Olmanson, Justin

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Justin Olmanson

Associate Professor

PhD Curriculum and Instruction ~ Instructional Technology, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011.
MEd Technology Innovation in Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2004.
MEd Bilingual Education ~ Curriculum and Instruction, University of Houston, 2001.
BA Spanish Linguistics & Literature, Minnesota State University, 1997

Faculty at a Glance

Current Research

I lead a college-wide (College of Education and Human Sciences) design incubator. I also lead and participate on other multi-institutional research and design teams. These endeavors create research opportunities focused on creative and participatory literacy practices, K12 technology integration and use, and decolonized approaches to designing new literacy and language learning technologies.

I also lead the Language Learning and Technology Research and Design group. We are designing and developing FunWritr, a multi­platform, learner­directed, multimodal language exploration application for multilingual and monolingual English students in grades 2­5 that draws on Natural Language Processing, curriculum theory, multimodality, poststructuralism, and learning theory. We are currently developing an iteration of FunWritr supportive of students whose first language involves Spanish­English code switching.

Additionally I’ve been collaborating with Bill Cope and Sarah McCarthey on several IES­funded education technology research and development projects. Scholar, and another application called InfoWriter—both focus on supporting student growth in academic writing. With Scholar, I designed and led a study to better understand early­implementation dynamics (from when a teacher learns of a new technology through the first time they use it in the classroom) (2013). With InfoWriter I designed and led a study of how between-drafts mapping changed the nature of student rereading and revising of their academic texts (R-R, In Review).

Research Summary

I design education technologies that make new things possible—particularly creative and participatory literacies and language learning practices within multilingual K12 contexts. I lead a design incubator out of which affinity-based, heterarchical teams emerge to design, prototype—and sometimes develop and implement—technologically-mediated environments aimed at creating more generative language and literacies experiences and more complex learning ecologies. This work has necessitated ongoing inquiry at the intersection of societal (meta)narratives, equity, education, learning, technologies, and design.

My work at the University of Nebraska Lincoln is about creating the conditions for ongoing, wide-ranging, open-ended community dialogue about education, learning, and technology. Such dialogue and interaction is beneficial in its own right and also serves as an incubator for ideas about new practices and new learning experiences and ecologies. Via design ethnography, design research, and design thinking, some of these ideas become embodied in prototypes that are implemented and studied within learning contexts. My design-centered inquiry goals are concerned with unpacking, tracking, and sidestepping the way the design process and resultant learning technologies are constrained by dominant educational and societal discourses. I study ecologies of expression in and beyond K12 classrooms, I track how education technologies circulate within those contexts, and I collaboratively design experiences that support new, personally meaningful, culturally relevant, heterogeneous, longitudinal learning experiences.

Big Ideas

Designing equity-creating technologies from within equity-denying contexts requires a constellation of sideways moves—including:

  • the acknowledgment that education and social innovations are more than technological solutions employing best practices aligned with measurable curricular objectives,
  • every education-related entity--from Pearson to the Democratic Free School of New Jersey--evokes equity in the commission of their endeavors,
  • societal meta-narratives, resource procurement dynamics, epistemology, and curriculum have more to do with the outcomes of education technology design than design processes.

History at UNL

I came to the University of Nebraska Lincoln in the Fall of 2014. Here I have found insightful, collaborative colleagues, reflective, experienced, and diverse graduate students, hard-working undergraduate students committed to becoming the best possible teachers they can be, and a welcoming community.

Courses Taught

Designing Learning Applications using AI, NLP, and APIs [TEAC 882]
Spring 2015

Designing Learning Experiences [TEAC 859]
Fall 2015

Education Technology for Making New Things Possible [TEAC 960]
Spring 2015

Technology Integration in K12 Settings [TEAC 259]
Fall 14 & 15, Spring 15, Summer 15