Interactive learning activities, where multiple participants collaboratively generate new ideas, have been shown to produce the highest learning gains. However, interactive learning activities are often the most difficult for instructors to implement. My research explores how technology can impact how students interact during class, and how those interactions affect student learning.
Active Research Projects
In-Class Coding Exercises in Introductory Computer Science Courses
This project, in collaboration with Dr. Vinhthuy Phan, explores how to bring active learning into large intro CS classrooms with in-class coding exercises. We use the GEM system to send in-class assignments to students, handle student submission, and provide real-time feedback during class with a limited number of course staff. GEM serves as a digital platform for investigating how technology can support interactive learning activities during large intro courses.
Digital In-Class Peer Feedback
This project explores ways to improve peer feedback on student presentations. Many college courses require students to give in-class presentations. This raises a number of challenges. Students who watch the presentation are typically not participating actively. Professors can be overwhelmed trying to provide feedback while also managing the class. The presenting students would benefit from receiving more feedback than the professor can provide. This project introduces PeerPresents, an in-class peer feedback system we developed to improve the feedback process for in-class presentations. PeerPresents also serves as a digital platform for investigating how technology can support interactive learning activities during in-class peer feedback exchange.
Learning Computer Science by Making Games
This project explores if and how students deepen their knowledge of computer science concepts when they make games to teach computing concepts to others. We analyze both the games students make and the game-maker’s learning through a mixed methods approach.
Past Research Projects
Assessing and Teaching Social Skills in Software Engineering Courses
In collaboration with Dr. Scott Fleming, this project explores soft skill development in software engineering courses. This project focuses on two areas: teaching strategies for helping students increase their social skills, and assessment strategies for helping instructors efficiently evaluate individuals who work on team projects.
Streaming Educational Games
What if students can learn just as much by watching someone else play an educational game as they would by playing the game themselves? This project investigates possibilities for streaming educational games on Twitch.tv, including how much students learn by watching, what the streamer should or shouldn’t do to encourage learning, and how chat interactions affect students watching the game.
Feedback in the Game Design Industry
Professional game design teams sometimes struggle to implement effective processes for getting helpful feedback on their games and prototypes. This project investigates common problems in giving, receiving, and making use of feedback in the game design process through interviews with designers, managers, artists, and other game design industry professionals. This data could lead to the development of research-backed strategies for managing common problems and improving feedback processes in game design companies.
The EOTA Method – Improving Peer Feedback for Playtests in the Game Design Classroom
Student game designers use playtests to get frequent feedback on their games. However, student designers often don’t know what kind of feedback to ask for, and student feedback providers often need guidance to provide helpful feedback. The EOTA method scaffolds the feedback process by first encouraging those who played the game to share their experiences, then inviting those who watched the game to share what they observed, then asking all playtesters to offer theories that might explain what in the game caused those experiences or observations. Finally, playtesters may offer advice to the game design team.
How Role-Play Games Can Inform Interactive Learning Systems
Interactive learning techniques such as role-play are valuable to learners, but often difficult for instructors to implement. While technology can successfully support interactive learning, few systems have been designed or studied that support classroom role-play specifically. This research explores how role-play games (RPGs) can inform the design of systems to support role-play for interactive learning. Early findings reveal how role-player’s expertise – both in supporting group cohesion and in preserving the spirit of the experience – can offer instructors and system designers new insights on using role-play to support interactive learning in the classroom.
Using Interactive Metaphorical Media to Change Beliefs
If you look to popular media, the aftermath of a natural disaster leaves behind helpless victims, selfish looters, and violent thugs. This narrative is pervasive in fiction, with the protagonists often cast as the only heroes with meaningful agency. However, it is equally pervasive in nonfiction media, such as news coverage of natural disasters. These beliefs, known as “disaster myths,” are not accurate. In fact, survivors typically care for one another, share resources, and build community in the aftermath of disaster. Why does the narrative of life after disaster matter? Because it affects policy. This work presents a case study of Pause, a game designed to change player beliefs about how people behave in the wake of a natural disaster, using metaphor as the key belief change strategy.
Interactive Learning Techniques for Introductory Computer Science Courses
The traditional introductory computer science course generally consists of lectures filled with pre-coded examples. However, “live-coding”, the process of solving code examples that begins with a blank text file and requires students to produce code during lecture as a group discussion, gives students an interactive educational experience with little additional effort for the professor. Building on the flipped classroom movement, live-coding provides students with practice generating code, testing code, understanding and solving errors, and finding optimal code solutions during class. This work presents an initial evaluation of live-coding in a college level introductory computer science course.
Effective Practices in Game Tutorial Systems
Efficient game tutorial systems are an essential part of educational games, providing targeted instruction to increase the player’s proficiency in game mechanics while allowing more time for learning and game play. This work synthesized a system of effective practices for the design of educational game tutorials, and demonstrated their efficacy in a new tutorial system for an educational puzzle game called BeadLoom Game (BLG). When compared with a classroom introduction to the same material, students using the new tutorial system completed the tutorials in 75% less time while producing higher learning gains and higher levels of achievement. The practices devised and tested in our game tutorial system can be used to make educational games more scalable and effective.