College of Education faculty member wins 2016 Open Innovation Challenge

April 14, 2016

Scott McDonald, associate professor of education (science education) and director of the Krause Innovation Studio, was named the winner of the 2016 Penn State Open Innovation Challenge.

The Open Innovation Challenge is a high-profile speaking opportunity to present new innovative ideas about anything that enhances teaching and learning in higher education.

McDonald’s idea involves capturing the state of the classroom and all of the work and thinking that was done in the space so the material is not lost and is available when the class meets again. His idea was one of five finalists chosen from a pool of nearly 30 innovative ideas submitted to the challenge.

The five finalists gave five-minute presentations to showcase their ideas as part of the 2016 TLT Symposium, held at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on March 19. Attendees of the symposium, then voted for the winner, choosing McDonald’s idea.

McDonald’s concept is around “digital learning residue,” referring to the things teachers and students produce in class during the process of learning. This includes items written on surfaces like white boards or in notebooks, or electronic items such as websites brought up to share with the class or smart board notes recorded during a class discussion.

McDonald notes that these artifacts create a “learning residue” in the classroom that is important for the continuity of learning. However, when the class is over, these powerful artifacts can be lost because they either disappear or become the property of individuals in the class.

McDonald’s winning idea focuses on developing a system that captures the classroom work and thinking that was done in the space, so when the class comes back together, there is a record of exactly where the students and faculty left off.

“Maybe there is a system like the bracelets at Disney World, that track who is present and what they are doing, so when they return there is a reboot of the classroom space,” McDonald said. “Ultimately, I want to have a system that allows spaces to remember who was using it last, and brings them back to where they were when they left.”

Along with McDonald, other finalists for the challenge include:

  • Mark Ballora, associate professor of music technology, University Park; Idea: “Science as Music Music as Learning"
  • Kira Hamman, instructor in mathematics, Honors Program co-coordinator; faculty director for Mont Alto Reads; Penn State Mont Alto; Idea: “Text is the Answer: Getting Students to Read"
  • Lauren Jacobson, senior instructor in Human Development and Family Studies; program coordinator; academic internship adviser; Penn State Altoona; Idea: “Building Real Empathy through Virtual Encounters”
  • Darren Williams, professor of astronomy; Penn State Behrend; Idea: “Use of Holograms for Communicating Astronomy.”

For more information on the Open Innovation Challenge, go to

Last Updated April 20, 2016