Helping Farmers in East Africa- Michigan State University Researchers

Michigan State University Research

It is so exciting when researchers are able to take concepts and ideas from the classroom and apply them in a real world setting.

It is especially exciting when it means that this can make a difference in people’s lives.

That is exactly what a team of researchers from Michigan State University did when they travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to help improve agricultural practices.

MSU doctoral candidate in media and information studies, Tian Cai, and a research team, created a research project-creating low-budget videos of videos that communicated farmers perspectives for not using drought resistant maize.

Then, they  showed a group of villagers the videos followed by a discussion. The control group did not receive the videos. An additional treatment group received the videos and a text message.

This group indicated they were most likely to use drought resistant maize, which would benefit their likelihood of success, and help the environment.

This is a great example of applied research and the significant impact that researchers can have in helping those that might not have access to the necessary information and support to make lasting changes. Teachers of media studies, environmental science will especially want to share this research with their students.

For a link to the MSU news article by Nicole O’Meara, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who was involved in providing input at the initial one day workshop?
  2. What government agency provided funding?
  3. What is the local language of the region studied?
  4. Which condition had the most impact?
  5. What additional data would you want to review to determine the efficacy of this research?
  6. What changes might you make to this research to potentially improve its outcomes?
  7. Why did professor Steinfield say this research was aligned to the philosophy of the media and information department at Michigan State University?

Improving Test Scores

Improving Test Scores

Have you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels when it comes to studying for exams?

Do you notice your students studying, but still not getting results?

If so, you definitely want to check out Milenko Martinovich’s new article in the Stanford News. This article features the work of Stanford University psychology professor, Patricia Chen’s new work on how to help students study more effectively.

In the study, the intervention group was encouraged to utilize their meta-cognitive abilities- quite simply to “think about their thinking.”

Specifically, students were given an online survey prior to their exams in a statistics course and asked to “think about what might be on the exam and then strategize what resources they would use most effectively”  according to Martinovich’s article.

Importantly, students were then asked to self-reflect, recalling why they chose the resources they chose and how they believed it would be effective in their learning.

This intervention lead to an increase in grades in the course by almost a third of a letter grade.

Please click here to read the article.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was professor Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What is meta-cognition?
  3. Describe their intervention- “Strategic Resource Use.”
  4. In what circumstances does professor Chen say this would likely be most effective?
  5. What might educators need to do to support students in a “resource-scarce” environment?
  6. Besides studying for tests, how else does Chen suggest this might be used?
  7. How would you develop further research to learn more about this topic?

EnableUC-Engineering Students Changing the World with 3D Printing

                                                           enableuc
EnableUC, a University of Cincinnati engineering student group, is on a mission.
Quite simply, they want to make your life better. This inspirational group, whose work on providing prosthetic limbs, created by 3-D printing to underprivileged individuals,  have taken the time to share their story with us.
Below, is an email interview primarily with Michael, member of EnableUC, edited only for clarity.
1. Can you tell Wide Open Research readers a bit about how you wanted to go into engineering and specifically how you chose to work on the prosthetics?
“For me personally, I always have wanted to help people out medically because I see it as one of the most immediate ways to improve someone’s life as well as get to work directly with the people you help.
As I explored majors and careers, however, I felt that my mind was more engineering driven. With this in mind, biomedical engineering just seemed like a perfect fit. I thought initially that a lot of BMEs do prosthetics and such, but the major is much more broad, and I never was really exposed to that world until Jacob, our president and founder, reached out to me about starting Enable UC.
I think Jacob really saw an opportunity through the larger E-nable open source site to help patients he had interacted with at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime. Since kids are constantly growing, they don’t want to waste it at that age, but a lot of times. by the time a child is fully grown, they are so used to using their non defective hand that when they actually get a prosthetic, they don’t even use it. This helps  combat both of those issues.”

“The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime.”

