IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Perspective Matters: How Diversity of Background, Expertise, and Cognition Can Lead to Good Science

IES funds cutting-edge researchers who often bring multiple disciplines together. Dr. Maithilee Kunda (Vanderbilt University) is one such researcher who stands at the juncture of multiple fields, using artificial intelligence (AI) to address questions related to cognition and autism spectrum disorder. Recently, Dr. Kunda received an award from the National Center for Special Education Research to develop an educational game that leverages AI to help students with autism spectrum disorder better infer and understand the beliefs, desires, and emotions of others. As a computer scientist and woman of color performing education research, Dr. Kunda exemplifies the value that diverse backgrounds, experiences, and disciplines bring to the field.

Bennett Lunn, a Truman-Albright Fellow at IES, asked Dr. Kunda about her work and background. Her responses are below.

As a woman of color, how have your background and experiences shaped your scholarship and career?

Photo of Dr. Maithilee Kunda

In college, I was a math major on the theory track, which meant that my math classes were really hard! I had been what one might call a “quick study” in high school, so it was a new experience for me to be floating around the bottom quartile of each class. The classes were mostly men, but it happened that there was a woman of color in our cohort—an international student from Colombia—and she was flat-out brilliant. She would ask the professor a question that no one else even understood, but the professor’s eyes would light up, and the two of them would start having some animated and incomprehensible discussion about whatever “mathy” thing it was. That student’s presence bestowed upon me a valuable gift: the ability to assume, without even thinking twice, that women of color quite naturally belong in math and science, even at the top of the heap! I don’t even remember her name, but I wish I could shake her hand. She was a role model for me and for every other student in those classes just by being who she was and doing what she did.

I have been extremely lucky to have seen diverse scientists and academics frequently throughout my career. My very first computer science teacher in high school was a woman. At a high school science camp, my engineering professor was a man who walked with two forearm crutches. Several of my college professors in math, chemistry, and robotics were women. My favorite teaching assistant in a robotics class was a Black man. In graduate school, I remember professors and senior students who were women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. Unfortunately, I know that the vast majority of students do not have access to such a wealth of diverse role models. It is heartening, though, that even a single role model—just by showing up—has so much power to positively shape the perceptions of everyone who sees them in their rightful place, be it in STEM, academia, or whatever context they inhabit.

What got you interested in a career in education science?

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy growing up, and in high school, I was wrestling with why I liked these genres so much. I came up with a pet theory about fiction writing. All works of fiction are like extended thought experiments; the author sets up some initial conditions—characters, setting, etc.—and they run the experiment via writing about it. In general fiction, the experiments mostly involve variables at the people scale. In sci-fi and fantasy, on the other hand, authors are trying to run experiments at civilization or planetary scales, and that’s why they have to create whole new worlds to write about. I realized that was why I loved those genres so much: they allowed me to think about planetary-scale experiments! 

This “what if” mindset has continued to weave itself throughout my scholarship and career.

How did it ever become possible for humans to imagine things that don’t exist? Why do some people think differently from others, and how can we redesign the workings of our societies to make sure that everyone is supported, enriched, and empowered to contribute to their fullest potential? These kinds of questions fuel my scientific passions and have led me to pursue a variety of research directions on visual thinking, autism, AI, and education.

How does your research contribute to a better understanding of the importance of neurodiversity and inclusion in education?

Early in graduate school, and long before I heard the term neurodiversity, the first big paper I wrote was a re-analysis of several research studies on cognition in autism. This research taught me there can be significant individual variation in how people think. Even if 99 other people with similar demographic characteristics happen to solve a problem one particular way, that does not mean that the hundredth person from the same group is also going to solve the problem that way.

I realized much later that this research fits very well into the idea of neurodiversity, which essentially observes that atypical patterns of thinking should be viewed more as differences than as being inherently wrong or inadequate. Like any individual characteristics you have, the way you think brings with it a particular set of strengths and weaknesses, and different kinds of thinking come with different strengths and weaknesses.

Much of my team’s current research is a continuation of this theme. For example, in one project, we are developing new methods for assessing spatial skills that dig down into the processes people use to solve problems. This view of individual differences is probably one that teachers know intuitively from working one-on-one with students. One of the challenges for today’s education research is to continue to bring this kind of intuitive expertise into our research studies to describe individual differences more systematically across diverse learner populations.

