Encouraging Students to Drive Their Research

Encouraging Students to Drive Their Research

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Aria Chernik's Bass Connections team working on the ResearchMobileIt’s cliché to say technology has changed education. But how could it not? Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have attracted over fifty million students since their inception, meanwhile universities are removing books from their libraries and replacing them with 3D printers and high-powered computing clusters.

The Edge at Perkins, designed for research, technology, and collaboration is a prime example of this change. With a minimal number of books, it’s an updated space for 21st century learning.

While innovation and technology continue to transform our approach to learning, Aria Chernik is seizing this moment in education. A Lecturing Fellow at SSRI and Director of Open Source Pedagogy, Research + Innovation (OSPRI), Chernik’s work focuses on integrating open source methodologies in the classroom. For her 21st Century Student: Open Knowlege + Education Innovation Bass Connections team, this means the students are engaged agents of their own learning pathways and she acts as facilitator and mentor.

At the beginning of the year, Chernik encouraged the students to drive their research in the direction that interests them most. As a result, the 21st Century Student team is more like three different takes on open education put into practice with students clustering around proposed project ideas within the open source umbrella.

The first group comprises two undergraduate students, first year Carter Zenke and senior Brent Comstock, working together to design opportunities for applying computer science theory and knowledge learned in the classroom.

“Many computer science majors have a really great foundation in theory, but haven’t had a lot of opportunity to work in project-based learning outside the classroom with stakeholders,” said Chernik. “So Carter and Brent are creating a framework for community partnering around computer science work.”

Partnering with HackDuke and have been building educational scaffolding needed for these projects to be productive and for students to pick the project they care about.

Whether it’s working on an app, a website, or fixing a bug, students can apply knowledge learned in the classroom to projects with non-profit community partners.

Another group of students within the 21st Century Student team is concerned with whole student education and how technology can harness students’ abilities to present their whole selves. For undergraduates Robert Vann, Zuzu Tang, and Ryan Hoecker, innovative technology fosters new ways of connecting on campus with others.

The group developed and recently administered a survey to students on campus about how they use technology and how they wish they could use it in their student experience.

“They used the Connection Bar services to shape the survey,” Chernik said. “They talk with Kyle [Endres] about it and he was so helpful. They revised the survey and sent it out and in under 24 hours received 87 completed and 62 partially completed responses.” The responses will be used to help guide student health and welfare on campus.

Finally, first year Elle Deich interests in passion-based learning led her to a more traditional research path. Her work on the team focuses on research into passion-based learning while also reaching out to leaders in the field and networking with them.

“She’s established a relationship with Orly Friedman, Head of the Lower School of Khan Academy Lab Schools,” Chernik said. “They’ve had such great conversations. Elle is thinking she may start a charter school when she graduates.” Until then, it looks like an internship opportunity at Khan Academy Lab Schools may be in the immediate future for Deich.

Chernik is excited about the work her team is doing and how the students are helping shape how open source methodologies can inform Bass Connections teams’ work.

“They’re all working on these engaged projects that get to the heart of what education could look like in the 21st century,” she said. “They’ve all seized on their passions and interest and experience and they’ve developed projects that explore these ideas within an academic setting.”


About OSPRI: OSPRI (Open Source Pedagogy, Research + Innovation) is a partnership between Duke University and Red Hat that is jointly housed in Duke’s Social Science Research Institute and Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative.

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