EduSummIT 2019: How Will Changes in Human Computer Interfaces Impact Educational Technology?


What is EduSummIT?

  • "EduSummIT is a global community of researchers, policy-makers and practitioners committed to supporting the effective integration of Information Technology (IT) in education by promoting active dissemination and use of research."
  • About 150-200 attended the first EduSummIT, in 2009, in the Hague. Held every two years thereafter (EduSummIT 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).  Interestingly, many of the same 150-200 from 2009, from 38 countries, attended EduSummIT 2019 in Quebec City in October 2019.

What does EduSummIT do?

  • "The theme of EduSummIT 2019 was “Learners and learning contexts: New alignments for the digital age” was chosen to consider misalignments due to the consequences of changing knowledge representations, human computer interactions, blurring of formal and informal learning, changes in leadership patterns and many more emerging influences from IT which require new alignments between traditional and innovative curricula, between learners and teachers, between learning and assessment etc. with long term implications for policymakers, practitioners and researchers in the digital age."
  • At EduSummIT 2019, over the course of two and a half days, the attendees broke into 13 thematic working groups to address the misalignments and look for new alignments across different contexts in response to technological innovations in this "digital age." Hey, hey: EduSummIT folks are pushing K-12 in its "digital transformation."

Our group, the Technological Working Group 1 (TWG1), was tasked to explore the topic of how changes in human computer interfaces will impact educational technology. Our work was enriched by the diversity in our group. Our 10-person group had researchers from different disciplines (math education, engineering, computer science, and learning sciences), astrophysicists from NASA, a school principal, and a teacher turned PhD student. In what follows, then, is a short summary of our deliberations.

TWG1 Leaders: Cathie Norris, Elliot Soloway

Summary Findings of the TWG1: 

Innovations in technology are challenging our beliefs and practices in teaching and learning. The content-orientated curriculum and lecture-based pedagogy can longer meet the demands of the 21st century and the needs of diverse learners. Lately, there is convergence on the part of educators and learners in responding to the digital age. Curriculum movements such as NGSS are pushing towards process-orientated learning while students are making use of their electronic devices for learning purposes rather than entertainment alone. Looking to the future, then, we identified six technologies that will impact interfaces and in turn, teaching and learning, in the next 3-5 years: robots, wearables/mobile/sensors and controllers, natural language/speech processing, AR/VR/3D/MR, the cloud, and learning analytics. These technologies not only afford all learners, struggling learners to accelerated learners, opportunities to have a personalized, authentic, and never before possible learning experience, but they also give access to learning all the time and everywhere.

Issues and Assumptions:

  • Technology affords all learners opportunities to experience unique, authentic, high risk, never be for possible phenomena.
  • Technology affords all the time and everywhere learning
  • Internet-connected technology is readily accessible.

Identified Current Misalignments:

  • Traditional curricula focus on content, but digital technology affords a focus on process.
  • Currently, technology is typically used to make traditional learning better as opposed to leveraging opportunities afforded by digital technology to make learning more experiential for all learners.
  • Disconnect between current teacher preparation programs and the needs of the teachers using digital technology in the classrooms
  • The goals of the policymakers are not always aligned with the goals of educators.For example, educators focus on the whole child whereas policymakers focus more on efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Emerging New Alignments:

  • Students using mobile devices not just for entertainment.
  • New curricula movements are putting process rather content first.
  • New assessments are being developed for the newly adopted process-oriented curricula.
  • User activities, interfaces, and contexts are beginning to come together.

Strategies and Actions:

  • Policymakers need to:
    • Experience the field and their policy decisions need to be informed by those experiences.
    • Allocate significant funds for a concerted effort in professional development to bring all K-20 educators into the digital age
    • Change the assessments to align with technology-enabled, new curricula and pedagogies.
  • Practitioners (i.e., Teachers) need to be:
    • Engaged in ongoing, community-based and remunerated professional learning.
  • Researchers need to be:
    • Engaged in classroom based research.

Stories: Examples from Today, the Foreseeable Future, and the Unforeseeable Future!

