I am currently the Taft Distinguished Professor of science education at East Carolina University. Before joining the faculty at ECU, I was a full professor at George Mason University and an associate professor of Science Education at North Carolina State University before that where my research focused on distance learning and the effect of instructional technology on science learning of teachers and students in rural and underserved populations. Although there is considerable research on distance learning, I have focused on the untapped analyses of learning science through various distance delivery strategies. My research has cascaded from my dissertation on comparing three different distance delivery strategies on science teacher professional development to my current focus on evaluating video games as a teaching and learning tool and as a vehicle for synchronous online instruction. The results of my dissertation suggested that synchronous interaction proved most effective on learning science in a distance-learning environment. Achieving synchronous interaction in distance-learning was only possible through videoconferencing technology until recent years. As technology continues to rapidly emerge and the push to be connected through the World Wide Web becomes more and more critical, it became obvious to me that there needed to be a strategy to deliver science content, synchronously, over the Internet. Upon accepting a position at North Carolina State University, I vigorously began to parlay the results of my dissertation into a pursuit of how synchronous interaction could come to fruition over the Web. Understanding the popularity of online, multiuser video game play, I began to use my past programming knowledge to build a virtual environment that became the platform for my current research. Through two separate internally funded grants, I designed and created a synchronous, online 3D virtual environment for distance learning courses offered at North Carolina State.
In 2008, I was honored with three awards for my extension work teaching K-12 teachers and students video game design for science and mathematics learning. The awards were progressive from the College of Education Outstanding Extension Service Award, to the induction into the NC State University Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension to the Distinguished Alumni Engaged in Extension and Outreach award. In both 2006 and 2010 I was honored, with my colleagues as co-writers, with the National Technology Leadership Initiative award. With over 4500 entries in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2015 I was also honored as a Nifty Fifty speaker for the United States Science and Engineering Festival. In 2022 I was honored with the Association of Science Teacher Education National Mentor of the Year award.The success of the internally funded grants thrusted a quest for external funding to continue supporting my research on gaming technology. My most recent endeavors:
- HI FIVES (Highly Interactive Fun Virtual Environments in Science-ESI-0525115), has been funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate the viability of video games as a supplement to science instruction in grade 5-9. This project seeks to teach both teachers and students to design and build multiplayer Serious Educational Games that align with state and national science and mathematics standards. HI FIVES seeks to answer such questions as can students learn STEM content through playing and/or designing video games. We are also exploring the interaction dynamics of multiple students in a 3D online environment as a function of increased engagement and achievement. Further, we seek to explore how teachers use the games as a teaching tool and if the common student experiences can be used for inquiry instruction.
- Exploring Sophisticated Data Mining Analytics as A Strategy for Diagnostic Assessment. Supported again by the National Science Foundation, the investigators believe that a multi-institutional initiative studying the application of SAS analytics to several types of educational applications generating rich datastreams would generate important insights. Two of the investigators already have NSF funding that is producing such datasets through Serious Educational Games and immersive simulations, and we plan to also analyze intelligent tutoring system data from the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center. Such a project would develop research findings of value across several NSF directorates, including mathematics, computer science, and education.
- VOLT (Virtual Online Learning and Teaching) is as internally funded distance learning endeavor where researchers from Science education, Training and Development, and the College of Management have teamed to create case-based missions in a 3D virtual learning environment.
- STIMULATE (Science Teacher Immersive Modules for University Learning Around Teacher Education) is a National Science Foundation funded CCLI project partnering with Wake Technical Community College’s Digital Interactive Entertainment and Simulation program. The thrust of this project is to design and construct science teacher training for laboratory safety through immersive Serious Educational Games.
- OUTBREAK (Opportunities to Use immersive Technologies to Explore Biotechnology Resources, career Education And Knowledge), also supported through the National Science Foundation, is a collaboration with colleagues at the University of Florida and Kent State University with a partnership with Applied Research Associates/Virtual Heroes, Inc. In this project we have constructed and tested a Serious Educational Game to teach high school students about biotechnology content and careers.
- GRID-C (Green Research for Incorporating Data in the Classroom) is a National Science Foundation funded project where we are developing curriculum to teach STEM concepts using data collected from renewable energy technologies at the NC Solar Center located on the campus of North Carolina State University (NCSU).
- GRADUATE (Games Requiring Advanced Developmental Understanding and Achievement in Technological Endeavors) is a National Science Foundation funded ITEST project partnering with the Kenan Fellows program and Virtual Heroes, Inc. where we will develop an exemplary model for the newly formed graduation requirement in North Carolina. As part of this project students in Lee County, NC and Hillside High School in Durham, NC will author Serious Educational Games as a product from scientific research they will perform to satisfy the graduation requirement.
- STEM UP (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with Untapped Potential) is another National Science Foundation funded project through the REAL program. Partnering with Prince William County Schools (Saunders Middle School-VA) and Spark Plug Games, we are integrating the GRADUATE Serious Educational Game design and development model with High Incidence Learning Disabled middle school science students.
- Project I4 (Innovate, Inquire, Iterate, and Impact: Igniting the Power of Networked Improvement Communities to Enhance Professional Learning for Educational Leaders). This $9.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education SEED (Supporting Effective Educator Development) office is the largest grant the College of Education has ever received. Using the processes and pedagogies of the Leadership Learning Exchange model to promote access and equity in math and science, these are key features: 1. Professional learning experience resulting in a micro-credential (6 graduate credits), 2. Improved knowledge, skill and efficacy in observing and conferring about equitable classroom practices, 3. Virtual reality use to improve efficacy in observing and conferring about math and science teaching, 4.Use of improvement sciences to guide cycles of innovation and inquiry.
- Extended Reality for Reading Science is a National Science Foundation project working with Pitt County Schools and the ECU Community School where struggling Grade 5 readers immersed in the Mixed Reality to learn science and the joy of reading.
- Extended Reality in the Outer Banks using a Socio-Scientific Issues Framework is a currently non-funded project teaching location-based and remote scientific learning experiences through both mobile and immersive VR. The scientific concepts of coastal resiliency and storm surge on the barrier islands in North Carolina ground the technological experiences for learners.