuses of the CREATE Center will be to use quantitative and qualitative research to find new ways for education technology to support a more equitable classroom.
Recent studies have found research and data collection around programs criticized for socioeconomic, racial and gender inequality, such as computer science, are not sufficient. Administrators at NIU say this new center will provide an avenue to correct this problem.
Some of these projects have already begun. A project called MathGirls is working to partner female students with peers through virtual networks to encourage girls to enter STEM fields.
“Through the innovative use of technology, the programs will seek to address educational challenges we face in the real world and also create new opportunities for marginalized groups of students and teachers in conventional settings,” said Freeman.