image title

Bridging the Asian digital media knowledge gap

To bridge gap between East and West, ASU researchers create “Asia Mediated.”
Courses offered through “Asia Mediated” project to be available to all majors.
November 22, 2016

ASU professors Juliane Schober and Pauline Cheong receive DOE grant to develop curriculum focused on Asian digital media

As digital media use has exploded in Western nations, transforming communications, news sharing and business practices, it has done the same across Asia — but a pair of ASU researchers say there’s a knowledge gap in the U.S. about how that growth has looked in the East.

To bridge the void, Juliane SchoberSchober is a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and director of the Center for Asian Research. and Pauline CheongCheong is an associate professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and chair of the Center for Asian Research’s Southeast Asia Council. have helped lead the development of a suite of courses, faculty workshops and research opportunities that they say will help students interact with people from a vast and complex region that includes half of the world’s population and economic production.

“What I really like about this project is that it uses digital media tools to address a digital media need,” Cheong said. “So we’re using this open-source, collaborative platform to bridge the knowledge gap about this growing, dynamic part of the world.”

Schober and Cheong have received a U.S. Department of Education UISFLUndergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program grant to fund “Asia Mediated: Interdisciplinary research and teaching innovation.” Pulling together about 20 faculty collaborators at the Center for Asian Research, the project will focus on the political, cultural and social shifts and how they relate to digital media across Asia.

Although digital media plays a huge role in Western and Eastern societies, there are big differences in both types of applications and the ways in which they’re used, Schober and Cheong said.

In the West, they said, people take lots of “selfies.” In the East, people take more “wefies” (a selfie with two or more people). Here, people use Facebook. There, it’s Weibo.

The similarities and differences in the applications for and use of digital media — any information shared online, including news sites, blogs and social media — are important to understand because “their design and use may reflect key cultural values and distinct communication processes, which in turn enact cultural identities, community and notions of authority, leadership and influence,” Cheong said.

ASU professors Juliane Schober and Pauline Cheong

ASU professors Juliane Schober and Pauline Cheong snap a wefie.

The project’s application goes beyond communications. Cheong said it’s likely — given Asia’s size and importance — that students from any major will need the skills necessary to engage with that part of the world.

“I teach a class on intercultural communication, and there are several engineering students in it,” Cheong said, as an example. “They take my class because they need to know how they can better engage with cross-cultural teams.”

For Cheong, the time of the project is fitting as ASU diversifies its student population and as more international students come from Asia.

“Asia is a critical hub of online activity, and this has implications for understanding new communication practices that support changes in identity, community and authority practices in Asia and beyond,” she said.

The ubiquity of digital media elevates the project’s importance.

“Digital media has become a part of literacy,” Schober said. “It’s a part of technology that we need to know how to use when we communicate with people from other parts of the world.”

Courses offered through the “Asia Mediated” project are available to all majors and will be searchable in an online, open-source platform that will be collaboratively authored and tagged to enable cross-referencing across key topics for interdisciplinary research and learning. The open-source platform also makes the course curriculum available online for anyone to use, from high school teachers to armchair researchers.

“It’s a very dynamic platform that allows you to find linkages [between subjects] that you can then tailor to your own needs,” said Cheong, who is working on developing a gateway course for the new curriculum.

In addition, “Asia Mediated” will support the creation of a hybrid curriculum for the first two years of Vietnamese language instruction, as well as the creation of an internship program for ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College students to train in research skills about Asian digital media literacies.

image title

Teaching geography with Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO lesson from ASU professor builds geography, math and language skills.
'Go GeoWild with Pokemon GO!' lesson materials can be downloaded for free.
November 22, 2016

ASU professor Karen Guerrero creates education tool leveraging the most popular mobile game in U.S. history

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

Showing flexibility and dynamic thinking, an ASU professor has created an education tool that leverages the most popular mobile game in U.S. history to improve elementary school students’ geography, math and language skills.

Karen Guerrero’s innovative teaching twist is helping educators engage students using something they’re desperate to hunt down: Pokémon.

“As teachers, we look for a hook — a subject matter that captures the children's attention — so they can learn the concepts,” said Guerrero, of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Incorporating the Pokémon GO app, which has been downloaded about half a billion times, her lesson also builds map-reading skills and teaches students how to use geospatial technologies and communicate geographic information.

The app caught Guerrero’s interest when her sons began talking about it over the summer. She realized its potential as a teaching tool with its use of real-world locations and maps and the opportunities it offers in analytics.

Her lesson starts by engaging students in a discussion of their experiences and knowledge of the game. Students then can search for the tiny cartoon critters or examine a map showing where Pokémon have been captured in their area. With either approach, the students work as a group to collect and analyze data: What types of Pokémon are found in different locations, especially natural vs. man-made locations?  How do their point values vary?  Which types of Pokémon are most abundant and which are rare?

Students then brainstorm additional statistical questions and learn how to collect the data required to for answers, organize it into a spreadsheet and plot it in a histogram.

Finally, they create and present a slideshow that explains their questions and illustrates their data analysis.

The lesson can be adapted to match the learning goals for either younger or older students.

English-language learners have received particular benefit, and Guerrero has found that group of students to be as Pokémon crazy as any other.  

“They already know the vocabulary and rules of Pokémon, so they have support in learning new academic vocabulary and math concepts in numerical analysis,” she said. 

When the lesson moves to its last stage, presenting their work, the students are enthusiastic: It’s their data, they’re interested in the topic, and they’re proud of their work, she said.

Ana Parra, a second-grade teacher in the Gilbert Public School District, instructs a dual-language class in which children who are native English and Spanish speakers learn each other’s language as well as their grade-level content. When she tried Guerrero’s lesson with her students, she was amazed at how much they learned. 

“They had used maps before, but had never looked at a paper and computer map together — and they completely understood how to transfer what they saw from one map to another,” she said. “By the end of the lesson, even struggling readers could explain the meaning of ‘data.’ ” 

“My students loved the lesson,” said Dotti Craw, a fifth-grade teacher at Summit Academy in the Mesa Public School District. Her English-language learner “students were able to fully participate. It was interesting to watch students naturally help each other throughout the lesson, as they were all very involved.”

Guerrero is sharing the lesson through presentations at national and state-level conferences, visiting sixth-grade classrooms and teaching it to her classes of future teachers at ASU. It supports some of the college's core values including exercising leadership through innovation and championing diversity of people and ideas, she said.  

“The lesson is an excellent example of teaching in a way that allows students to learn from their own surroundings and integrates multiple modes of learning,” said Gale Ekiss, co-coordinator of the Arizona Geographic Alliance, an ASU-based organization that promotes geographic literacy.

Guerrero’s lesson, Go GeoWild with Pokemon GO!, can be downloaded for free from the Arizona Geographic Alliance website, which includes more than 330 lessons that integrate geography learning with principles and skills of STEMSS (science, technology, engineering, math and social studies) and literacy. Many of the lessons also provide adaptations for teaching language learners.  

Top photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior , School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning