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What makes good educational software?

Sjödén, Björn LU (2015) In Lund University Cognitive Studies 164.
Abstract
This thesis investigates educational software: computer software applications which serve to support teachers and improve learning outcomes for students. It aims to delineate the field of educational technology research as an interdisciplinary field and exemplify some of the methods used for approaching the many research questions that arise from asking what makes good educational software.

The overarching purpose is two-fold: (1) to perform a critical examination of what makes educational software effective for learning (particularly when employed in actual classrooms); (2) to reflect how cognitive science can contribute to meet this goal, by applying and discussing several methodological approaches in five research papers. These... (More)
This thesis investigates educational software: computer software applications which serve to support teachers and improve learning outcomes for students. It aims to delineate the field of educational technology research as an interdisciplinary field and exemplify some of the methods used for approaching the many research questions that arise from asking what makes good educational software.

The overarching purpose is two-fold: (1) to perform a critical examination of what makes educational software effective for learning (particularly when employed in actual classrooms); (2) to reflect how cognitive science can contribute to meet this goal, by applying and discussing several methodological approaches in five research papers. These include observational approaches (Paper I), quasi-experimental design (Paper II) with conceptual replications (Paper III), post hoc data analysis (Paper IV) and theoretical review (Paper V). A particular example is the concept of teachable agents, or “digital tutees”: digital characters guided by artificial intelligence techniques which let the human student act as a “teacher” in the digital environment. A focus point in Paper I–IV is how teachable agents may improve students’ learning through social influence. Paper V takes a broader and more theoretical approach by reviewing the current state of educational software presently available to teachers, particularly (but not limited to) so-called “educational apps”.

I discuss the question of making empirically informed assessment of existing educational software, by addressing two main points: first, how to identify critical features in software which affect cognitive processing, and second, what is required of software with respect to technical sophistication so as to have real impact on students’ learning. Well-designed software can have significant educational value without necessarily being technically advanced.

In conclusion, teachers and researchers alike need to keep an open mind to the enormous potential of educational software to affect learning, while at the same time keeping a critical eye on its present limitations. Educational software opens new opportunities for presenting material in several simultaneous modalities, providing individually adaptive feedback, and allowing students to take on different social roles – all with demonstrated cognitive effects. On the other hand, it imposes constraints on the teaching process that may offer not only “added” but also “diminished” pedagogical value. It will do the latter where it contains misleading information or engages students in oversimplified or irrelevant tasks, such as allowing trial-and-error solutions to problems that would otherwise require deep reflection.

In sum, educational software lends good promise to positively affect educational outcomes by providing versatile means for engaging students in meaningful tasks while increasing their efforts towards learning. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Biswas, Gautam, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
educational technology, educational software, teachable agents, learning, assessment
in
Lund University Cognitive Studies
volume
164
pages
144 pages
defense location
Sal B336, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund
defense date
2015-10-23 10:15
ISSN
1101-8453
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
84c32c74-c80c-46d3-af0a-81a32dc5f80c (old id 7991505)
date added to LUP
2015-09-28 11:55:44
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:01
@misc{84c32c74-c80c-46d3-af0a-81a32dc5f80c,
  abstract     = {This thesis investigates educational software: computer software applications which serve to support teachers and improve learning outcomes for students. It aims to delineate the field of educational technology research as an interdisciplinary field and exemplify some of the methods used for approaching the many research questions that arise from asking what makes good educational software.<br/><br>
The overarching purpose is two-fold: (1) to perform a critical examination of what makes educational software effective for learning (particularly when employed in actual classrooms); (2) to reflect how cognitive science can contribute to meet this goal, by applying and discussing several methodological approaches in five research papers. These include observational approaches (Paper I), quasi-experimental design (Paper II) with conceptual replications (Paper III), post hoc data analysis (Paper IV) and theoretical review (Paper V). A particular example is the concept of teachable agents, or “digital tutees”: digital characters guided by artificial intelligence techniques which let the human student act as a “teacher” in the digital environment. A focus point in Paper I–IV is how teachable agents may improve students’ learning through social influence. Paper V takes a broader and more theoretical approach by reviewing the current state of educational software presently available to teachers, particularly (but not limited to) so-called “educational apps”.<br/><br>
I discuss the question of making empirically informed assessment of existing educational software, by addressing two main points: first, how to identify critical features in software which affect cognitive processing, and second, what is required of software with respect to technical sophistication so as to have real impact on students’ learning. Well-designed software can have significant educational value without necessarily being technically advanced.<br/><br>
In conclusion, teachers and researchers alike need to keep an open mind to the enormous potential of educational software to affect learning, while at the same time keeping a critical eye on its present limitations. Educational software opens new opportunities for presenting material in several simultaneous modalities, providing individually adaptive feedback, and allowing students to take on different social roles – all with demonstrated cognitive effects. On the other hand, it imposes constraints on the teaching process that may offer not only “added” but also “diminished” pedagogical value. It will do the latter where it contains misleading information or engages students in oversimplified or irrelevant tasks, such as allowing trial-and-error solutions to problems that would otherwise require deep reflection. <br/><br>
In sum, educational software lends good promise to positively affect educational outcomes by providing versatile means for engaging students in meaningful tasks while increasing their efforts towards learning.},
  author       = {Sjödén, Björn},
  issn         = {1101-8453},
  keyword      = {educational technology,educational software,teachable agents,learning,assessment},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {144},
  series       = {Lund University Cognitive Studies},
  title        = {What makes good educational software?},
  volume       = {164},
  year         = {2015},
}