2.  What sort of general knowledge did you learn in high school that was foundational for your engineering success at college? Concepts, skills, facts, etc. 
“I would say the biggest thing I learned is how to solve problems. While the classes I take here can sometimes be much different than my high school classes, I would say the science and math I took began to help me find ways to solve problems, and that is really what an engineer’s job is all about. So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

“So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

3. How much time do you commit to the Enable team and how do you balance your class responsibilities? What advice would you give high school students on managing the demands of college….
“I personally work on a lot of the upfront patient relations of the enable team, so a lot of my time was spent up front finding patients for us to design solutions for.
While this takes some time, I would say the best things to do are to be realistic with your time, schedule it out, and write down the things you want to accomplish and get done with each task.
The biggest advice I would give to a high schooler transitioning into college is to establish habits early and stick to them because they will create your patterns for the rest of your career. “
4.  What are some cool science/tech things you wished you would have explored more in high school?
“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity and help you understand the trajectory of science and tech moving forward.
Things like 3D printing, unique clean energy solutions, nano-technology, and more are really cool things that show how much our world is constantly innovating and creating new solutions to the many problems we have in our world.”

“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity….”

5. Did you have any moments in high school where it really became apparent that you wanted to go into engineering? Any classes or teachers that really inspired you?
“I don’t remember their being a really strong moment for me in terms of an ah-ha moment, but I do remember absolutely loving designing both a mouse trap car and a Rube Goldberg device during my science classes in high school.
What I think I loved was figuring out how to best solve the problem and doing so in a group setting that allowed me to work with and understand a team and how each individual works within that team to solve our problem.”

6.  With the many distractions that high school students face these days, how would you recommend teachers really engage students?
“I think one really unique way to do this would be to challenge them at the beginning to tell me some cool things they might want to learn from the subject and having them outline some of what they want to get out of the class besides just an A.
I think if that could then be tied in more deeply with the lesson plans, that would help engage students because they would feel they had an active part in determining their learning.”
7. Any  luck with the crowd funded project?
“We have had some awesome luck with it. We reached our initial goal to provide funding for our first myo-electric prosthetic project, which is currently in the design process already! We think our unique organization allows students to really get hands on experience and change lives. This translates really well to people who might have a few bucks to get rid of. I think we will continue to see this success moving forward as well.”
A hand they made from 3-D printing:
14188153_1094358930612049_1417089260315051067_o
8.  I know  that Enable UC was interested in helping high school students who might not know much about engineering become exposed to the field. What sort of outreach have you been working on?
“We have done some local Cincinnati high school outreach where we are basically trying to get students exposed to what we do by showing them our organization as well as providing seminars about engineering, design, Solidworks, etc.
This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at UC to try to draw them towards engineering. We also plan to go into schools and set up those seminars that I mentioned, but we are in the early stages of our outreach.”

“This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at University of Cincinnati to try to draw them towards engineering.”

9. Any good ideas about how to help more “non-traditional” students become interested in engineering?
“I think the best way to get non-traditional students to really get interested in engineering is to relate it to their interests. For example, maybe they are an athlete. Being able to teach them about the forces their muscles provide when doing their sport could make them interested in engineering. Just finding ways to relate engineering concepts to their interests is the best way to pique someone’s interest.”
After graduation Michael is going to be working in a tech-start-up, other UCEnable members are continuing their studies in medical school, graduate school, and work in the medical device industry.
EnableUC is still seeking to serve. So, if you would like to contact them to get more information about their group or if you know someone who could benefit from their work on prosthetics please reach out to them @EnableUC.
For more reading on 3-D Printing, please read this article:

Benefits of Peer Support in Learning from Michigan State University

Benefits

As an educator, I find this new study from Michigan State University a bit troubling. Quite simply, peer feedback was more beneficial than teacher feedback in an online psychology course.

The research study, co-authored by Michigan State University associate professor of education, Carey Roseth, published recently in the International Journal of Educational Research, found that when students were given feedback to the question, “Why do I have to learn this” from a peer (a confederate posing as a peer) the student averaged a 92 percent for the entire semester long course.

The students who received the feedback from the teacher earned an 86 percent for the course.

Quite surprisingly, the control group, those that did not receive any feedback, earned a 90 percent for the course-still better than those that earned feedback from a teacher.

Professor Roseth explains,”… As a student, I can identify with my peers and imagine myself using the course material in the same way they do. This gives the material meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond memorization. When I hear a peer’s story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How many students were in each of the groups? (Why is it important to know the sample size?)
  2. If there was only one course instructor, what other possible explanations for this outcome could there be?
  3. Do you predict the outcomes would be the same in a face to face course?
  4. What did the script say? Why is it important to know what the script was-how could the wording of the script impact the outcome? Would the response be different with a different script?
  5. These were all introductory education students-could that have an impact on the results?
  6. How else could you extend this research-replicate, different subjects different design?
  7. How could you use this information in your own classroom?

