Research Spotlight: Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko

Q & A with Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My work focuses on two essential questions: “How do people learn with technology?” and “How can we improve learning environments using technology?” I believe strongly that in order to deduce guidelines for effective teaching, we must have a solid understanding of the motivations, contexts, and mechanisms underlying learning. I am very interested in informal learning because informal, and often incidental, learning experiences precede formal education, and I think there is much to be learned about improving formal education in K-12 schools and colleges by examining how people learn individually and in groups outside the formal classroom environment.

What makes your work interesting?

When I study learning, I focus on both the outcomes (or products) of learning and the processes underlying learning within diverse groups of learners. Traditionally, educational researchers have focused primarily on learning outcomes. However, the problem with that is if we only focus on outcomes we have little understanding of why certain learners succeed in certain contexts and using certain tools, while others do not. What makes my work interesting and useful, I think, is I cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and try to use the research methods and tools used by cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and computer and information scientists to study the mechanisms underlying learning. One example is my contribution regarding the use of Electroencephalography, or EEG, in educational research. I use EEG to study the dynamics of cognitive processing during learning. Tools like EEG allow us to record and study the rhythms of our brain waves and based on the analysis of brain wave synchronization we can infer the levels of working memory load, or the intensity of cognitive processing, at any point of time during the learning process.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a variety of research projects, funded by the National Science Foundation and University of Florida, to study optimal conditions for learning with technology. For example, Project LENS focuses on establishing an interdisciplinary collaborative network of scholars that use Electroencephalography, eye tracking, and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy to understand multimedia learning within a diverse population of students that exhibit attentional and cognitive differences. iDigFossils is a project focused on improving K-12 education. Specifically, its goal is to expand and extend our understanding of integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning by designing and testing a model for student engagement using 3D scanning and printing technologies, as well as computational modeling with statistical language R within a highly relevant but unexplored educational pathway to K-12 STEM – paleontology. My other projects are described here: http://www.antonenko.org/lab