CD 145 / ED 182 Technological Tools for Thinking and Learning- Spring 2007

Fridays 9:00-11:30am
Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development Curriculum Lab

Prof. Marina Bers 627-4490

TA (Robotics): Kevin.Staszowski

TA (Web): Keiko Satoh

Students: Rachel Bowes, Kristen Bethke, Stacey Ecott, Mary Evenson, Jan Hollenbeck, Michael Horn, Wendy Medeiros, Ajaya Mallapty, Shirwac Mohamed, Laurel Schrementi & Chris Wright

Course Description

This course explores the design and use of new technologies in the learning environment (schools, museums, after-school programs, etc.). The underlying philosophy of this course is "constructionism", which states that people learn better when engaged in making and designing their own computational meaningful projects; therefore, we will become designers of technological tools to be used in educational settings with children pre-K to high school and we will become researchers to assess the thinking and learning fostered by the different tools. We will also explore current research and debates regarding educational technologies and we will have guest speakers who are experts in the field.

Through the semester we will read and discuss materials from a wide variety of sources. We will also become familiar with new technologies ranging from collaborative on-line systems to robotic construction kits. The goal of the course is to build both technical expertise as well as theoretical knowledge to be able to choose adequate technology, integrate it into the learning environment and design research studies to evaluate its success or failure.

There are no pre-requisites. Permission of instructor required for undergraduates.

Course requirements:

Readings (On-going): All students are expected to do the readings, and to participate in discussions of the readings in class. Students will purchase a reading packet (Gnomon copies on Boston Ave.). Other readings will be available on-line linked from the syllabus.

Class presentations (On-going): Class time will be organized as discussions, not lectures. To help get discussions started, each session a student will be asked to summarize the readings and describe one question or provocative issue. A day before the presentation, the student will post in his/her personal homepage a link to the week's presentations and provocative question. He/she will e-mail the link to the class mailing list a day before so everyone can prepare for the discussion.

Design studio (On-going): Students will be expected to work individually and in teams to try out different educational software, use on-line documentation tools and design interactive robotic projects. These experiences are aimed at connecting the readings and the theory with hands-on practice. Students will demonstrate their projects and discuss their experiences working on the projects. When requested, projects should be documented on-line.

On-line documentation (On-going): Students are expected to become familiar with on-line authoring tools that they will use through the semester to document the different projects and to create their personal websites.

Reaction papers (On-going): Throughout the course we will have special presentations by guest speakers, researchers and professionals working on issues of technology and education. After each presentation, students will write a one-page reaction paper and submit it to the course mailing list for discussion.

A technology review (Due March 30): Students will choose a particular software or hardware use with educational goals (although not necessarily marketed as an educational software), will learn it in depth and will prepare a review and presentation to share in class. They will write a three-page report.

Mid-term paper (Due April 6): Students will write a paper (approx. 15 pages, please bring TWO copies to class) that reflects the current debates on educational technology. They can choose one of the two following topics:

  1. A research paper on the history of educational technology. It should include the early days as well as current state of the art and it should also have a section on future directions that the student thinks the field needs to explore. Students can choose to focus on a specific educational technology (i.e. robotics, virtual communities, programming languages, etc)
  2. A descriptive paper about the state of the art regarding the uses of educational technology in a particular educational setting. It could be an early childhood educational setting, an elementary school, a middle school or a high school, as well as a museum or an after-school setting. The paper should weave in current theories and debates on educational technology with the descriptive aspects.

Peer-review of mid-term paper (Due April 13): Students will be assigned a mid-term paper to review following guidelines traditionally used by ed tech journal editors.

Final project (Final project presentations April 27. Final paper due May 2.): For the final project students can choose one of the following:

  1. A research design proposal: Students will choose an already existing technology and will design a research proposal to study its impact on learning a particular content area or skills, or on developing a certain emotional or social aspect. The proposal should make use of current research methodologies used in the field of educational technology and/or related areas.
  2. A design and/or implementation of a "tool to learn with". Students will design and/or implement a "tool to learn with" and will write a curriculum unit that integrates the use of the tool in formal or informal educational setting.

Tentative Schedule

January 26: Introduction and Course Overview

Reading for class: 1.) Koschmann, T. D. (1996). Paradigm shifts and instructional technology: An introduction. In T. D. Koschmann (Ed.), CSCL: Theory and practice of an emerging paradigm (pp. 1-24). NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum..

Design studio: Students will start to make their own personal web pages.

February 2: Learning by Doing, Learning by Designing

Reading for class:

1.) Papert, S. (1999, March 29). Papert on Piaget. Time Magazine, special issue on "The Century's Greatest Minds,"105.

2.) Papert, S. (1980). Computers for children. Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas (pp. 3-18). NY: Basic Books.

3.) Papert, S. (1980). Computers and computer cultures. Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas (pp. 19-37). NY: Basic Books.

3.) Jonassen, D. H. (2000). What are Mindtools? In D.H. Jonassen & D. A. Stollenwerk (Eds.), Computers as mindtools for schools: Engaging critical thinking (pp. 3-20). NJ: Prentice Hall.

4.) Resnick, M., Bruckman, A., & Martin, F. (1996). Pianos Not Stereos: Creating Computational Construction Kits. Interactions, 3(6), 41-50.

