Thomas and Lydia Moran Professor of Learning Science
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
I am an educational technologist focusing on ways to make learning experiences more engaging, effective, and enjoyable. My training spans many disciplines, with undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Spanish, and a Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction supported by a fellowship from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). I have been named a Rising Star in EECS by MIT, a World Economic Forum Young Scientist, received the McCandless Chair and the Thomas and Lydia Moran Professorship in Learning Science, and been awarded the Jacobs Early Career Fellowship to study the use of educational technologies in emerging economies. I have been a visiting researcher at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and have conducted field research on the deployment of educational technology across many international sites. My research is supported by the National Science Foundation, Google, the McDonnell Foundation, and the Jacobs Foundation.
Access to computers at school has greatly increased worldwide and across socioeconomic groups in recent years. The potential of educational software lies in its greater ease of deployment and inherent flexibility over textbooks and other physical resources, and its human-like ability to provide personalized just-in-time guidance. My research informs the design of next-generation educational technologies, supporting both social and cognitive aspects of learning. My interests encompass several threads, including: cultural issues in educational technologies, engendering rapport and relationships with social technologies to aid learning, and supporting teacher professional development through classroom sensing, resulting in the development of new technologies as well as contributions to learning theory. Several of my lab's current research directions are described below.
Taking Educational Technology Worldwide
I look at how culturally-relevant technology can aid student learning and teacher practice (and also how virtual learning environments can be used for learning in the domain of intercultural communication!). Generally, development and evaluation of artificial intelligence-based systems has been limited to WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) places. However, the implicit values and practices embedded in these systems may not conform to the cultural norms of other contexts. Given the opportunities for cheap dissemination of software worldwide, it is important that these systems are designed appropriately to be maximally effective across cultures and socioeconomic status. My lab investigates the deployment of ed tech in sites including schools in Cote d'Ivoire, Tanzania, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines and Belgium, working with local researchers and school districts. Through observation, interviews, learning assessments, and log data, we explore perceptions and use of these systems. This research identifies key design and operational attributes of educational systems designed for a global scale. Our goal is to re-imagine these technologies to respond to diversity in cultural and socioeconomic contexts.
Virtual agents can put a "human touch" on educational technology through conversation that supports learning. A carefully designed agent can create an experience that is engaging, meaningful, and social - qualities that students rarely use to describe today's computer-aided learning systems. However, a truly effective agent must do more than just present appropriate educational feedback. As with a teacher or peer, developing a personal connection through the understanding and expression of social behaviors is of chief importance. By understanding how humans do this, we can develop digital learning companions with accurate models of behavior to sustain long-term interpersonal and pedagogical relationships with learners.
Classroom Sensing for Teacher Professional Development
Every year millions of Americans attend college in pursuit of a better life. For years, research has shown that moving away from large lectures and increasing student engagement and participation in classrooms significantly improves learning and broader learning outcomes. However, most colleges still rely on lectures where students passively receive information from a professor. My lab addresses this systemic problem through the development of a new genre of technology: smart professional development tools. This suite consists of an interconnected set of systems that support instructors in acquiring new, beneficial teaching practices that will support student engagement and learning through the provision of near-real-time classroom data. Our system draws on technical and socio-technical advances in sensing, computer vision, machine learning, intelligent environments, and personal informatics, as well as frameworks of professional development in higher education.