Learning analytics (LA)

  • Today: Currently, LA focuses on tracking learners’ interactions with the interface and depicts learning progression through teacher dashboards. In Japan, the ministry of education plans to introduce e-textbooks in all K-12 schools by 2020. E-book readers will record all reading activities such as page flips, bookmarks and annotations. Using these data teachers can develop evidence-based teaching strategies to respond to the individual needs of each student. Currently, the University of Kyoto is investigating e-book-based LA at five K-12 schools in Kyoto. The advancement in LA will enable smart interfaces to not only capture the learning processes, but also adapt to the needs of the learners to provide a personalized learning experience.
  • In the foreseeable future: Learning analytics combined with machine learning will provide teachers with warnings about the specific needs of individual students and learning analytics will provide learners with more "scaffolded," personalized learning experiences.

Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Realty (AR)/3D/Mixed Realty (MR)

  • Today: VR enables learners to have experiences that, due to physical constraints of the real world, are simply not possible. VR fosters active and embodied learning by immersing learners in an authentic learning context (even inaccessible situations). NASA Space Science Education Consortium (NSSEC) built a VR clean room, which is a replica of a spacecraft assembly clean room at Goddard Space Flight Center. This VR experience gives users an idea of what it is like for NASA scientists and engineers during the build phase of a satellite. Various instruments and components of the satellite are interactive, along with a few other surprises. This exploration will lead to a better understanding of NASA mission science and engineering and give users a unique look into Goddard and other NASA facilities that otherwise would not be possible.
  • In the unforeseeable future: Affordable AR/VR/MR/3D (for example) will render all manner of previously unexperienceable experiences experienceable for all learners. While the medium in which writers, painters, filmmakers, etc. work has limitations for better or worse digital technologies dangle the possibility that finally the medium is not a source of limitations. Indeed, the only limitations for creating, expressing, designing will be our own imaginations.

Cloud-based Technology

  • Today: Cloud-based technology facilitates collaboration and knowledge building among individuals everywhere all the time. NetLogo is a cloud-based multi-agent programmable modelling environment. Third year students at the University of Balamand in Lebanon experimented with NetLogo to develop AI models based on agents and the environment. Students were presented with some scenarios, each of which facilitated agent design and simulation, thus satisfying the learning outcomes of the practical work of the course.

Natural language

  • Today: In our daily lives, we speak with Alexa, Siri, and OK Google, on a regular basis. For example, how handy is it to ask Alexa when Delta flight 129 from Detroit is arriving in Dallas?


  • Yesterday & Today: Seymour Papert and his physical and eventually virtual — "Turtle," pioneered the use of physical robots in the learning of coding.

Wearables/mobile/sensors & controllers

  • Today: Mobile technology has made learning possible for all learners everywhere, all the time. For example, Scientists at NASA’s Space Science Education Consortium (NSSEC) and the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) built the Eclipse Soundscapes App to make experiencing "total eclipses" accessible to everyone including people who are blind and visually impaired. Utilizing interfaces made possible by mobile device technology, accessible design practices, and innovative techniques, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project delivers an engaging and informative multi-sensory experience in real-time during an eclipse. Over 57,000 people used the app to learn about the eclipse, hear audio descriptions of eclipse features as they appeared in their local area, and interact with a “Rumble Map" that allows users to experience eclipse features through sight, sound, and touch.

Concluding Remarks: EduSummIT is not like a typical conference, where folks with common interests come together and share their ideas. (And have a good time J.)  No, EduSummIT is about action! Indeed, 2019 EduSummITers were charged with developing ideas upon which policy-makers could act. Go forth and make an impact, make a difference!  We are on it!

Author Information:

  • Lydia Cao, [email protected]Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

  • Ann-Louise Davidson, [email protected]Department of Education, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

  • Ferial Khaddage, [email protected]Computer Science, University of Balamand, Lebanon

  • Cathie Norris, [email protected], Dept of Learning Techologies, College of Information, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA

  • Hiroaki Ogata, [email protected], Academic Center for Computing and Media Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

  • Sabine Prévost, sabine.prevost@cscotesud.qc.caCommission scolaire de la Côte-du-Sud Québec, Canada

  • Elliot Soloway, [email protected], Dept of CSE, College of Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

  • Mélanie Tremblay, [email protected]Secteur disciplinaire des sciences de l'éducation, University of Quebec at Rimouski, Québec, Canada

  • Henry “Trae” D. Winter III, [email protected]NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA

  • C. Alex Young, [email protected] Science Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA