The DevTech research group at Tufts University, directed by Prof. Marina Umaschi Bers, aims to promote STEAM learning for young children through theoretical contributions, design of new technologies, teaching materials and strategies for professional development and community engagement, and empirical research to inform sustainable and scalable evidence-based programs for young children with a focus on computational thinking and engineering.
Our research is strongly inspired by two theoretical bodies of research: the constructionist theory of learning developed by pioneer in the field of educational technology, Seymour Papert, who was the doctoral advisor of Prof. Marina Umaschi Bers at the MIT Media Lab. The second, positive youth development, as conceptualized by applied developmental sciences. These two bodies of research inform our positive technological development framework. A description of the PTD framework can be found in Marina Bers' book Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground.
Our research pursue questions such as: How can children use technology in positive ways to lead more fulfilling lives and to make the world a better place? How can we develop programs to help children use technology in effective ways to learn new things, to express themselves creatively, to communicate in better ways, to take care of themselves and each other, and to contribute in positive ways to the self and the world? Based on an understanding of the positive impact of new technologies in the lives of children, how do we develop computer-based interventions that, leveraging what children are already doing with technology in positive ways, build on their strengths and assets? How do we evaluate these complex interventions? How do we design software and hardware; interventions that, from conceptualization to evaluation, are aligned with positive technological development?
Below are the undergraduate and Master's theses and PhD dissertations completed by DevTech students. Listed by year.
- Breaking the STEM Stereotype: Investigating the Use of Robotics to Change Young Children's Gender Stereotypes About Technology & Engineering (Amanda Sullivan, 2016, PhD Dissertation)
- Teaching Tools, Teachers' Rules: ScratchJr in the Classroom (Melissa Su Ching Lee, 2015, Master's Thesis)
- Code and Tell: An exploration of peer interviews and computational thinking with ScratchJr in the early childhood classroom (Dylan J. Portelance, 2015, Master's Thesis)
- Positive Technological Development for Young Children in the Context of Children's Mobile Apps (Clement Chau, 2014, PhD Dissertation)
- Cats in Space, Pigs that Race: Does self-regulation play a role when kindergartners learn to code? (Elizabeth Kazakoff, 2014, PhD Dissertation)
- Kids, Robotics, and Gender: a pilot study (Taylor Lentz, 2014, Undergraduate Thesis)
- Evaluation of a Professional Development Workshop on Integration of Robotics into Early Childhood Classrooms (Safoura Seddighi, 2013, Master's Thesis)
- Dancing the "Robot Hokey Pokey": Cognitive Development as a Predictor of Programming Acheivement (Louise Flannery, 2011, Master's Thesis)
- A Framework for the Design and Evaluation of Virtual World Programs for Preadolescent Youth (Laura Beals, 2011, PhD Dissertation)
- Mi Ani? (Who Am I?): Using Robotics to Explore Jewish Identity (Nehama Libman, 2011, Master's Thesis)
- Introducing Zora Camp4All: A virtual community to augment pediatric camping (Kathryn Cantrell, 2010, Master's Thesis)
- Tangible Computer Programming: Exploring the use of Emerging Technology in Classrooms and Science Museums (Michael Horn, 2009, PhD Dissertation)
- Dyadic Collaborative Problem Solving in Engineering Tasks in a First Grade Classroom (Laura Beals, 2006, Master's Thesis)
- Associations between online civic engagement and personal technological characteristics among college students (Clement Chau, 2006, Master's Thesis)
- Active Citizenship through Technology: Designing a Curriculum that Uses New Technologies to Promote Understanding of Active Citizenship in College Students (Ashima Mathur, 2006, Undergraduate Thesis)