Insights on Student Education Technology Research

May 6, 2024

Education technology research encompasses numerous avenues, each contributing to the evolution of lifelong learning. At the UF College of Education, Norman Hall serves as a vibrant hub for innovative inquiry and discovery in ed tech. Four students from our on-campus Ph.D. program shared their unique perspectives and experiences, shedding light on the transformative potential of educational technology and the projects they’ve supported.

Find out why Andrea Ramirez-Salgado, Ray Opoku, Brian Abramowitz and Lauren Weisberg are enthusiastic about the dynamic world of education technology research.

Engineering Education and Hardware AI

With a background in CS engineering, Andrea Ramirez-Salgado found her passion for the intersection of technology and education during her master’s studies. Now a doctoral candidate, her education technology research centers on creating equity-centered computer engineering education and developing game-based, hands-on curricula to teach embedded systems principles and their intersection with machine learning models. Her goal is to support students’ interest and career choices in computer engineering, with a particular focus on women in the field. Andrea believes there is a need to provide more “inclusive pedagogical approaches in computer engineering courses to foster interest in a diverse student population.”

Taking full advantage of available composite mentoring, Andrea has worked on a National Science Foundation-funded grant to integrate equity principles into CS instruction with the Creative Technology Research Lab (CTRL). She is now working on a second NSF-funded project, AI Hardware, in partnership with the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. Together, they are developing a curriculum combining game design elements and hands-on microelectronics boards with fundamental hardware engineering principles and machine learning algorithms. This approach, Andrea believes, will make complex concepts more accessible to learners. Why? Increasing student engagement and motivation provides opportunities for active learning and problem-solving.

Bridging Disciplinary Divides at UF

Reflecting on her experience in the UF ed tech program, Andrea said, “It’s a perfect place to bring together technology and education. UF infrastructure is huge, and it gives you the opportunity to pursue whichever path you want to take.” Andrea’s work underscores the interdisciplinary nature of education technology research, bridging the gap between engineering and education to create impactful learning experiences.

Machine Learning for K-12 Students

Brian Abramowitz’s journey in education technology research is shaped by his experiences as a former classroom teacher, department chair and instructional coach. After moving to Florida to become the K-12 Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Thompson Earth Systems Institute at the Florida Museum for Natural History, he decided to pursue his Ph.D. in Educational Technology. As someone “passionate about education in general,” Brian is excited to show teachers how new technologies can “advance, complement and supplement what the curriculum says and to build upon their science curriculum.” 

Because of this, his research focuses on the intersection of science education and educational technology. One of Brian’s notable projects involves partnering with middle school teachers and artificial intelligence experts to introduce students to the world of AI — through the lens of paleontology. Made possible through a NSF Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant, Shark AI brings Florida middle school teachers to Gainesville to teach them classroom applications of machine learning and AI. 

Classroom Impact

Participating teachers have week-long immersive experiences that will influence their future teaching. After completing the professional development workshop, the teachers will be able to show their students how “to import big data into these machine learning models, train the model, and then present the model with new data to see how the model classifies the information presented” to analyze fossilized shark teeth. During the year, the teacher participants implement the project-provided AI curriculum in their classrooms, with support from Shark AI staff. His research champions initiatives like these, and Brian believes they’re pivotal in preparing students “to be career-ready in the future.”

Data Science and AI Assessment

For Ray Opoku, ed tech “goes beyond just putting a laptop in front of students in the classroom.” With a focus on assessment, Ray wants to “learn how to incorporate emerging technology as well as existing technology” to improve teaching and learning. Motivated by the rapid and sometimes disjointed move to online education in 2020 and the rise of AI, he sees a real need to understand how learning management systems operate. 

Ray is interested in exploring the potential of adaptive learning systems and intelligent tutoring systems to provide personalized learning experiences tailored to individual student needs. He is currently working on the AI-augmented Learning by Teaching to Enhance and Renovate Math Learning (ALTER-Math) project. Through the use of machine learning algorithms and data analytics, ALTER-Math seeks to develop educational technologies that can adaptively scaffold learning activities, provide real-time feedback, and support learners in achieving their learning goals. 

Harnessing Faculty-Student Synergy

Faculty and student collaboration on projects is incredibly generative for Ray. “My most rewarding experience as a student here so far has been the privilege to work with esteemed and diverse faculty here at the college,” he said. “And the best part of it is we get input, supervision and mentorship from multiple faculty members.” This mentorship allows Ray to uncover new opportunities for improving educational experiences and fostering a culture of lifelong learning.

Training Future-Ready Teachers

With a keen focus on K-12 pedagogy and education, Lauren Weisberg is driven to equip educators with the tools and knowledge to prepare students for success in an ever-evolving digital landscape. With rapid technological development, the education field has to keep up “to prepare our students with the 21st-century skills that they’re going to need to be able to live, work, and thrive in our modern society,” she said. 

Lauren’s major motivator is working with pre-service teachers to shape how they think about technology. “The most rewarding experience I’ve had so far at UF is when my pre-service teachers thank me for teaching them how to effectively integrate technology in the curriculum,” she said. This, however, isn’t her only area of focus in education technology research. Lauren is also a member of the Creative Technology Research Lab (CTRL), where she works with teachers to make computer science education more equitable and inclusive for all students. By leveraging the transformative power of technology for learning, Lauren is at the forefront of fostering inclusive learning environments where every student can participate and thrive.

Building Strong Academic Foundations

When asked about her experience at UF, Lauren said, “The courses that are offered here, and the composite mentoring experiences to work with all different kinds of faculty and other students, have really created a strong foundation for me to build upon at another university as a faculty member.”

Interested in Education Technology Research?

Do you have questions about conducting your own education technology research and becoming an EduGator? Please contact us today.