I am an Associate Professor at Harvard University in the Graduate School of Education. My research is primarily concerned with the ways in which learning environments -- in and out of school, online and face-to-face -- can be designed to support young people’s development as computational creators. I completed my PhD at the MIT Media Lab in 2012, where I was a member of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group. I also hold a BSc in computer science and mathematics, a BEd in the same areas, and an MA in curriculum studies -- all from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
My work is situated at the intersection of computing, communities, and constructionism.
I focus on computational literacy -- how people learn to read and write computer code, a powerful medium for self-expression and problem-solving. This work involves studying and supporting young learners as they develop familiarity and fluency with computer science and computational design processes. Since 2010, with support from the National Science Foundation, I have led a project to document the concepts, practices, and perspectives that kids cultivate through computational design activities with the Scratch programming language. A summary of that work (with resources for researchers and K-12 teachers) is available on this Computational Thinking site and I describe the importance of computational literacy and kids’ debugging strategies in this short video. More recently, I have been developing a project that focuses on how teachers design learning environments that support novice programmers, examining teachers’ design intentions and how those intentions are enacted.
I am fascinated by the social dimensions of learning -- how learners interact with their peers and with others who have different experience and expertise. This work involves studying and supporting young learners' and K-12 teachers' understandings of and participation in learning communities. To this end, I lead the design and development of ScratchEd, an online environment for educators who are interested in supporting computational literacy with the Scratch programming language. ScratchEd has grown to more than 17,000 members and has hundreds of stories and resources, thousands of discussion posts, and several million page views annually. In addition to my work on ScratchEd, I have also undertaken projects to study kids’ participation in the Scratch online community, developing understandings of the benefits and the complexities that arise.
Constructionist theories of learning are a central theoretical and practical influence in my research and design activities. I focus on constructionist approaches to designing learning environments -- spaces that encourage learning through designing, personalizing, connecting, and reflecting, and that maximize learner agency. Constructionism cuts across my research activities (e.g., studying constructionism in and out of K-12 computing classrooms), design activities (e.g., creating resources and events to support K-12 computing teachers’ understandings of constructionist approaches to learning), and teaching activities (e.g., my Fall course, T-550: Designing for Learning by Creating).
This January 2014 feature in Ed. magazine offers additional information about my research and teaching.