“Big things have small beginnings ..”

– David, Prometheus –

A new blog, a new job! 10 years after graduating from KU Leuven, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to head back to university and work as a doctoral researcher for Prof. Erik Duval at the Human-Computer Interaction Group at KU Leuven.

It’s quite a different world from what I’m used to. I’d like to say things are more vague but that’s just another wording for “having lots of freedom”. You have plenty. And that means your creativity plays a very important role. It takes some getting used to and for now I (think I) am coping just fine… I have a vague idea (there it is again, vague) of what I’ll be doing… For now at least ;)

Working as doctoral researcher means I have a PhD to finish within the next few years. The subject of this PhD is Learning Analytics & Dashboards. One way to explain it would be:

We try to figure out what the important traces are that learners leave behind, how we can visualize those and how we can create reflection, awareness and collaboration tools to improve their learning. [Duval]

In short, we want to improve the learning process. And while money rewards and candy do work, bribing is not our main focus ;)

That’s still vague (again!) for an outsider but let my overactive imagination explain what I would like to see in the following 10 years: Augmented Students ..

Through the use of devices such as ambient displays, table tops, mobile and wearable devices, enhancing the students’ learning process by creating a context-aware, always-on digital presence that enables easy collaboration, total awareness of their peers’ progress and instant feedback on their learning activities resulting in constant self-reflection.

Sounds a bit sci-fi? You probably guessed the source of my inspiration then ;) But technology is advancing so fast and with devices such as Google Glass and Leap Motion ideas like these aren’t too far fetched. But we have to start small. And I’ll get more into detail on our current research in a later post.

Apart from a PhD student, I’m also a teacher assistant for a user interface course called CHI (yes, it’s totally related to the #chikul13 updates on my Twitter). We have 26 students (mostly engineering students in their 4th year) who are currently developing a recommendation app. I’ll be sure to post the links to their blogs, as they are really worth checking out and we do hope to see some external input on their work.

So here we are. Taking part in an attempt to revolutionise the way we, our kids and grandkids will learn.. This sure is going to be an interesting ride. I hope you’ll tag along!