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Tuesday, 23 April 2013 16:19

American Educational Research Association 2013 Featured

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It has been a week since returning from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual conference held in San Francisco, CA and my head is still reeling from all of the information that I was subject to throughout the week-long endeavor.  The conference spanned seven days, six hotels, and contained over two thousand sessions for the nearly fifteen thousand attendees. Needless to say, it was expansive with topics on everything that could ever relate to education and educational research.  I spend the majority of my time bouncing through technology sessions looking to gain a perspective on the latest buzz in technology, though I found that I was encountering many of the same discussions from last year’s panels.  It will be difficult to go into great detail on each session that I attended so I will summarize some of the interesting concepts that ended up in my notebook.

In sitting through many technology and design research panels, I found it important to look to several of their frameworks for assessing their learning platforms and consider ways that these may be applied to my personal practice and designs. The leading framework discussed was TPACK which utilizes a framework that looks within the context for the “Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge” (  Another framework that was discussed often was the community of inquiry framework for assessing the strength of a platform. This looks at the learning taking place in the form of “presence” broken down to “Teaching Presence,” “Social Presence,” and “Cognitive Presence” ( This model was extremely helpful for thinking through how I plan to engage students in my online classes, but can be used just as well when applied to the design of learning experiences in an on-ground classroom.  (See also, though I haven’t yet found the actual articles that these relate to: Anderson, Redmond, & Locke, 2006; Marshall & Rossman, 2011; Tracey, 2001) Finally, the Quality Matters Rubric was also discussed but scoffed for its price ( ).

There were also more researchers utilizing social network analysis in an attempt to better understand the interactions that take place in online environments. These visualizations are quite beautiful in themselves, but they shed light on the types of interactions that take place and how a social environment or classroom may be improved by leveraging certain “hubs.”These social network analyses along with the community of inquiry framework and previous discussions regarding massively open online courses (MOOCs) lead me to consider the importance of an online social presence and how students can become active as well in the teaching presence area by becoming peer facilitators to the discussions prompted within a course.


This continued in a dialogue that continued from last year’s conference regarding the levels of student involvement in online discussions by Alyssa Friend Wise from Simon Fraiser University. Her research, along with others in her team, has been on online dialogue and the ways that students interact in discussion forums. They developed a more visual discussion thread model that was being tested, but seemed to be utilized in a similar method to the current linear thread model, but more importantly, these researchers discussed the nature of “Speaking versus Listening.” This is a different way of thinking about the nature of online interactions which typically categorizes those not involved as “lurkers.” The notion of listening opens up the dialogue to consider that learning is actually happening as students listen, but to what level is that learning and is it on par with those that are engaged in the discussions? The main take-away from this discussion was that online discussions should be broken into smaller groups to make the dialogue more manageable and engaging.   

These discussions forced me to consider the concepts of online identity and digital literacies as social presences.  There are implications for online learning with regard to personalizing space and the notion of a digital self. There were many researchers who were struggling with the issues of the linear discussion threads, considering ways in which to make these threads more non-linear and representative of a true social environment.  Also, researchers were questioning the symbolic and visual nature of online learning, what is lost and how does the removal of the physical body from the information change the meaning of the research? How is identity related in an online environment?

Though there was little directly discussing topics such as art history or fine arts, there was one discussion by a group of museum educators combined with a researcher on engaging museum education.  From this, I saw some interesting learning environments developed by Maria Moritati ( , a discussion by Betsy DiSalvo (, The Center for Creative Connections from the Dallas Museum of Art (,  and a discussion regarding Walker Art Center’s Open Field Project (  This discussion put me onto the work of Falk, J.H. and Dierking, L.D. (1992) The Museum Experience,Matusov, E. and Rogoff, B. (1995) Evidence of development from people's participation in communities of learners, and the works of Starr who describe the museum as a cultural community and I began to wonder how this cultural community can be modeled within my own classroom.   Similarly, Thinkfinity ( provides resources for arts and arts integration in their engaging site.

What I really became more excited about was the concepts of gamification as I consider how to better engage my art history classes online and on-ground.  I was put onto quite a few resources to consider these ideas, but the essentials are to produce strong challenges broken up into accomplishable tasks that can be measurable to allow for an upward point progress system and the possibility of badges or levels to be gained along the way. These methods can foster greater collaboration and competition between students.  Some resources include Lee Shelden’s The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game, Gaming the Classroom (, Kapp’s The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, Penn State’s Educational Gaming Commons (, and Burton’s Media Group (

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Josh Yavelberg

Josh Yavelberg is an instructor in the DC Metro area who continues to teach art history and fine arts courses both online and on-ground. His passion for pedagogy has led to continued research in higher education and educational technologies. 

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