Using Design Studio Techniques to Create a Community of Learners

Using Design Studio Techniques to Create a Community of Learners

Alyson Powell
April 20, 2016
Using augmented reality (AR) technology, three Georgia Tech professors are integrating design studio teaching methods to improve STEM learning for undergraduate students in computer science classes. The goal of their project is to motivate students to collaboratively learn computer science. 

The research project is being conducted in two sections of the Computational Media class, an introductory computer science course for students who are not computer science or engineering majors. One section is a taught with a traditional lecture-style, while the other is taught in room with AR technology that mimics a studio environment.

“Computer science classes can be very defensive. Students typically don’t raise their hand to ask questions or contribute, except to show off what they know,” said School of Interactive Computing Assistant Professor Betsy DiSalvo. “We’re trying to move that culture to a culture of collaborative learning, where students are willing to work with each other, ask each other questions, and contribute in the classroom more openly.”

In the studio section, the visual media that students have manipulated with computational code is projected onto the walls for the entire class to see.

“We have noticed where some students will say, ‘That looks really cool, how did you do that?’ We hope this is starting conversations among students asking for input and offering help,” said DiSalvo.

College of Computing Professor Mark Guzdial is leading the studio section of the class, while School of Interactive Computing Associate Professor Blair MacIntyre developed the augmented reality-based technology installed in the classroom.

In addition to creating a community of learners, DiSalvo hopes the collaborative environment might encourage more diversity in computer science.

“The students who are the most prepared when they come into CS1 courses are oftentimes white or Asian males because they were encouraged to take robotics camp or given introductory programming courses when they were young,” explained DiSalvo. “They’re very well prepared, which is great, but it makes some students who are not in that majority feel like outsiders in those spaces, which discourages them from pursuing computer science.”

The next step is to push the technology further— make the wall projections more interactive, and work on design interactions that are productive and intuitive for teachers and students.

The project is funded by a gift from Microsoft Research, and a GVU/IPaT Research and Engagement Grant, which provides seed funding to conduct interdisciplinary research. Research grants promote research activities involving faculty and students from the many disciplines represented in the GVU Center, while engagement grants are designed to foster new sorts of engagements and collaboration, whether internally or externally.

DiSalvo says being a grant recipient gave her team leverage to ask for space in the Technology Square Research Building.

“Without the grant in place we wouldn’t have been able to get as far as we have, even if the technology had been developed. There are advantages to the grant that go beyond the financial benefits, it is an issue of legitimacy as well.”

IPaT and GVU recently announced the call for proposals for Research and Engagement Grants for 2016-2017. Apply here before the June 1st deadline.
Additional Media: 
Georgia Tech Computational Media class using augmented reality technology

Sign up for news from IPaT