DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is launching a new research center next year to harness and promote cutting-edge scholarship at the intersection of education and technology – including the use of robots.
The Cross-disciplinary Research on Engaging Advanced Technology for Education, or CREATE, research center at the university, which was founded as a "normal school" for teachers in 1899, aims to to address current and urgent challenges in education for learners of all ages and backgrounds.
Yanghee Kim, technology research chairwoman within NIU’s College of Education, who will be the CREATE center’s director, said her career focus has been to see if technology initiatives and programs she has helped implement were effective in solving problems in education. She said the new research center is unique in the country in that most colleges of education would not lead the focus on research in educational robotics.
“In many cases in the nation and internationally, when technology is involved, the leader is engineering or computer science,” Kim said.
Kim said educational research should be cross-disciplinary to account for psychological, social, political or economic factors, and that kind of research collaboration will happen at the center.
Kim said one example of how research conducted through the center could be applied includes a project where she's currently using multilingual robots as an educational tool to lead after-school group learning with kindergartners in Rochelle schools. She said peer interaction is one of the strongest educational strategies teachers can use, but struggling students typically come from different cultural backgrounds, especially linguistically speaking.
"This robot can serve as a bridge between school culture and home culture," Kim said.
The research center is the first to open under the leadership of new President Lisa Freeman, who was named the new president for the university in September after a unanimous vote from the NIU Board of Trustees. Kim said the research center at NIU is not meant as a teaching facility, but faculty members can participate in research through the center and students have the opportunity to develop research skills in an experiential way.