Accolades are mounting quickly for Kyung Kim, the newly hired research assistant professor in NIU’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.
Kim received two prestigious awards from Association for Educational Communications and Technology during his trip earlier this month to the organization’s international convention in Jacksonville, Fla.
- Distance Education Best Practice Award (lead investigator), Division of Distance Learning
- McJulien Scholar Best Paper Award (lead investigator), Culture, Learning, and Technology Division
What demands the recognition of the IBM Fellow’s peers is his groundbreaking work in knowledge structure – his visual analytics tools are used in a half-dozen countries and languages – as well as his development of a knowledge structure visualization system called Graphical Interface of Knowledge Structure (GIKS).
Potential applications are limitless, including an exploration of the relationship between what readers pay attention to when reading and how their visual behavior relates to the knowledge structure reflected in their writing – something never examined before.
“My research focuses on the intersection of visualization, knowledge structure and design. I study how the visualization of knowledge structure, can support teachers’ practice and scaffold students’ learning,” Kim says.
The knowledge structure visualization supports “the design of instructional strategies that target individual learning problems in deriving better outcomes,” he adds.
His development of GIKS, with support from a Penn State grant worth $50,000, can capture, visually represent and compare knowledge structure inherent in a text.
“I’ve applied the GIKS to English Language Learners to explore the effects of knowledge structure visualization on their science reading comprehension; for example, to identify an optimal use of first language in second language science reading,” Kim says.
“The GIKS also has been applied to diverse STEM online courses; for example, to explore the effects of real-time knowledge structure formative feedback in high school online physics courses,” he says, “to visualize discussion forum interaction in college-level geography online courses and to score weekly writing assignments in college-level statistics online courses.”
Research findings indicate that the formative feedback regarding the structure of one’s own knowledge boosted the understanding, and reduced the misunderstanding, of online learners – something unique compared to other traditional feedback systems that only serve to improve comprehension and fail to lower misconceptions.
Better yet, Kim adds, is that GIKS “is not language-dependent, so it can be applied in any language context and for cross-language comparison and analytics.”
Students with visual disabilities also are potential benefactors.
“If further supported, the GIKS and its visual analytics can be quite promising for learning and teaching for sighted learners, but not for learners who are visually impaired,” he says. “Research suggests that learners who are blind need to extract the structure of content from a quite chaotic audio babble from their screen reader device, and this structure needs to be revealed to students who are blind in explicit ways.”
Of images, sound, text and interaction – all of which help to convey information – it’s images that most help to clarify and simplify information.
With second round of funding from a Penn State grant worth $50,000, Kim developed an accessible version of GIKS that can automatically convert “viewable” knowledge structure content to “touchable” on touch-sensitive tablets or swell-touch paper.
This GIKS also can convert any two-dimensional graphed data such as statistical graphs into tactile graphs, allowing for navigation with the fingers.
“I’m now planning pilot-testing of the GIKS with NIU and DeKalb-area local students who are blind, especially in the STEM disciplines,” Kim says, “and will pursue additional grants in collaboration with NIU scholars.”
He’s also working the GIKS with a braille device developed in Michigan that allows on-screen display of multiple lines of text but cannot convert visual data to braille.
“We plan to integrate the two systems to make it possible for the visually impaired learners to read and touch both textual data and visual data on their touchpad immediately as sighted people do. This integrating technology could give people who are visually impaired an opportunity to gain literacy skills and new levels of learning independence,” he says.
Other upcoming projects include the pursuit of additional funding for his ongoing research projects, including a grant application to the National Science Foundation to design and develop a computer-based scaffolding systems using GIKS.
The tool would automatically identify specific areas of strength and weakness, understanding and/or misunderstanding of online learners based on their writing assignments or online discussion interactions. It then would immediately provide specific, individualized remedial instructional feedback and materials, including videos, exercises, games and texts.
Kim, who chose NIU based on the respectful and supportive environment he found in Chair Wei-Chen Hung and his ETRA colleagues, believes his work will promote the active engagement of students in their own learning. It also will help educators to understand the thinking and knowledge structure of those they teach, he adds, and ultimately lead to better pedagogy and individualized instructional strategies.
“I hope that my knowledge structure approach and its visual analytics and technologies can contribute to the reputation of ETRA, especially in online learning, for diverse students.”