In your area of research, what do you see as the greatest research needs or recommendations to address diversity and equity and improve the relevance of education research for diverse communities of students and families?

For the past 3 years, I have been leading an IES project to create a new educational game called Film Detective to help students with autism spectrum disorder improve their theory of mind (ability to take another’s perspective) and social reasoning skills. This was my first experience doing research on an interactive application of this kind. I was a newcomer to the idea of participatory design, which basically means that instead of just designing for some particular group of users, you bring their voices in as active contributors early in the design process. Our amazing postdoc Dr. Roxanne Rashedi put together a series of early studies using participatory methods, so we had the opportunity to hear directly from middle schoolers on the spectrum, their parents, and their teachers about what they needed and wanted to see in this kind of technology.

In one of these studies, we had students try out a similar education game and then give us feedback. One young man, about 11 or 12 years old, got frustrated in the middle of the session and had a bit of a meltdown. After he calmed down, we asked him about the game and what he would like to see taught in similar games. He told us that he would really like some help in learning how to handle his frustration better so that he could avoid having those kinds of meltdowns. Impressed by his self-awareness and courage in talking to us about his personal challenges, we ended up designing a whole new area in our game called the Relaxatron arcade. This is where students can play mini-games that help them learn about strategies for self-regulation, like deep breathing or meditation. This whole experience reinforced for me the mindset of participatory design: we are all on a team—researchers, students, parents, and teachers—working collaboratively to find new solutions for education.

We are also proud to work with Vanderbilt’s Frist Center for Autism and Innovation to make our research more inclusive and participatory. One of the many excellent programs run by this center is a software internship program for college students or recent graduates on the spectrum. This summer, we are pleased to be welcoming three Frist Center interns who will be helping us on our Film Detective project.

What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered and how did you overcome the challenge?

Throughout my career, I seem to have gravitated towards questions that not many other people are asking, using methods that not many other people are using. For example, I am a computer scientist who studies autism. My research investigates visual thinking, but not vision. I work in AI, but mostly in areas out of the mainstream.

I get a lot of personal and intellectual satisfaction out of my research, but I do face some steep challenges that I believe are common for researchers working in not-so-mainstream areas. For instance, it is sometimes harder to get our papers published in the big AI conferences because our work does not always follow standard patterns for how studies are designed and implemented. And I do experience my share of impostor syndrome (feeling unqualified for your job even when you are performing well) and FOMO (fear of missing out), especially when I come across some trendy paper that already has a thousand citations in 3 months and I think to myself, “Why am I not doing that? Should I be doing that?”

I try to remember to apply the very lessons that my research has produced, and I am fortunate to have friends and colleagues who help lift me out of self-doubt. I actively remind myself about the importance to our species of having diverse forms of thinking and how my own individual view of things is a culmination of my unique lifetime of educational and intellectual experiences. That particular perspective—my perspective—is irreplaceable, and, more than any one paper or grant or citation, it is the true value I bring to the world as a scientist.

How can the broader education research community better support the careers and scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups?

I think research communities in general need to recognize that inclusion and diversity are everybody’s business, regardless of what someone’s specific research topic is. For example, we assume that every grant proposal and paper follow principles of rigorous and ethical research design, no matter the specific methodology. While some researchers in every discipline specialize in thinking about research design from a scholarly perspective, everyone has a baseline responsibility for knowing about it and for doing it.

Similarly, while we will always want and need researchers who specialize in research on inclusion and diversity, these topics should not be considered somehow peripheral to “real science." They are just as much core parts of a discipline as anything else is. As I constantly remind my students, science is a social enterprise! The pool of individual minds that make our discoveries for us is just as important as any piece of equipment or research method.

What advice would you give to emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups that are pursuing a career in education research?

A few years ago, when I was a newly minted assistant professor, I went to a rather specialized AI symposium where I found myself to be one of only two women there—out of over 70 attendees! The other woman was a senior researcher whom I had long admired but never met, and I felt a bit star-struck at the idea of meeting her. During one of the coffee breaks, I saw her determinedly heading my way. I said to myself as she approached, “Be cool, Maithilee, be cool, don’t mention the women thing…”  I was gearing myself up to have a properly research-focused discussion, but when she arrived, the very first words out of her mouth were, “So, there’s only the two of us, huh!” We both burst out laughing, and over the next couple of days, we talked about our research as well as about the lack of diversity at the symposium and in the research area more broadly.

