Chu Receives Career Award From National Science Foundation

Sharon Lynn Chu, Ph.D.Sharon Lynn Chu, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), has received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Her project will investigate the design of wearable technologies to connect learning across formal and informal contexts, especially for elementary and middle school students, focusing on science topics.

Dr. Chu’s research focuses on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) specializing in cyberlearning (technologies to support learning) and positive computing (technologies for health and well-being). This award will allow Dr. Chu to investigate how to connect fourth- through sixth-grade students’ out-of-classroom experiences with in-classroom science instruction through the use of wearable and visualization technologies.

“Resources from the CAREER award will enable me to chart new and exciting territories on how context-aware wearables can be used to support a learning paradigm that is more connected across time and space,” Dr. Chu said. “Investigation of wearables have, thus far, been mainly focused on their use to support health practices.”

Dr. Chu will work with teachers and students from two schools in Alachua County, PK Yonge Developmental Research School and The Caring and Sharing Learning School. It is estimated that at least 200 students will be involved over the 5 years of research, with a new round of students each year. A dashboard application will support teachers in tailoring their classroom science lesson plans. Workshops will also be conducted to introduce teachers to the concept of connected learning, and the associated technologies.

“A large part of our focus is to also design the technologies such that teachers are able to use them in real authentic contexts to support the learning of their students,” Dr. Chu said.

The project will help researchers further understand how to design wearable technologies for connecting learning across contexts and will inform a framework of teaching science that is better grounded in students’ everyday experiences with science concepts. The project will lead to more personally relevant student learning, and ultimately, to an educational approach that is more receptive to a diverse student population.

Dr. Chu holds a BSocSci in Communications & New Media (National University of Singapore), an M.S. in Computer Science & Applications (Virginia Tech, 2013), and a Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction (Texas A&M University, 2015). She was an assistant professor at Texas A&M University before joining UF in 2018 and has previously worked at the Center for Human-Computer Interaction and the Institute of Creativity, Arts and Technology at Virginia Tech, the MIT Gambit GameLab, and the Interactive and Digital Media Institute in Singapore.

CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty and are designed to help provide a foundation for a lifetime of scientific leadership. The awards are given to an outstanding scientist who exemplifies the role of teacher-scholars through research, education and the integration of education and research.

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