For more information, please read Andy Henion’s article on the Michigan State University website, MSU Today.

Victory for MSU- Science Gallery Lab Detroit

IMG_1738

This March has brought an exciting victory for  the Michigan State University Spartans, and no I am not going to make any mention of any sort of athletic events occurring during this time period! (Too late?)

Check out the Science Gallery Lab Detroit. Michigan State has created the first Science Gallery Lab in North America. It is being described as “part art gallery, part science lab, part theatre.”

According to Michigan State University associate provost, Jeff Grabill, “This research can be used to engage and catch young people at an important moment in their lives, and to shape their journey into school and careers.”

It is aimed at students 15-25 and will help provide hands-on, interdisciplinary, collaborative experiences that is focused on using their specialized training, skills, and mindset to solve challenging real world problems.

Exhibitions don’t start until Fall 2017, but if you want more info check out these resources. You can see what the other Science Gallery Labs in Dublin, London, Melbourne, Venice and Bengaluru have been up to.

For a link to a more detailed article check out, Kim Ward’s article. 

For a link to the Science Gallery Lab Detroit, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is specialization and collaboration important?
  2. What are some interdisciplinary teams you have been involved in?
  3. What made them work or not work well?
  4. How can you create truly effective collaborative learning in your classroom?
  5. What would be a great project for the Science Gallery Lab Detroit to tackle? Perhaps something specific to Detroit, Michigan, or the Great Lakes Region?
  6. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to blight and abandoned houses in the neighborhoods?
  7. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to taking the successes of downtown development to the neighborhoods?

3-d Printing Outreach at University of New Hampshire.

pond-view

For an inspiring read on bridging the gap between the University and the K-12 system, one of the missions of this blog, please check out Kristen Bulger’s article on University of New Hampshire professor, Yaning Li. Li is assistant professor of mechanical engineering who specializes in auxetic spiral composites.

According to Bulger, these materials, “can flex and stretch easily, making them useful in biomedical applications as well as in cushioning for helmets, where they excel in absorbing energy.”

Li, utilizes a 3-d printer which allows her to not only test the material and create with it, but to interact with k-12 students and educators who will clearly benefit from the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning.

Thanks for the article and for the award-winning professor’s efforts at educational outreach, helping to make academic research accessible to the next generation of “dreamers, learners, and makers!”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How would you describe auxetic spiral composites?
  2. What are their physical characteristics when stretched and compressed?
  3. What are some possible uses for this material, according to the article?
  4. What other uses can you imagine for this material?
  5. What background knowledge is necessary to understand the properties of this material?
  6. Does your school have a 3-d printer- how is it used with students?
  7. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

3 Ways to Make Class Projects Fun

water-descending-rocks

Wichita State University students in the Elliot School of Communication  demonstrate three ways  to add zip to classroom projects of any kind.

  1. Hands-On. Projects where students actually make something, not just a slideshow followed by the students reading the slides aloud. In the Elliot School example, the students not only made their own “instruments” but they made the video as well. Can we go beyond speeches, debates, collages, and posters and inspire our students to actually “make” something?
  2. Simplicity. I have no idea what the actual assignment the Wichita State students were asked to do, but it strikes me that they found a simple solution. Although this video is quite minimalistic- a group of college students drumming for about 90 seconds, it left me smiling at the end. Minimal instructions, minimal time, minimal budget-maximum creativity.
  3. Community. As an introvert, I generally loathe group projects, where school, like life, one person does 90% of the work and the credit is shared equally, or the group is stuck following a dull idea, simply because the “leader” persuaded the others to do it. That being said, we humans are social creatures, and finding ways to engage our social nature is an important part of increasing the enjoyment of the project. Whether this is through an actual group project-as a parent, I beg of you make sure the “group” part is done at school. We are all too busy and have such varied family needs that trying to get a group of students together in the evening and weekend is too much work. If it is a group project, let the students do individual work at home, research, drafting, etc. and then let the group work during class time.  For sure, saving time for a communal sharing and celebration will likely be appreciated by nearly all of your students!

Questions for Discussion

  1. How do you make your projects fun?
  2. How do you ensure all students are engaged-introverts, extroverts, analytical, creative?
  3. How do you assess the project?
  4. How do you monitor the project on an ongoing basis?
  5. What have been the most enjoyable or results?
  6. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”