The lesson I learned from this wonderful role model was that taking your rightful place in the research community does not mean papering over who you are. Certain researchers are going to be rarities, at least for a while, because of aspects of who we are, but that is nothing to hide. The value we bring as scientists comes from our whole selves and we should not just accept that but embrace and celebrate it.

This blog is part of a series of interviews showcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education researchers that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice. For the first blog in the series, please see Representation Matters: Exploring the Role of Gender and Race on Educational Outcomes.

Dr. Maithilee Kunda is the director of the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence and Visual Analogical Systems and founding investigator for the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University. This interview was produced and edited by Bennett Lunn, Truman-Albright Fellow for the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research.

 

Students’ Access to the Internet and Digital Devices at Home

This blog continues a robust discussion about National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data collected in the recent past that can illuminate the issue of students’ access to the internet and digital devices at home. A few years ago—well before the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders shone a bright light on the inequities across the nation—NCES began dedicating resources to improve its data collection and policymaking around education technology and equity at the district, state, and national levels.

The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading questionnaire asked 4th- and 8th-grade students if they had internet access at home and if there was a computer or tablet at home that they could use (referred to in this blog as having “digital access”). These data provide a pre–coronavirus pandemic snapshot of students’ digital access. Across all public schools, 81 percent of 4th-grade students and 88 percent of 8th-grade students said that they had digital access (figures 1 and 2). Thus, 19 percent of 4th-grade students and 12 percent of 8th-grade students in public schools may not have either access to the internet or the devices required to carry out distance learning.  


Figure 1. Percentage of 4th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Figure 2. Percentage of 8th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


There were also differences across states in 2019. For 4th-grade students, the percentages who had digital access varied by state, ranging from 70 percent in New Mexico to 88 percent in New Jersey (table 1). Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming had lower percentages of students who had digital access than the national average (figure 1 and table 1). For 8th-grade students, the percentages who had access ranged from 81 percent in Oklahoma to 93 percent in Connecticut (table 1). Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had lower percentages of students who had access than the national average (figure 2 and table 1).


Table 1. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and state: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

State

Percent

s.e

 

Percent

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

Alabama

79

(1.2)

 

86

(0.8)

Alaska

 

 

Arizona

78

(0.9)

84

(0.9)

Arkansas

73

(0.9)

83

(1.1)

California

81

(0.9)

 

88

(0.9)

 

Colorado

 

 

Connecticut

85

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

Delaware

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.6)

 

District of Columbia

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

DoDEA

88

(0.7)

96

(0.4)

Florida

85

(0.7)

89

(0.7)

 

Georgia

83

(0.9)

90

(0.7)

Hawaii

79

(1)

 

86

(0.8)

Idaho

77

(0.9)

88

(0.8)

 

Illinois

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

Indiana

80

(0.9)

 

90

(1.1)

 

Iowa

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

 

Kansas

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

Kentucky

81

(0.8)

 

87

(0.7)

Louisiana

79

(1)

 

85

(0.9)

Maine

82

(0.9)

 

89

(0.7)

 

Maryland

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.6)

Massachusetts

87

(0.8)

93

(0.7)

Michigan

80

(1)

 

90

(0.8)

 

Minnesota

83

(1)

92

(0.7)

Mississippi

77

(1.2)

84

(0.7)

Missouri

78

(0.8)

89

(0.8)

 

Montana

 

 

Nebraska

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

Nevada

79

(1)

 

85

(0.7)

New Hampshire

 

 

New Jersey

88

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

New Mexico

70

(1.2)

82

(0.8)

New York

84

(0.7)

91

(0.7)

North Carolina

81

(0.8)

 

89

(0.8)

 

North Dakota

81

(1)

 

90

(0.7)

Ohio

82

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Oklahoma

73

(1.1)

81

(0.9)

Oregon

77

(1)

87

(0.8)

 

Pennsylvania

85

(0.8)

91

(0.7)

Rhode Island

84

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

South Carolina

81

(1)

 

90

(0.9)

 

South Dakota

 

 

Tennessee

77

(0.9)

86

(0.9)

Texas

75

(0.9)

82

(1)

Utah

 

 

Vermont

81

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Virginia

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.8)

Washington

80

(1)

 

89

(0.8)

 

West Virginia

81

(1)

 

86

(0.7)

Wisconsin

83

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Wyoming

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
† Not applicable.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant. “National public” refers to the results for all students in public schools.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Looking at the results of NAEP’s 2019 Trial Urban Districts Assessment (TUDA), Miami-Dade, Florida, had the highest percentages of 4th- and 8th-grade students who had digital access (88 percent and 93 percent, respectively) (table 2). Fresno, California, had the lowest percentage of 4th-grade students (67 percent) who had access and Dallas, Texas, had the lowest percentage of 8th-grade students (73 percent) who had access.


