April 25, 2017
Through my lens as a previous teacher and an inquisitive scientist, I have been studying the impact of digital technologies on learning for the past 15 years, exploring the barriers and supports that teachers face from preschool to higher education. Perpetual change in technology, moving from segregated computer labs to hand-held one-to-one devices like the iPad, has made measurement of the direct impact of digital technology on learning almost elusive. However, examining the pedagogy, or instructional techniques, surrounding the integration of the technology has resulted in a reciprocal model in which the technology drives change and the changes in learning direct advances in technologies.
I love to work with partners in education to improve learning and instruction and have collaborated with several startups in our local Kitchener-Waterloo tech industry, including online planning and assessment with Ian Tao, from Sesame, and Shubhagata Sengupta from VidHub. I’ve also collaborated with children’s media champion TVOKids on a video series on digital citizenship.
My most recent work continues in the vein of improved learning and teaching by considering how advancing technologies can support learners while counteracting some of the unintended consequences of the sedentary context that accompanies the use of digital technology. My passion for active, healthy living and my understanding of the impact that aerobic activity has on learning, drove me to consider the use of stationary bikes in classrooms in a project with another community partner, Run For Life. Their SparksFly initiative aims to infuse Canadian elementary and secondary schools with quiet, functional bikes to support self-regulated learning.
Recently I published a paper, "Learning In Motion: Examining Teachers’ Perspectives on the Impact of Stationary Bike Use in the Classroom," in the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research. Our survey of over 100 educators across the country who have used the bikes identified perceived benefits in students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development. Teachers’ approaches to using the bikes moved from initial “teacher-regulated” strategies to more “student-regulated” strategies as students became accustomed to the tool being in the classroom and seeing it as a way to “prepare to learn.”
Surprisingly, the bikes were not generally seen as a distraction and any novelty effect was diminished for those who had the bikes for more than one year. These initial users were generally champions for the use of the bikes as a way for students to self-regulate their preparedness to learn with 99% recommending the implementation of the bikes to other teachers, giving favourable comments related to the increase in students’ knowledge about the impact of exercise and the cognitive effects of physical activity.
My future research is aimed at measuring actual student outcomes using the bikes themselves and classroom observations to gather data to measure specific learning outcomes.
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