Knowledge Technologies Lab

Science and Technology Education Center

Knowledge Technologies Lab

 

The Knowledge Technologies Lab (KTL)

The Knowledge Technologies Lab (KTL) at the Tel Aviv University’s Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education was established in 1981 to enable research, development, instruction and implementation of advanced technologies for teaching and learning. Research findings and results from a large number of projects conducted over the years have already been implemented in the University and in schools and kindergartens throughout Israel.

 

Our main goal is to expand our basic and applied research and to support its implementation in Israel’s educational system. Following are examples of three main research areas and projects carried out in the Lab:

 

Educational Robotics

Educational Robotics provide experience to facilitate a student's development of knowledge, skills and attitudes through the design, analysis, application and operation of control systems, including robots.

 

Control systems are omnipresent in our lives and they take endless forms, from automatic doors to smartphones, programmable toys and articulated robots.  There is one common denominator: they can all be scaled to meet the learning needs of students across the entire educational spectrum — from pre-school to graduate school.

 

There are two principal outcomes from the 20+ years of research in this field in the Tel Aviv University :

 

  1. We now have significant insight into how children perceive, understand and think about the various smart artifacts with which they interact every day.  

 

  1. We also have sets of instruments, software pieces and methods that are now being applied to teaching and learning in kindergartens and schools.

 

KINDERBOT is a foundational work in this field.  it is an application that teaches visual programming language to four-to seven-year-old children who have yet to acquire verbal language.  

 

KINDERBOT allows young children to construct the robot’s “artificial mind.” It supports their understanding of their own thinking processes by allowing them to teach the robot how to overcome an obstacle or make decisions based upon changing conditions. This gives the child the experience of analyzing problem-solving and decision-making parameters and processes, and planning and implementing the solution.

 

What happens if the program doesn’t work right away? The experience of debugging the program gives children an opportunity to unscramble their own thinking, reflect upon their understanding of a problem and modify the program accordingly. Working with the app encourages children to take the next logical steps without using words. This early learning nurtures scholastic and technical capabilities and fosters their interest in science and technology.

 

Smart technologies for people with special needs

Smart technologies for people with special needs focus upon the development of cognitive technologies — technologies that seek to overcome the effects of specific physical impediments or disabilities.

 

For example, it is well known that mental mapping of spaces is essential for the development of efficient orientation and mobility skills. Most spatial information is gathered through vision, which makes entering unfamiliar environments extraordinarily difficult for blind people.

 

BlindAid is a virtual spatial mapping system that combines 3D virtual representations of real world spaces, audio feedback and a haptic interface – a system that allows a human to interact with a computer through bodily sensations and movements.  The user navigates the unknown space virtually by experiencing various forces, vibrations and/or motions through a hand-held stylus or joy stick.  The user gradually collects data – different components and properties of the space, e.g., objects, physical structure, textures, obstacles, estimates of distances and dimensions – and ultimately, constructs an information-rich mental map of the space before navigating the actual real-world space.

 

A large number of users in varied environments have been studied. There is strong evidence that interaction with the BlindAid system provides a robust foundation for their development of comprehensive cognitive maps of unknown real spaces.

 

Smart environments for mobile learning

  • are at the forefront of a fundamental shift from the one-size-fits-all, centralized, static, top-down and knowledge-pushing learning models to more personalized, knowledge-pulling models. The goal is to foster authentic learning in all types of locations.

 

KTL researchers are working with the TAU Botanical Garden to enhance each tree, plant and soil bed technologically. Small sensors and/or transmitters are attached to each object to create a Pervasive Learning System that allows communication between each object, the Internet and the user’s mobile learning device.

 

Each component becomes capable of supplying information in several strata, e.g., botanical research and properties; scientific, historic, geographic or cultural information; and technological developments related to the object. The learner interacts with the objects while carrying out an experiment or writing an essay. Cloud-based mechanisms support learning management, supplying tasks to specific users, according to their performance and progress.

 

Future research will include additional kinds of settings and dedicated training processes, such as learning to operate a specific machine in a real factory.

Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
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