Table 2. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA): 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Large city

Percentage

 

Percentage

 

   All large cities

78

 

85

 

Albuquerque

75

 

85

 

Atlanta

82

86

 

Austin

78

 

83

 

Baltimore City

73

84

 

Boston

81

89

Charlotte

83

91

Chicago

80

 

88

 

Clark County (NV)

78

 

84

 

Cleveland

74

80

Dallas

71

73

Denver

 

 

Detroit

70

79

District of Columbia (DCPS)

83

90

Duval County (FL)

84

89

Fort Worth (TX)

72

88

Fresno

67

77

Guilford County (NC)

78

 

85

 

Hillsborough County (FL)

81

 

87

 

Houston

71

75

Jefferson County (KY)

82

88

Los Angeles

76

 

85

 

Miami-Dade

88

93

Milwaukee

75

 

85

 

New York City

81

 

89

Philadelphia

78

 

86

 

San Diego

81

 

90

Shelby County (TN)

78

 

86

 

Significantly higher than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


In 2019, higher percentages of 8th-grade students than of 4th-grade students had digital access. This pattern was consistent across all states and TUDA jurisdictions. On average, in both 4th and 8th grades, higher percentages of students in suburban areas than of students in cities, towns, and rural areas had access (table 3).


Table 3. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and locale: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Locale

Percentage

s.e

 

Percentage

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

City

79

(0.4)

86

(0.4)

Suburban

84

(0.3)

 

92

(0.3)

 

Town

77

(0.8)

86

(0.6)

Rural

78

(0.4)

87

(0.4)

↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Suburban at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


While the NAEP data reveal state-level patterns in students’ digital access before the pandemic, the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) provides insight into the digital access of students across the country during the pandemic. The HPS is conducted by the Census Bureau and seven other federal statistical agency partners, including NCES. Since April 23, 2020, the HPS has provided weekly or biweekly estimates of the availability of computers and internet access to children for educational purposes.

In April 2020, 88 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that computers were always or usually available for educational purposes. By the end of March 2021, that percentage increased to 94 percent (table 4).

A similar pattern emerged in the HPS data for internet access. In April 2020, 91 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that the internet was always or usually available for educational purposes. In March 2021, that percentage had increased to 94 percent (table 4).


Table 4. Percentage of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school who reported that computers and internet access were always or usually available for educational purposes: 2020–21, selected time periods

 

Computers available

Access to internet

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

April 23 to May 5, 2020

88

(0.5)

 

91

(0.4)

 

March 17 to March 29, 2021

94

(0.4)

94

(0.4)

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for April 23 to May 5, 2020, at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, selected periods, April 2021 through March 2021.


While these data provide a recent look into the technology landscape for students both before and during the pandemic, there is still a need to collect more and better data to understand digital inequities. For example, future NCES surveys could ask schools, students, and teachers about their technology use and access at home, what resources for learning and instruction they have at home, and the environment in which many students and teachers now find themselves learning and teaching.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Cadelle Hemphill, AIR; Yan Wang, AIR: Diana Forster, AIR; Chad Scott, AIR; and Grady Wilburn, NCES

IES Supported Intervention “INSIGHTS Into Children’s Temperament” is Featured at the 2021 ED Games Expo

The ED Games Expo is an annual showcase of game-changing innovations in education technology developed through programs at ED and across the federal government. Since 2013, the Expo has been an in-person event at venues across Washington, D.C. Because of COVID-19, the 2021 Expo will be an entirely virtual experience from June 1 to 5.

This year, the Expo will showcase more than 160 learning games and technologies and feature 35 different virtual EdTech events of interest to a broad audience of viewers. See the Agenda for the lineup for the Ed Games Expo.

