Communications Media and Instructional Technology Doctoral Students Have “SITE” Set on Improving Education

Posted on 3/22/2011 3:38:54 PM

Six students from the Communications Media and Instructional Technology (CMIT) Ph.D. program presented their scholarship at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) conference last week in Nashville, Tenn.

Members from the first three Ph.D. cohorts at IUP were represented at the conference.

Cohort 1 member Mark King, Cohort 2 member Chris Carnahan and Cohort 3 members Susan McManimon, Karen Barone, Patricia Cseh, Lacey Fulton, and Laura Wilson represented the university.

Dr. Gail Wilson, CMIT program coordinator, said that she was pleased to see IUP represented at the conference.

“We encourage our students to share their research,” she said. “The SITE conference provides an opportunity to showcase some of the impressive things our Ph.D. students have been studying within our program.”

The SITE conference explored the use of technology in teacher education and provided scholarly insight into the use of information technology in multiple educational genres.

King’s presentation focused on the use of blogging in the classroom.

“Individuals who blog do so to receive different gratifications that in some cases traditional writing doesn’t supply, including publicity, interactivity, self-expression, networking, information sharing, and catharsis,” King said. “My presentation sought to make the connection between Uses and Gratifications theory and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in order to create a new model for blogger gratifications.”

King stated that his model is intended to better prepare educators when implementing blogging technologies in their classroom.

Carnahan and Fulton presented a poster that explored cyber-charter schools and special-needs children.

“This poster examined the issue of students with learning disabilities in K-12 cyberschools in the state of Pennsylvania,” Carnahan explained. “This seldom-discussed group makes up over 25 percent of the student population in some cyberschools. These learners face additional sets of challenges when learning through online methods.”

Fulton added that in the 2008–2009 school year, there were nearly 2,700 students classified with a learning disability in Pennsylvania cyberschools, yet little previous research or literature has discussed them.

Barone presented on the use of virtual worlds as a learning environment.

“I explored the necessary changes that must take place in teacher/student roles in order to effectively utilize virtual worlds as a learning environment,” Barone said. “Traditional “teacher-centered” models of instruction are not effective in immersive learning environments such as virtual worlds. The teacher must adapt to a more “learner-centered” model by incorporating a constructivist learning approach. This approach narrows the gap between teacher and student by employing roles that are far less hierarchical and more akin to master and apprentice.”

Barone added that the constructivist approach lends itself perfectly to a virtual world application.

Immersive Learning Systems (ILS) were also explored and discussed by Laura Wilson. During her roundtable discussion, she shared that ILS, like Second Life, should be used as a reinforcement activity that allows for transfer of knowledge and building upon existing skills.

“Second Life allows the marriage of education and gaming to create an environment where students find learning fun. The learners are so immersed in the ILS that they lose the ‘reality’ that it is, in fact, just a game,” she said. “It is a game that has taught them some value, forced them to analyze, interpret, and apply their knowledge to situations they may never encounter in the real world.”

Laura added that “as technology in the twenty-first century changes, educators, researchers, and learners must also change and adapt to the new methodologies and learning styles of the students of all ages.”

Both Cseh and McManimon examined elements of instructional design in their SITE presentations.

Cseh studied the development of the utilization of three-dimensional simulations for use in educational curriculums.

“Simulations have been successfully implemented in medical and military training environments, but the trend is slowly emerging in mainstream educational processes,” Cseh said. “I presented some of the history of simulations and their evaluation techniques and discussed a four-dimensional framework developed by Sarah de Freitas and her colleagues.”

Cseh also examined and reviewed the pedagogical frameworks and models for e-learning as a means of providing further insight into the design and evaluation of games and immersive simulations in learning.

McManimon explained to participants during her roundtable presentation that “a constructivist model posits that learners create an active role in learning as they connect with previous knowledge and construct new knowledge opposed to merely absorbing information.”

“There is an increasing body of research that supports that constructivist principles are fundamental components of learning in a virtual learning environment,” McManimon said. “My presentation focused on constructivist theories as a foundation for five learning strategies proposed for an instructional designer to analyze how this approach can be employed in developing VRLE instruction.”

The students indicated that the conference, which included more than 1,100 participants, was an excellent opportunity.

“In addition to having a chance to build new relationships with my colleagues, I had a chance to be exposed to some exciting new research on simulation and gaming,” Barone said.

“The barbecue wasn’t bad either,” she added.

“It’s conferences like this one that allow you to see what others in education are doing with technology in their own classrooms,” Carnahan said. “You can literally leave a better educator because of some of the new things being shared.”

The CMIT program at IUP prepares individuals to produce new media, impact culture in a positive way, and generate research driven by existing theory and scholarship within the field of communications media and instructional technology.

For more information about the CMIT program or how to apply, visit the Ph.D. in Communications Media and Instructional Technology website or call 724- 357-2492. You can also follow the CMIT program on Twitter at and on Facebook.