Technology + Education: EXPO showcases state-of-the-art learning

Keith McDaniel, a graduate student in the Stanford School of Education's Learning, Design & Technology (LTD) program, shows off his nutritional food application Locanom at LDT EXPO 2010 on Friday. McDaniel and fellow LDT student Tanya Flores spent a year designing, developing and testing the application, which promotes the consumption of locally grown foods. (ANNA CAMPBELL/The Stanford Daily)

Around 300 people crowded around the display tables set up in Wallenberg Hall last Friday, all of them eager to try out the latest gadgets from Stanford students in the Learning, Design & Technology (LDT) program. But although the image calls to mind children in a toy store, most of the people at LDT EXPO 2010 were in fact adults, looking at what might be the future of education.

LDT, a master’s program, is a graduate program in the School of Education that focuses on innovating education using state-of-the-art technology and entrepreneurship. Students coming from all fields may enter the program to take classes on business, technology and education, in order to combine the different fields to create a new way to learn.

“Students design a technology-enhanced learning experience, conceived and developed on their own initiative,” wrote LDT Program Advisor Jesse Foster in an e-mail to The Daily. “They spend an average of 300 hours and complete projects with modest assistance from faculty and others.”

Nearly a year’s worth of design, development and testing culminates in a product that can embody education and technology in any number of ways. This year at the EXPO there was everything from a social networking application to help connect city officials and their voters, to a curriculum designed to help educators teach their students about the Internet, and, most popular of all, educational video games for children.

One of these video games, Equatia, is a math-based role-playing game, where players have to solve addition and multiplication problems in order to save the princess at the end of a maze.

Kris Hattori, a student in the USC film school who worked with LDT graduate student Brady Fukumoto on Equatia, believes that technology not only makes the learning process more fun for the student, it also makes it easier on the teacher as well.

“The idea is, teachers are great for teaching,” Hattori said. “But when it comes to the practice, computers are really good at making something mundane compelling. The computer can tell you what kids get right and what kids get wrong. You can learn their weaknesses and help them overcome them.”

When Gabriel Adauto, another LDT student, tested his fraction-teaching iPhone game called Motion Math with third graders, he learned the same thing.

“Playing the game,” Adauto said, “[students] gain a much more intuitive understanding of fractions than when they’re just being taught.”

While technology has been proven to be effective in the classroom, some educators still aren’t ready to welcome it with open arms.

“There’s understandably some skepticism,” said Jacob Klein, who worked with Adauto on Motion Math. “There are funding concerns, there are privacy concerns, there are theft concerns. But mostly, people are looking for a technological, quick solution to problems.

“A while back, there was a big push for getting laptops into schools, but there wasn’t enough training for students and teachers, so it didn’t work out,” he continued. “Naturally people are a bit worried.”

Although the program has ended for this group of students, the projects aren’t over for all of them.

The Equatia team is working with Rocketship Education, a network of charter elementary schools, to bring their game to more students. Motion Math is planning on releasing an entire suite of math-related iPhone apps on the iTunes App Store, all the way from fractions to calculus. SaySo, a social language-learning game, is going to offer its game to users of EnglishCafé, a website that enables English teachers and English learners to find each other online.

But even though not all the projects will move onto the commercial landscape, it’s clear from the faces on both the adults and the children at the EXPO that this kind of learning experience will soon form the future of education.

“People get very excited about new technology,” Klein said. “There’s something inherently motivating and delightful about using these new devices. So why wouldn’t we use them to educate?”

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