 

ED Games Expo: Featuring INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament

INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament, an IES-supported intervention, is being featured at the Expo this year. INSIGHTS supports children’s social-emotional development and academic learning by helping teachers and parents see how differences in children’s behavior might reflect temperament/personality. Children work with the INSIGHTS puppets and learn that other children and adults react differently to the same situation due to their temperaments. IES has supported two randomized controlled trials (RCTs, the “gold standard” for claims of impact) of INSIGHTS – one in New York City and the other (ongoing) in rural Nebraska. Evidence from the NYC RCT and a longitudinal follow up indicate that children who participate in the INSIGHTS program during early elementary school experience better academic and social behavioral outcomes immediately following participation in the program, and these positive impacts persist into middle school. 

 

During the 2020 ED Games Expo, Sandee McClowry and her team performed an INSIGHTS lesson at the Kennedy Center to hundreds of attendees, including children, students, and families. INSIGHTS will be featured in this year’s ED Games Expo in three ways.

  • Tuesday, June 1 at 8PM Eastern: There will be an “ED Games Expo Kick Off Show” hosted by the puppets from the INSIGHTS intervention and the characters from the Between the Lions children’s television program. All of the characters will share information about the ED Games Expo while having a lot of fun and hijinks on a road trip to Washington, DC.  The Show will be introduced by the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, and will also feature cameo appearances by IES, ED, and government team members.
  • Wednesday, June 2 from 9PM to 9:45PM Eastern: Sandee McClowry will be hosting a Master Class for Educators. The event will introduce all of the INSIGHTS friends, including Coretta the Cautious, Gregory the Grumpy, Fredrico the Friendly, and Hilary the Hard Worker. The video will provide practical guidance to educators on how to deliver the intervention in a classroom. The event will conclude with a rich and engaging discussion with expert practitioners about how INSIGHTS addresses the social and emotional learning of children, educators, and parents. Click Here to access the YouTube broadcast of the Master Class and set a reminder to watch on June 1.
  • Materials from INSIGHTS, including puppets that can be printed out and professional development resources for educators, will be available to try out during the Expo and in the month of June.

 

For URL links to watch the ED Games Expo Kick Off Show and Master Class for Educators, See the Agenda. For more information and on how to access the resources INSIGHTS intervention, see the website.


Written by Emily Doolittle (Emily.Doolittle@ed.gov), NCER Team Lead for Social Behavioral Research at IES

 

NASA to Kick Off Its Latest National Student Challenge at the 2021 ED Games Expo on June 1

The 8th Annual ED Games Expo will occur next week from June 1 to 5. The free event is all virtual, open to the public, and will showcase game-changing innovations in education technology developed through more than 40 programs at the Department of Education (ED) and across the federal government.

 

NASA National Student Challenge Event at the Ed Expo

One of many noteworthy Expo events will occur on Tuesday, June 1, from 6 to 8 PM Eastern when NASA’s Flight Opportunities program will introduce a new national student challenge. Educators can register to attend this LIVE event on June 1 here. The NASA TechRise Student Challenge will invite teams of sixth- to 12th-grade students to submit ideas for climate or remote sensing experiments to fly on a high-altitude balloon, and space exploration experiments to fly aboard a suborbital rocket.

 

 

NASA developed the NASA TechRise Student Challenge to enable students to have a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, space exploration, coding and electronics, and a broader understanding of the value of test data. The challenge will also provide students with the opportunity to engage with NASA and technology communities and expose them to careers in science, technology, and space exploration fields.

The challenge will begin accepting applications in August for student teams affiliated with U.S. public, private, and charter schools, including U.S. territories.  The winning teams each will receive $1,500 to build their payloads, as well as an assigned spot on a NASA-sponsored commercial suborbital flight. Balloon flights will offer more than four hours of flight time, while suborbital rockets will provide around three minutes of test time in microgravity conditions. The Flight Opportunities program, based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, a part of Space Technology Mission Directorate, is leading the NASA TechRise Student Challenge. The challenge is being administered by California-based Future Engineers, which developed its platform with awards in 2016 and 2017 from the ED/IES SBIR program. Future Engineers’ platform has also been employed to manage past educational and NASA challenges, including the Name the Mars Rover student challenge. 

During the June 1 event, NASA experts will provide information to educators on the official competition. Teachers are invited to join a NASA TechRise Educator Summer Workshop, which will dive into the basics of electronics, coding, and designing for flight. The first workshop will be on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 and repeated on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. For challenge details and to pre-register for the competition, please visit the contest website.

