Learning in the Cloud

Assistant Professor Miri Barak of the Technion presents AugmentedWorld: an innovative location-based platform based on the wisdom of the crowd

Assistant Professor Barak, head of the Learning Technologies group at the Technion, is a leading expert in the fields of mobile learning, massive open online courses (MOOC) and cloud applications. In her research studies in collaboration with Prof. Richard Larson and Dr. Elizabeth Murray of MIT, she examines the cognitive and socio-cultural aspects of collaborative distance learning, motivation for learning, innovative thinking, and cognitive flexibility.

Assistant Prof. Miri Barak

According to Assistant Professor Barak, the process of globalization and the accelerated technological development require a rethinking of teaching and learning processes in the 21st century.  

“In the past, only the lecturers had access to new information, but today it’s at the students’ fingertips – on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. Web and cloud technologies connect the students to a pipeline of infinite information and they can share knowledge with people from all over the world. Classroom lectures are perceived as anachronistic by the students, therefore, we must find new ways to promote meaningful learning.”  

In light of the new reality, Assistant Professor Barak is leading the development of AugmentedWorld – an open web platform based on geographic information system technology (GIS) and the wisdom of the crowd. The platform implements innovative design principles for online learning with an open and adaptive system that enables users to create contents and add layers of information through the use of text, images and videos. One important feature of the system is that it is the learners who formulate questions and answer research and multimedia questions in the various fields of science and engineering. Since the system was launched, more than 850 users from Israel, China, and the United States have registered, posting scientific questions, geographic information points and data that contributes to solving scientific questions.

In collaboration with Prof. Richard Larson of MIT, Assistant Professor Barak is promoting the development of a methodology for project-based learning using two complementary technologies: AugmentedWorld and BLOSSOMS. This joint project examines an integrative approach that combines technology-based learning and assessment, inside and outside the classroom. The project, which is funded by the MISTI program, is designed to promote scientific thinking and 21st century skills among learners of all ages from different parts of the world.

“The ramifications of accelerated technological development are widespread and deep,” says Assistant Professor Barak, “and one of them is the ‘generation gap’ between lecturers and college students.” Advanced technologies, which are now a vital resource for students, are very rarely used in the teaching process. Web technologies, satellite-based systems, mobile devices, social media, collaborative writing documents, computer simulations, and more – all of these have yet to fully realize their potential in academic instruction.”