Virtual Communities for Children

This course explores the impact of virtual communities, computer games, social media and other digital technologies in the lives of young people. As an interdisciplinary course, we will focus on both theory and design of technology-rich programs and experiences for children. We will pay particular attention to the use of virtual communities in different settings such as home, school, after school, hospitals and museums.


  • Tuesdays 9am - 11:30am, Spring 2010
  • Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development, Curriculum Lab
  • Professor Marina Bers (email)
  • 617-627-4490
  • Office Hour: Mondays 9am - 10am and by appointment
  • Elist:

Course Requirements

  • Readings. All students are expected to do all the readings.
  • Class participation. All students are expected to participate in discussions of the readings in class. Readings will be on-line or distributed in class.
  • Class presentation.All students are expected to present in class the readings for one of the sessions.
  • Pecha Kucha . This is a presentation format in which content can be easily, efficiently and informally shown. Each student will present 20 images for 20 seconds apiece, for a total time of 6 minutes, 40 seconds . The presentation should focus on the student’s personal relationship with technologies.
  • Mid-term assignment. Students will choose a developmental niche and will do a survey of current technologies used in a chosen setting and the developmental purpose they serve. Please e-mail the assignment to Prof. Bers and bring a hard copy to class.
  • Final paper. Students can choose two options: 1) write an ethnographic report of their experience with a particular technology. They will use the PTD framework, as well as other theoretical frameworks read in class to analyze their experience; or 2) focusing on the theoretical frameworks studies on class, students will develop an educational experience to support positive development through a chosen virtual experience with a chosen age-range. Please e-mail the assignment to Prof. Bers and bring a hard copy to class the last day.

Note. The Pecha Kucha presentation format was devised in 2003 by two architects, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in Tokyo, who sought to give young designers a venue to meet, network, and show their work. They devised a format that kept presentations very concise in order to encourage audience attention and increase the number of presenters within the course of one night. They took the name Pecha Kucha from a Japanese term for the sound of conversation ("chit-chat"). Klein and Dytham's event, called Pecha Kucha Night, has spread virally around the world. More than 170 cities now host such events. Businesses use the Pecha Kucha format, especially for internal presentations, primarily as a device to limit the length of presentations, force presenters to focus their messages and reduce interruptions.

Course Schedule