Director, Learning and Performance Support Laboratory Charles H. Wheatley - Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Technology-Enhanced Learning The University of Georgia
Where did you receive your highest degree?
PhD, Educational Technology, Arizona State University, 1981
Could you describe how you got into the field of instructional technology?
I was a school psychologist in suburban Phoenix with a young son, and wasfascinated with how he was drawn to children's television shows like SesameStreet, Electronic Company, Big Blue Marble, etc. So I decided to returnto school with the idea of going to work for somebody like Children'sTelevision Workshop producing educational television.
How would you describe your research agenda?
I presently study the nature and structures related to learner-centeredopen-ended learning environments, including the cognitive processesassociated with their use, the structures of such systems, and the natureof the tools and resources provided through them.
How did you decide to do research in this area?
I became increasingly interested in this area over time. My own research roots were verypsychologically-rooted and experimental in nature, but I became increasingly interested in studying learning phenomena that were morenatural. I was always drawn to the individual persistence and strategiesyoung children use in loosely structured or unstructured activities. Ibegan to ask questions that focused on better understanding what thechildren were attempting to do (and why) and less interested in seeing if Icould cause them to do particular things. So, the movement toward learningin open systems evolved from a basic interest in trying to betterunderstand what people do as they attempt to make sense of their world inorder that we might provide systems in which they were the center, andwhich were designed based upon the kinds of things individuals do when theyseek to understand.
What are a few books or papers you have written that you believe areespecially well done or interesting?
Choi, J-I., & Hannafin, M.J. (in press). Situated cognition and learningenvironments: Roles, structures, and implications for design. EducationalTechnology Research and Development.
Hannafin, M.J., Hall, C., Land, S., & Hill, J. (1994). Learning inopen-ended environments: Assumptions, methods, and implications.Educational Technology, 34(8), 48-55.
Hannafin, M.J. (1992). Emerging technologies, ISD, and learningenvironments: Critical perspectives. Educational Technology Research andDevelopment, 40(1), 49-63.
Hooper, S., & Hannafin, M.J. (1991). Psychological perspectives onemerging instructional technologies: A critical analysis. EducationalPsychologist, 26, 69-95.
What are two or three books or papers by other people that you found veryprovocative or informative?
Bransford, J.D., Sherwood, R.D., Hasselbring, T.S., Kinzer, C.K., &Williams, S.M. (1992). Anchored instruction: Why we need it and howtechnology can help. In D. Nix & R. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition, education, and multimedia (pp. 115-141). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brown, J.S., Collins, A.S., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition andthe culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.
Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1990). Anchored instructionand its relationship to situated cognition. Educational Researcher, 19(6),2 -10.
What practical work experience do you have in the IT field? What has beenthe relationship between work experience and research?
I have directed R&D labs/centers focusing on the development of multimedia learning materials. Since my related work experience was derived since Ibecame a faculty member, the connection between/among teaching, research,development, and experience has been pretty tight.
Who are two or three people who have had the most important impact on your career?
Howard Sullivan--as my PhD mentor helped me to prove to myself that mypoints of view were not only worth sharing, but that I had a place in academe as a researcher, teachers, and mentor.
John Bransford--for making perhaps the best connection among research,theory, and development in the latter-day technology and learning field.
Could you describe one research project that you found particularyinteresting or worthwile? What made it so?
The most significant work I do, I think, is always the one I'm working onor toward at any point in time. I look back at some things I've done earlier in my career and can't believe I was so naive or narrow. Looking ahead, though, it always seems that the best things are those just beyondmy fingertips.
Right now, this is in conceptualizing systems that provide authentic contexts, invite learners to engage, provide tools and resources thatsupport their efforts, and generally learn more about how people attempt tomake sense of their world.
What do you see as the future of IT?
Bright, but bumpy. We still haven't been too good at making the impact weneed to make in areas such as K-12 schools, and much of what we have doneis still very expensive to everyday families and schools. There's so much opportunity, but there's also competition. Commercial interests havedefined what is acceptable and expected now in the home market, as well asin schools, but much of it still lacks any real coherent foundation. Weneed to better identify where we want to make a difference, and be morestrategic in pursuing those areas. We've become too happy with simply doing "stuff"-- we've got to become more focused and driven to define ourplaces and impacts.
What advice do you have for IT researchers who are just beginning in thefield?
Hook up with someone who is active in pursuing the problems/areas that interest you. Look to learn as an apprentice--not so much to adopt thepoint of view of the mentor as to become comfortable and facile with themany aspects of the process. It's hard to be a good researcher until youbecome immersed in something over time, so see if you can connect with someone who has been immersed in an area and make yourself useful and helpful to him or her. You'll be far better off for the extra time and effort it requires to do the work with someone than you'd be attempting togo it alone initially.