Comments have closed. View all of the finalist entries below.


What is the compelling question or challenge?

Find effective ways to integrate technology into education to provide teachers with environments that support emerging pedagogies and students with the 21st-century skills they need to succeed.

What do we know now about this Big Idea and what are the key research questions we need to address?

Driven by explosive advances in computer and the Internet, digital technology has become an integral part of people’s lives in the United States. In fact, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) education director stated that “students unable to navigate through a complex digital landscape will no longer be able to participate fully in the economic, social and cultural life around them.” Despite the need and much excitement over the use of technology in education, a recent global study from OECD showed that “education systems which have invested heavily in information and communication technology have seen NO noticeable improvement in PISA standardized test results for reading, mathematics or science.” Contrary to the hopes and the intentions, OECD also associated the frequent use of computers in schools to lower test scores of their students. These statistical findings have brought the director to issue a call for the school systems to “find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world” (Schleicher, 2015; Coughlan, 2015). Despite this interesting result and a plea for a change a few years ago, the main approach taken by the educators and the technologists in the United States remains to be the same; provide even more advanced technology into the classrooms. Given OECD study and our decades of experience in underrepresented K-12 student education and technology research development, we predict that the current approach will continue to be ineffective; especially with low-income youth and students of color.

Today, there are many new and technologically advanced approaches that attempt to enhance education. While there are so many new technology-driven educational products, an overwhelming majority of them seem to promote a common theme; replace human educators with advanced computer hardware and intelligent programs. This trend may be due to our confidence in the great progress that we made in the field of computer technology, including an efficient large-scale knowledgebase, artificial intelligence through machine learning, and networked mobile computing platforms. However, this trend goes against what we have understood and practiced throughout history; that learning is a human interaction (Dix 2017). There is plenty of recent research that supports this concept of human interaction playing a key role in learning that begins in infancy (Schwarz 2003) all the way through adulthood (Hurst, Wallace, & Nixon, 2013). When our team observed this discrepancy between what we know is important in human learning and the current trend in technology use in education, we developed our big idea in finding a better way to use existing technology then develop new technology to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of educational opportunities while strengthening the human interaction aspects of teaching and learning.

Under this Big Idea, research questions that we would like to address are as follows:

  1. How can we repurposed existing and/or developed new technology to make the best type of education practice (namely contextual, personalized, environmental, and one-on-one) practical for all tutors and students?
  2. How can we use the technology to automatically detect, extract, and provide helpful information to guardians, educators, and students to encourage best teaching and learning practice and experience?
  3. How can we use technology to efficiently and effectively motivate and train educators to improve their teaching skills and practices?

Considering that US student placed below average against 71 countries that have participated in PISA standardized test in 2015, we believe it is critical that we begin to make investments to lead in the efforts to research and discover more effective approach.

Show More


National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria VA 22314, USA

Tel: (703) 292-5111, FIRS: (800) 877-8339 | TDD: (800) 281-8749