The UiB Magazine 2018: SLATE

Understanding the data that surrounds us

Digital traces are all around us. At SLATE, researchers works to understand digital data, and to put it to use for new ways of understanding and supporting learning.

SLATE: Understanding the data that surrounds us
“The data tells a story. However, it needs interpretation. At SLATE, we help understand the data", says SLATE director Barbara Wasson.
Illustration: Margareth Haugen

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“We collect and analyse data generated from learning while it happens, in order to understand different aspects of the learner, learning, and learning environments. The results are visualized for learners and teachers”, says SLATE director Barbara Wasson.

Efficient learning

Centre for the Science of Learning & Technology (SLATE) is a national centre contributing to international research and national competence development on the use of data and data approaches (learning analytics) in education and lifetime learning. An important focus is on creative and innovative thinking that addresses the challenges with learning and work in an unknown future.

This research is led by postdoc Ingunn Johanne Ness who has carried out extensive research on multidisciplinary teams working with innovation.

SLATE is located within the Faculty of Psychology at UiB, but draws together researchers from multiple faculties and disciplines.

New technology can save lives

The research can also yield great benefits in professional training situations. For instance, as one of the partners in the FINNUT-funded iComPass project, researchers and students at SLATE work with the fire brigade in Sotra, west of Bergen, to develop new tools to help fire fighters maintain an overview of the competences of individual fire fighters, teams, and the brigade as a whole, and to identify competence gaps where training efforts should be focused.

Collecting, analysing and using such data is addressed by researcher Cecilie Hansen, who has worked on this project for three years.

When time is of the essence, being able to search a building as quickly as possible can be the difference between life and death. Two SLATE Masters students are developing visualisations of the routes that fire fighters take after entering a burning building. This provides useful insights for instructors and fire fighters for sharpening their skills and perfecting their search technique.

Surrounded by data

“There is digital data all around us”, says Wasson, “but this data is often not used to inform everyday practices”.

By systematically collecting, analyzing and visualizing data generated by digital tools used in learning situations, SLATE’s input can empower teachers/instructors, students, school leaders, policy makers etc., to make informed decisions about learning and education.

“The data tells a story. However, it needs interpretation. At SLATE, we help understand the data. In one project, we work with a Norwegian upper secondary school, to pinpoint areas where pupils needs guidance. This helps the teacher facilitate an individual learning process towards each student”, she says, underlining the importance of following clear ethical guidelines and laws when using personal data in research.


A recent case study review of Interdisciplinary research in Norway, commissioned by the Research Council of Norway from the Technopolis Group, concludes that SLATE is combining research from a variety of disciplines to address the pressing education-related questions in Norway today.

The conclusion is encouraging for the SLATE team regarding the work done so far, and inspiring for the time to come:

“SLATE has created an inclusive, creative interdisciplinary environment with a culture of team work and open-mindedness: a platform for researchers from different disciplines to meet, set up new projects, and produce joint publications.”

This article was first published in The UiB Magazine 2018/2019. Read the magazine online here.