Sheltons Organic Turkey

if I empty out all the unimportant stuff here, maybe there'll be more room in my head for important things

name: shelton brett
location: western u.s.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why educational technology?

The following is the beginning to a short essay that I wrote about my interests in the field and why I'm interested in pursueing research in this area.

One of the characteristics that keeps me enthusiastic about the study of educational technology is its cross-disciplinary nature. Scholars with backgrounds ranging from engineering, math and science to those from language, composition and art all merge within this line of inquiry to study what happens when technology is merged with instruction. Educational technologists are concerned with topics that may range in focus and audience, but we all share concern with the impact of technology in today’s learning environments. My niche within this discipline originates from my days as an engineer when I created scientific visualizations to transform complex information in ways to make it more easily understandable to everyday audiences. Now as a fledgling scholar myself, I have tried to merge my research interests with the activities and pursuits that are grounded within traditional educational technology and that have strong ties to learning sciences.

My interests can be described in two broad areas that have overlap in technical theme and share many theoretical perspectives.

The first area of research interest is the localizing and contextualizing of educational resources, in relationship to their availability and use. I have experienced some early success in obtaining funding and piloting research in this area, and want to continue my work as the world “flattens” in culture and understanding. The three specific threads of research within this category that interest me are the cultural interpretation of graphic symbols, instructional games and simulations, and modes of accessibility and universal design. This final thread covers issues of computer security and Internet safety. I am the co-principal investigator of a grant analyzing security issues in my home state.

The second area of research interest is most accurately described as the innovation of technology, and the role technology plays in mediating the understanding of complex concepts and phenomena. This category includes the investigation of how meaning is negotiated between people and technology-based artifacts, and the environments that support this negotiation. The three main threads of my research interest within this category include augmented reality, computer games, and instructional simulations. The roots of my approach relate directly to learning sciences in the way that “complex systems” might describe the interplay between learner and artifact, novice-and-expert, and the evolving understandings of how we understand the environment around us through the interpretation of our experiences. From my early empirical work and investigation of existing literature, it appears that the way students experience new phenomena as mediated through many different kinds of technological interfaces can change the way they develop their understanding of complex issues. I am not interested in revisiting the “media versus methods” debate, but rather building on an approach that accepts that learning is mediated by experiences that include more than the delivery medium itself. This is a perspective that I’m working from, but further exploration of this approach needs to be unpacked and considered while I investigate practice that can inform theory.