Hagerty High School students took on the role of researcher during a recent visit to the University of Central Florida (UCF). The high school is taking part in a project designed to create personalized learning experiences that improve academic performance. It is a collaboration initiated by UCF’s School of Modeling, Simulation, and Training (SMST) Laboratory for the Study of Metacognition and Advanced Learning Technologies (SMART Lab). SMART Lab Researchers visited Hagerty High School several weeks ago and challenged students to design experiments with game-based learning tools that stopped the spread of an infectious disease.

The teens quickly jumped into what they saw as a fun game and welcome break from schoolwork, but their actions were unlocking valuable information about individual learning patterns. Researchers collected key stroke and mouse data that students would later use to improve their learning efficiency.

“Our goal is to use the data to empower students — to give them both more resources and responsibility for their education,” said Roger Azevedo, Ph.D., UCF professor and director of UCF’s SMART Lab.

“As students naturally rely on ChatGPT and other emerging technologies to help with schoolwork, they need to understand the limits, opinions, preferences, facts and reasoning of the tools they are using. Technology is supportive, but it shouldn’t be a crutch.”

During the second phase of the project, students visited UCF for a crash course in communicating with and interpreting responses from chatbots. SMART Lab researchers highlighted the differences between human and artificial intelligence, and students tested the limits of ChatGPT. They also spent time in the game-based Future Worlds sandbox learning about environmental pollution and ecological sustainability.

Back in their classroom, teachers and students will use the individualized learning programs they created, and SMART Lab researchers will monitor and analyze performance data to determine improvements in student comprehension.

The project marks SMART Lab’s second major project with Hagerty High School. SMST is committed to growing collaborations with Hagerty and other high schools to further modeling and simulation education, training and research, and to build the STEM workforce.

About Hagerty High School

Hagerty High School is ranked #1 in Seminole by U.S. News & World Report, #47 in Florida and #896 nationally. Rankings are based on performance on state-required tests, graduation rates and college preparation. The school’s graduation rates are 97%, and its science proficiency score is 82%. About 36 percent of its students are considered disadvantaged. Students taking part in the SMART Lab project are enrolled in Hagerty High School’s SMST program, putting them on a career path to the rapidly growing, high-tech field of modeling and simulation.

About SMART Lab

SMART Lab specializes in the design, testing and implementation of advanced learning technologies, including intelligent tutoring systems, serious games, simulation and immersive environments for K-12 and professional domains.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Azevedo and his team of interdisciplinary researchers have studied the impact of new emerging technologies on student learning, problem solving, reasoning and conceptual understanding in STEM and biomedical domains. This research has spurred the design of adaptive scaffolding to support cognitive, affective, metacognitive and motivational processes. The National Science Foundation, Institute of Educational Sciences and other foundations have funded the lab’s work.

The Department of Education is funding the collaboration project with Hagerty High School through an enhancement grant.

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