THE DESIGN OF A TRAINING PROGRAM ON IMMERSIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN TRANSDISCIPLINARY STEAM EDUCATION
The proposed paper presents the theoretical framework, design, and evaluation of an online training program on immersive technologies for education, which targeted in-service teachers and university students from various STEAM fields. The program was developed in the context of a current EU-funded project which acknowledges the need to increase the educational integration of serious games and other immersive technologies at the school level and proposes the interdisciplinary and international collaboration between researchers, in-service teachers and university students in computing, game design, and teacher education. The project adopts the Participatory Design framework and engages teachers and students in the co-design of technologies, to enable them to both contribute and benefit from the design process. It is expected that utilizing educational, technological, and design-oriented perspectives may increase creativity in the design and use of immersive technologies as well as lead to usable technological solutions that are more likely to be adopted in educational practice. The project builds upon recent approaches in interdisciplinary game design education, involving the cross-disciplinary collaboration of programmers, designers, and artists, and takes this approach forward by also including educational science and computer science students. In addition, the project adopted a transdisciplinary STEAM education approach, which, as a holistic approach, is considered more appropriate for the study of complex modern societal problems and is expected to support the development of creativity and other important 21st century skills.
The training program on immersive technologies was offered online and included five 2-hour synchronous sessions and optional asynchronous learning activities provided via a learning platform. It included four modules addressing STEAM education, game-based learning, authorware tools and the design of STEAM education scenarios. Learners had access to learning resources which complemented the content of the online sessions, and to study guides describing the content, objectives, learning activities and resources for further study. The synchronous sessions involved presentations of key concepts, groups activities, and whole group discussions.
Approximately one hundred university students and teachers of various STEAM fields from three countries (Cyprus, Greece, Germany) enrolled in the program, and half of them attended most or all sessions. Thirty-eight (84.4%) of these active participants completed an online evaluation survey regarding their learning experience. Key findings include the following: Overall, participants expressed positive views about the usability of the learning platform and considered important all learning materials (e.g. suggested activities and bibliography, videos, texts, online session recordings). Also, they expressed high levels of satisfaction with most aspects of the program and responded that they gained knowledge and skills. Most teachers responded that they felt well-prepared to incorporate emerging technologies into their teaching and 90% of all participants said they would recommend the program to others. In conclusion, although it targeted a diverse group of participants, the training program was successful, showing that bringing together teachers and university students can lead to fruitful transdisciplinary collaborations and that there is a need for this approach.