EERA 2014 Annual Conference: Disseminating Educational Research

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This past week I had the opportunity to attend the EERA Annual Conference in Jacksonville, Florida. I was excited about this conference because it was my first time attending it and I was curious to see the presentation topics that others would cover during the conference. Since EERA is a educational research conference it provides the opportunity to have a mix of academics with different backgrounds, which is always good for discussion (everyone brings their own perspective).

In the first session that I attended (I was very happy to see another alum from the ID&T program at Old Dominion University, Chris Nickels) the presentation topics related to organizational behavior (i.e., manager motivation, virtual moderation in online meetings, decision making models). I immediately started thinking about the instructional design courses that I teach and how my graduate students would really enjoy the presentations. Some of the topics related to their instructional design projects, especially those in the EME620 course (working in their Systematic Instructional Design project).

I also attended a session related to technology in education, in which several doctoral graduate students from the University of Georgia presented their research projects (dissertation projects and other collaborations). It was nice to meet them in person because I had exchange emails with a few of them for activities related to AECT. The presentation topics included: Blogs in Education (Firat), Technology Integration (Missy) and Learn by Designing Games (Daisy). This was a well attended session with other instructional designers. Very interesting data from all participants. The “Learn by Designing Games” presentation solidified what has been echoed by many others in the instructional design field: “designers learn more when they do (design) something rather than just sitting in the classroom and talking about it.” Another takeaway from this session, from Firat’s presentation, is that currently there is research hoping to create instruments that help assess the importance of blogging in education. Potentially, future research will also help gain knowledge on the use of social media tools for educational purposes (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, etc. ). Firat mentioned that the instrument is currently in Turkish but his collaborators and him are working on an English version.

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The last session I attended was a great presentation on “how to handle distractions on the age of the screenagers.” The presentation provided good theoretical background on multitasking literature and our misconceptions of what is multitasking. The author also provided great tips on how to handle those “screenagers” in the classroom and good practices for instructor. One really good takeaway is to add students in the decision making process for rules on “laptops in the classroom.”

In addition to attending different sessions, I was also presenting a session on the use of visual attention measures to investigate multimedia design and development. This sessions was a result of the research that I conducted during my last research project in which I used visual attention measures (eye tracking) and other psychological measures  to investigate the differences between novices and expert nurses interacting with a 3D simulation. The presentation at EERA was more than anything a collection of theoretical and empirical evidence that helps support the use of visual attention measures (eye tracking) in the instructional design field to better understand the difference between neutral and emotional stimuli presented to the learners in multimedia environments. I was specifically discussing the importance of visual attention measures to investigate the design of emotionally expressive animated agents. The discussion during the session was interesting and very informative for the audience and for me (as presenter). One colleague that joined the discussion mentioned that her husband was in the marketing industry and she shared some of the research that they do when they use eye tracking to investigate the design of marketing ads.

I have to say that although it is smaller than the other conferences I normally attend, EERA was a great conference. The sessions were well attended, their was a great conversations/discussion about topics related to the instructional design field, and I had the opportunity to sit down and meet other faculty and grad students to learn about their research. A huge bonus is that is it normally hosted in the Southeast part of the U.S. and that is fairly convenient for my current location. Next year the conference will be in Sarasota (Florida) and I highly encourage others to attend and join the EERA Annual Conference.

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