Classrooms of the future

27 June 2012

Interactive tables replacing blackboards, virtual 3D game-based learning environments, and robot study companions sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they are closer to becoming fixtures in our classrooms than most would expect.

Such revolutionary educational approaches are the focus of this year's International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), a biennial event bringing together a commanding delegation of the world's leading scholars, researchers, and educators to the University of Sydney from 2nd July to 6th July.

"The ICLS is the most prestigious international conference in this area to ever be held in Australia," said Professor Michael Jacobson, Chair of the ICLS and Professor of Education at the University of Sydney. "We're very excited to be bringing 300 top learning scientists and educational researchers from across the world to this event."

International speakers include Pierre Dillenbourg (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Manu Kapur (Singapore's National Institute of Education), and leading Learning Sciences pioneer Janet Kolodner (USA National Science Foundation, Georgia Institute of Technology).

For the first time ever in the Asia-Pacific region, and only the second time outside of North America, ICLS 2012 will present the latest findings on innovative and powerful learning experiences. The conference is hosted by the University of Sydney's Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo).

With the conference theme "The Future of Learning," this research suggests future classrooms are likely to be interactive spaces, incorporating game-based and virtual environments, robotics, and collaborative learning on mobile and hand-held devices.

"This ICLS will cover important research into what's happening in today's classrooms all the way to futuristic things that are beginning to happen already," said Professor Peter Reimann, Fellow Chair of the ICLS and Professor of Education at the University of Sydney. "These new learning approaches and technologies can be revolutionising our classes and the way children learn within five years."

Among the groundbreaking developments on display at the ICLS will be robotics research from the University of Tokyo's Naomi Miyaki, a pioneer in the development of educational robots.

In a symposia presentation, Miyaki will discuss her research findings investigating how people build trust relationships with robots in the hopes of utilising them as partners in learning for life.

The University of Sydney's Judy Kay, Professor of Computer Science, will also present a keynote speech on her research into interactive tables and wall displays that may be used to foster early childhood learning as well as to help elderly computer users.

Professor Michael Jacobson believes Australian schools are uniquely poised to take advantage of such learning science developments. "A lot of the ICLS research findings could be very well adapted in Australian schools once we have the appropriate infrastructure" he said.

"We also have an advantage with the new national curriculum currently being rolled out. Along with the Federal Government's 'Digital Education Revolution' and the increased Internet capabilities from the National Broadband Network (NBN), this will make it easier for Australia to benefit from new learning and technology developments."

"There are few countries I know of with the population size of Australia that have this kind of commitment to computers in schools," agreed Professor Reimann. "Together with the NBN bandwidth upgrades, this has the potential to be a game-changer, putting us into the 21st Century."

Despite unprecedented technological change, fundamental research into how people learn will still be at the heart of discussions at the ICLS, with symposia and workshops dealing with emerging research areas such as "productive failure," identity development, creativity, and motivation.

The tenth biennial International Conference of the Learning Sciences will be held from Monday 2nd July to Friday 6th July at the University of Sydney, visit the ICLS website.

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: +61 2 9351 2208 or +61 4 3456 1056

Email: 07561d116654160f24336b3d1a2a2c17096d341344623107