‘Alone Together’ with EdTech Researchers: An Interview with Chris Devers
Chris Devers is a special interest group leader (SIG TREND) and long-term executive committee member for the AACE E-Learn conference. I cannot imagine AACE conferences without his energy and wits. After having the great pleasure of working on a shared special issue on mobile learning with Chris, we are now planning new publishing opportunities for the AACE community – more to come soon! As everyone, Chris is currently working, learning, connecting, teaching and mentoring in an ‘Alone Together’ mode.
What impact does social distancing have on your research and teaching?
Frankly, not much, as I teach online and for now, I am simply analyzing old data sets. However, many others have had to move online for teaching and research. For example, I helped Erin (wife) move her classes online, which given the current technology, are now virtually identical to what they were when they were face-to-face — live lectures, breakout groups, cold-calling, discussions, etc.
Will you be attending AACE conferences virtually this year?
It depends. If the virus is still active, I will attend Innovate Learning Summit (formally ELearn) virtually, but if possible, I will attend in person. I have attended ELearn for nearly a decade and love hearing the speakers, meeting new attendees, and connecting with colleagues from all over the globe — I always leave with new friends and research ideas!
You’re a parent. How are you juggling home office, homeschooling, and home playtime?
During the school year, Lucy (8), Jane (6), and Rose (3) participated in distance learning between 8 am and noon. Each day consisted of a variety of workbooks, worksheets, reading, remote video instruction, etc. While the girls worked, I too would work at the kitchen table, while answering their questions and helping as needed. After lunch, the day consisted of playing outside, exploring, and swimming in the kiddie pool. Each week, Erin (wife) and I, would work out the weekly
schedule, ensuring that we both had time with the girls, to teach, and to work.
As an online learning expert, what are some tips and tricks online learners can emulate to be more successful?
First, relax; most of what works well in face-to-face environments, will likely work well in online environments — focus on evidence-based approaches and find ways that technology can support them. For example, programs like Flipgrid (flipgrid.com) can support practice testing, distributed practice, self-explanation, and other strong evidence-based techniques, as well as create strong online community and social presence. Second, when designing online, visual, and multimedia material, be sure to adhere to the principles of multimedia learning (see the Mayer chapter); Rich Mayer, the creator of the principles, was the Keynote at ELearn 2016, and his talk can be viewed on LearnTechLib.
What are some apps, books, podcasts that you can recommend for those who are trying to learn something new or deepen their understanding of learning sciences during COVID?
I often recommend starting by reading Why Don’t Students Like School, then Learning and Instruction (or Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction), and then E-Learning and the Science of Instruction (or Multimedia Learning).
Believe it or not, Twitter can provide some amazing resources. I suggest following me (@chrisdevers), Dan Willigham (@DTWillingham), Paul Kirschner (@P_A_Kirschner), Robert Slavin (@RobertSlavin), Retrieval Practice (@RetrieveLearn), and Learning Scientist (@AceThatTest). Also, Curt Bonk’s (@travelinedman)
website includes some great resources regarding online education. I also recently published a chapter about online tutoring in a book designed to help educators navigate distance learning (pp. 561-564).
What/s on your desk right now? Do you have current research projects you want to share?
Currently, I have Learning and Instruction and the Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction on my desk; the handbook is a required text for one of the courses that I teach. As a professor who educates future teachers and leaders, I want to teach in a way that increases learning, as well as contributes to the overall literature regarding learning through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). At present, I am using practice testing, distributed practice, and interleaved practice (Dunlosky et al., 2013) as the pedagogical components of text messaging projects in which quiz questions are delivered to students daily (one project is in psychology and one project is in chemistry). Overall, the data suggests that students who receive quiz questions from text messaging learn more than students who do not, and that there is a positive relationship between engagement with quiz questions and test scores.
Christopher Devers (@chrisdevers) received a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as a MS in educational administration and a BS in engineering and technology education from Purdue University. He is an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University in the School of Education. Overall, Dr. Devers is interested in applied metacognitive processes and how people learn. Specifically, he explores learning using videos, mobile devices, and in online environments. He is also interested in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and student success.