Exploring lifelong learning through technology

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral candidate in Learning, Design, and Technology in the Penn State College of Education, has been awarded a $50,000 Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL) Research Initiation Grant (RIG) to develop a lifelong learning system for Penn State. Gamrat also is a research technologist for NASA’s Aerospace Education Services Project (AESP), a grant-funded program that is managed by the Penn State College of Education.

COIL is designed to help faculty researchers invent, implement, and investigate new technology uses to improve online teaching and learning, and it sponsors RIGs that are intended to fuel the research and development of online innovations, which directly impact on teaching and learning.

The grant will allow Gamrat to develop Lifelong Learning Landscape (L3), an online learning and professional development system. Gamrat saw the potential for L3 after working on an online teacher professional development tool for AESP called Teacher Learning Journeys that used digital badging to save, track, and share a person’s learning accomplishments.

Because of Gamrat’s work on L3 and the previous badging system, he has also received the Paul W. Welliver Outstanding Graduate Student Award, a statewide award for a graduate student in the field of communications and technology who has made a significant contribution to the profession.

L3’s goal is to provide various professional development opportunities to Penn State faculty, staff, and students as well as a system to track it through digital badging.

“It is a platform that provides an opportunity to engage in lifelong learning and to be able to track it in a meaningful way,” said Gamrat, who believes that the Penn State community is a good match for L3.

Gamrat sees the digital badging of L3 as a value-added service, supplementing traditional transcripts and providing additional data, such as achievements, requirements to achieve a certain level of recognition, and descriptions of activities.

“L3 has the potential to make the knowledge generated by the University more accessible and valuable,” said Kyle Peck, a professor of Instructional Systems who works with Gamrat on the project. “[L3] can host learning opportunities across all we do, from how to prune fruit trees, to how to become a more effective leader.”

“People who get jobs will want to stay current [in their professional development] in order to be competitive,” said Gamrat, “especially in higher ed.”According to Gamrat, a number of groups at Penn State have shown interest in exploring L3 further, including Continuing Education, Teaching and Learning with Technology, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, as well as the University Libraries.

Peck, who praises Gamrat for making real contributions to the field, is optimistic for what L3 can bring to Penn State. “Through L3, Penn State can extend its reputation as a world leader in outreach, in dissemination, and in applied scholarship,” said Peck.

Gamrat said that the goal is to create a beta version of L3 for Penn State that will be ready to pilot in fall 2013.

Last Updated April 09, 2013