Gordon England, Distinguished UNT Professor, and Member of the National Academy of Engineering approached me to discuss ways to innovate education with immersive interactive technologies. After several meetings about the context and audience with which to start, we identified third grade reading as the most potentially impactful place for our effort. DSI Clear matched Gordon England’s personal donation of $25,000 to support paying stipends to faculty who we invited to the think tank, purchasing hardware and software tools, hiring a GRA, conducting research and development projects, and applying for federal and foundation funding. This is the beginning of a long-term inquiry into cross discipline, Evidence-Based Research on Immersive Tools for Teaching and Learning. This initiative will apply research, design, and development to keep UNT at the tip of the spear of innovation in immersive technology tools for teaching and learning.
In 2023 we started our work to research, design, and prototyping some proof of concepts of inclusive, accessible, immersive learning tools to narrow the reading skills gap in k12 and higher education. Our team engaged UNT Faculty from multiple disciplines. This purpose of this initiative is to apply research, design, and development to keep UNT at the tip of the spear of innovation in AI-driven immersive technology. Our team design is interdisciplinary in order to effectively explore extended reality (XR) software tools, (XR) hardware tools, accessible and inclusive pedagogy in literacy, and grant proposals.
Our goal was to have a proof of concept and conduct preliminary user research by the end of this year (December 2023). In order to expeditiously achieve these ambitious goals, we ask all who participate to commit to attend at least one of the two monthly meetings and provide a deliverable. We are applying an Agile Scrum methodology to support the many moving parts of our work. Some of the faculty are integrating our research into one of their classes, while others are contributing to sections of literature review, or co-authoring grant submissions.
Dr. Aleshia Hayes is the PI of this project and the co-PI is Tania Heap, PhD, Director of Learning Research & Accessibility, DSI CLEAR (Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research). For the spring semester, we invited Dr. Lauren Eutsler from the UNT Department of Learning Technologies, Dr. Ruth West from both the UNT College of Visual Arts and Design and UNT Computer Science and Engineering, Dr. Chris Long from the UNT College of Education, Dr. Erika Knapp from the College of Music, and Wadji Aljedaani from Computer Science. For the Fall semester of 2023, our PI and CO-PI remained on the team as well as Dr. Lauren Eutsler and Dr. Ericka Knapp. We also added Dr. Stephanie Ludi from Computer Science and Dr. Deborah Cockerham from the Department of Learning Technologies.
We will be testing the first iteration of the software designed by our think tank in the spring of 2024 at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.