 

More ED Games Expo Events to Engage Students in Hands-On Projects and Challenges

In addition to the NASA event, five more virtual events featuring government programs that engage students in project-based learning will occur on Monday, June 1 between 12:30PM to 6PM Eastern. Topics include students building and flying satellites, programs for museums, local communities and military facilities to engage students in experiential and real-world learning, and a program to inspire students to be inventors and entrepreneurs. See the Expo Agenda here for lineup of events and the ED Games Expo Playlists Page for video trailers by participating developers. 

 

We look forward to "seeing you" at the virtual ED Games Expo starting on June 1!


Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) is the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

 

Highlighting the Science of Learning at the 2021 ED Games Expo

Research on how people learn is critical for informing the design of effective education technology products. To design products that improve student learning, we need to understand how students approach solving problems, the information they need to adopt optimal solution strategies, the skills that underlie success in particular academic domains, the best ways to arrange information on a screen to guide student attention to relevant information, and the best study strategies for optimizing learning and retention. Through its research grants programs, IES has invested in research projects to develop and test education technology products based in the science of learning.

 

The 2021 ED Games Expo, which takes place virtually from June 1-5, features a number of these products, and you can learn more about them through a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions and videos. Most are ready to demo now. Students and educators can send questions about the research, game-play, or ed tech experience directly to the participating researchers. Here are just a few of the many ways you can interact with IES-funded researchers at the Expo:

 

  1. The Virtual Learning Lab (VLL) will be hosting a live, virtual session on Friday, June 4th from 4:00-5:30pm Eastern Time to celebrate their 5-year research collaboration to explore precision education in the context of algebra instruction. The VLL developed an AI-powered video recommendation system that personalizes math instruction within Math Nation. The researchers measured student ability and engagement, detected effects of virtual learning environment usage on achievement, and identified characteristics of effective online tutoring. The session will feature short talks and opportunities for Q&A: 
  • A Video Recommendation System for Algebra (Walter Leite, University of Florida)
  • Reinforcement Learning for Enhancing Collaborative Problem Solving (Guojing Zhou, University of Colorado Boulder)
  • Natural Language Processing for VLE Research (Danielle McNamara, Arizona State University)
  • Identifying Pedagogical Conversational Patterns in Online Algebra Learning (Jinnie Shin, University of Florida)
  • Scaling Items and Persons for Obtaining Ability Estimates in VLEs (A. Corinne Huggins-Manley, University of Florida)
  • Measuring Student Ability from Single- and Multiple-Attempt Practice Assessments in VLEs (Ziying Li, University of Florida)
  • Detecting Careless Responding to Assessment Items in VLEs (Sanaz Nazari, University of Florida)
  • Personalization, Content Exposure, and Fairness in Assessment (Daniel Katz, University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Fair AI in VLEs (Chenglu Li, University of Florida)

 

  1. The ED Games Expo YouTube Playlist, which will be posted on June 1st on the event page, features 26 products developed with IES grant funding. For ed tech products informed by research on how people learn, check out the products funded through the Cognition and Student Learning topic:
  • Graspable Math allows math teachers to assign interactive algebra tasks and turns equations into tangible objects that middle school and high school students can manipulate to practice and explore. Teachers can follow live, step-by-step, student work.
  • eBravo Boulder Reading Intervention is a self-paced personalized reading comprehension curriculum that teaches secondary students the problem-solving skills good readers use to learn from challenging texts, in this case in the science discipline of ecology. Reading strategies and exercises are guided by well-researched models of reading comprehension, helping students build deep, durable, and reusable knowledge from text. 
  • iSTART and Writing Pal are interventions designed for middle school students, high school students, and young adults improve their reading and writing skills. Within these interventions, students play games to practice reading comprehension and writing strategies.
  • All You Can Eat, Gwakkamole, and CrushStations are part of a suite of Executive Function skill-building games, designed to improve student shifting, inhibitory control, and working memory respectively.

 

We hope you can join us for this exciting event in June to learn more about and try out all the research-based products ready to be used in our nation’s schools. For more information on the featured resources and online events, please see this blog.


Written by Erin Higgins (Erin.Higgins@ed.gov), Program Officer for the Cognition and Student Learning program, National Center for Education Research