Research Agenda

Dr. Doom vs. the Fantastic FourMy research agenda centers around the central focus of “design,” how we teach design, how learners learn through designing, how we design mentoring experiences, and how we give learners control to design their learning experience. Figure 2 illustrates this agenda. In some cases, projects may overlap in with two or more areas of interest, but I do not work on a project that does not fit into one of these four areas. The following questions help me design my research projects and/or accept invitations to collaborate with others:

  1. What happens when learners take control of designing their own learning experience?
  2. How does multimedia design in mixed reality contexts influence learning?
  3. How can we reinforce content fluency and encourage creativity through design?
  4. How do we design mentoring experiences to support lifelong learning?

In some respects, projects may cross between areas, potentially extending the impact of the work. Examples of this approach include the design cases for the International Journal of Designs of Learning as well as the Survey of Instructional Design Models book. Design cases are a different type of scholarship in that they, “offer in-depth explanations of design rationales, rich and multi-dimensional descriptions of designed artifacts and experiences, and full reflection on design processes have the potential to offer teaching and learning opportunities that are difficult to find and that may especially benefit students of design across multiple fields” (Boling, 2010, p. 6). I am a teacher educator, but also a design educator. How we mentor the next generation of designers contributes directly to the future of the field, and how we examine the role of multimedia in the learning process takes on multiple dimensions as a design educator. Thus, I place a high value on my work that can influence scholarship and practice in mentoring and multimedia design or multimedia design and design activities for learners or mentoring and learner control. When my projects can leave a lasting legacy, then I most certainly place a high priority on those works. This is true of the Survey book, co-authored with Dr. Robert Maribe Branch, Professor University of Georgia. The first edition of this book was authored by Dr. Kent Gustafson in 1981 and represents a foundational reading for a majority of students in learning and instructional design technology. I myself used the 4th edition of the book during my graduate studies. Thus, it was with great reverence and honor that I accepted the invitation to join the project in producing the 5th edition. Looking towards the future, I am excited to continue the legacy as we begin work on the 6th edition, continuing to make the text useful and relevant for practitioners.In some cases, resulting manuscripts of a research project may not neatly fit into a specific agenda category. However, the connections are still there. For example, on the surface, a recent collaborative manuscript with Veletsianos, Kimmons, Larsen, and Lowenthal on sentiment in comments on educational videos may not seem like an exact fit for “mentoring.” However, this is only the beginning of our line of inquiry in this area. As a research team, we purposefully targeted TED talks as a data source for the study due to the prevalence of using these types of recorded speeches in educational contexts, introducing or exploring topics with students. As a teacher educator, I mentor dozens of preservice teachers each year and we talk about the resources one might use to foster further growth, such as TED talks. Negativity or toxicity in social media is a reality of communication in the 21st century and we must be cognizant of the possible pitfalls and challenges our students and protégés may face navigating these spaces. Moving forward in this line of inquiry, I can foresee a potential to converge collaborations and blend the results of this research with future plans examining mentoring structures in academic institutions in comparison or contrast with those of industry, looking for crossover lessons to be shared.

Outreach & Service

As a product of two Land Grant universities, my commitment to outreach and service runs deep. I also grew up in a rural community of East Texas where the county extension agent was a household name. Whether a family needed assistance with crop production or nutrition education, the extension agents had a complete repertoire of resources and training readily available to share, and these experiences always referenced the leading researchers of that field from Texas A&M University. Thus, my approach to outreach and service directly integrate with my teaching and research. While extension agents may not be the ones who use the findings of my research, other designers, technologists, teachers, and scholars can directly and indirectly benefit from my work. For outreach and service to be meaningful, they must connect to research. This assumption is based on a philosophy of opportunity and connecting practical knowledge with the emerging science, a founding tenet of land grant education (Burton, 2008).

At times, my outreach and service provide opportunities for me to pilot or test future research projects. At others, they provide outlets for me to disseminate findings from my work and relevant work from peers. An example of the former would be the outreach I conducted in Wyoming, hosting workshops in the WyoMakers makerspace that I established. Here, I was able to use the facility as a playground and experiment with different design activities for learners focusing on different content areas. In Fall 2016, I hosted workshops for the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference that introduced the young women to 3D drawing technology and invited them to design and draw insects from their imagination. I gave the girls three prompts to consider, including where the insect lived, how it moved, and what it ate, to help guide their designs and challenged them to develop a story about their creation. A little more than a year later, and this activity has now transformed into a full research project in collaboration with Dr. Jen Weible at Central Michigan University. Together, we have mapped out the in-class lesson, generated research questions, and identified instruments to help measure interest in science and fostering creativity. While implementing this research project, we will both use preservice teachers to deliver the lesson, making this a combined research, outreach, and service experience. At the completion of the project, we’ll be able to publish and present on the project, but more importantly, I can then continue my outreach efforts, hosting workshops for teachers on how to use the 3D drawing technology and share the lesson plan we developed for these teachers to consider using in their own classrooms. This practical and integrated approach embodies the land grant mission through which I was educated and continue to serve.

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