Design studio: Students will share their personal web pages and their learning experience while designing them.

Assignment due: Personal webpage (including all required links).

February 9: Hands-on, Minds-in

Readings for class : 1.) Bers, M., & Urrea, C. (2000). Technological prayers: Parents and children working with robotics and values. In A. Druin & J. Hendler (Eds.), Robots for kids: Exploring new technologies for learning experiences (pp. 194-217). NY: Morgan Kaufman.

2.) Resnick, M., Berg, R., & Eisenberg, M. (2000). Beyond black boxes: Bringing transparency and aesthetics back to scientific investigation. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(1), 7-30.

3.) Bers, M., Ponte, I., Juelich, K., Viera, A., & Schenker, J. (2002). Teachers as designers: Integrating robotics in early childhood education. Information Technology in Childhood Education, 123-145.

4.) Lego Mindstorms tutorial (see Center for Engineering Education Outreach at Tufts, Robolab tutorial)

Design studio: Lego Mindstorms/Robolab tutorial.

February 16: Learning with Robots

Readings for class :Rogers, C., & Portsmore, M. (2004). Bringing engineering to elementary school. Journal of STEM education, 5(3-4), 17-28.
Reminder: Class will be held at the Center for Engineering Educational Outreach (under Brown & Brew).

Design Studio: Students will work in teams to make an interactive sculpture project with RoboLab. Project pictures & movies.

February 23: Learning Through Programming

Readings for Class: 1.) Harel, I. & Papert, S. (1990). Software design as a learning environment. Interactive Learning Environments, 1(1), 1-32.

2.) Resnick, M. (1996). Beyond the centralized mindset. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 5(1), 1-22.

3.) Clements, D. H. and Gullo, D. F. (1984). Effects of computer programming on young children's cognition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(60), 1051-1058.

4.) Logo tutorial. A 15-day demo version of MicroWorlds Pro can be downloaded from: A PDF document called "Learning MicroWorlds Pro" can be viewed here: For class next week, it would be best to look over Chapters 1 & 2 to get a sense of the program (though we will be going over together as a class in the Design Studio). For additional documentation on MW Pro, visit, and scroll down to MW Pro.

Design studio: Students will work in groups in a Logo project.

March 2: Communities of Learning and Practice

Readings for class: 1.) Project Inter-Actions

2.) Bers, M., & Beals, L. (in press). Parents, children and technology: Making robots, exploring cultural heritage, and learning together. Young Children.

3.) Wenger, E. (1998). Prologue: Contents. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity (pp. 3-17). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

4.) Wenger, E. (1998). Part I: Practice. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity (pp. 45-102). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

5.) Wenger, E. (1998). Part II: Identity. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity (pp. 145-172, 215-221). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

6.) Lave, J. & Wenger. E. (1991). Legitimate peripheral participation. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (pp. 27-43). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

7.) Lave, J. & Wenger. E. (1991). Practice, person, social world. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (pp. 45-58). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

8.) Lave, J. & Wenger. E. (1991). Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (pp. 89-117). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

9.) Rogoff, B. (1994). Developing understanding of the idea of communities of learners. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(4), 209-229.

10.) Brown, J. S., Collins A., et al. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. In Educational Researcher, 18(1): 32-42.

Design sudio: Presentations & discussion of Logo projects.

March 9: Current Debates on Educational Technologies

Rreadings for class: 1.) Bertram, B. (1993). Innovation and social change. In B. Bertram, T. W. Batson, & J. K. Peyton (Eds.), Network-based classrooms: Promises and realities (pp. 9-32). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

2.) Cuban, L. (2001). Making sense of unexpected outcomes. In Oversold and Underused. Computers in the Classroom (pp. 131-175). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

3.) Cuban, L. (2001). Are Computers in Schools Worth the Investment? In Oversold and Underused. Computers in the Classroom (pp. 176-197). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

3.) Chris Dede's Testimony to the Congressional Commission on Web-based Education.

4.) Papert, S. (1987). Computer criticism vs.technocentric thinking. Educational Researcher, 16(1), 22-30.

Guest speaker:Lee McCanne, Belmont Public Schools

March 16: Technology Reviews

Readings for class: Technology review scales (they will be handed out in today's class).

Some helpful links:

Design studio : Students will work with and evaluate different software and technology-based curriculum, and report back to the class.

March 23: Spring Break

March 30: Powerful Ideas

Readings for class: 1.) Papert, S. (1991). What's the big idea: Towards a pedagogy of idea power. IBM Systems Journal, 39(3-4).

2.) Papert, S. (1980). The gears of my childhood. Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas (pp. xviii-xxi). NY: Basic Books.

3.) Papert, S. (1980). Powerful ideas in mind-size bites. Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas (pp. 135-155). NY: Basic Books.

4.) Duckworth, E. (1972). The having of wonderful ideas. Harvard Educational Review, 42(2), 217-231.

5.) Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

6.) Diverse Technological fluency scales:

- National Research Council, 1999:
- ITEA (International Technology Education Association):
- National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, 2002:
- Massachusetts Department of Education:
- NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) Project, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education):

7.) Other sites:
8.) A Tufts Education program that Dan worked on, "The Technology Competency Database (TCD)":

Design studio:Students will work in teams to propose a technological fluency scale and propose a plan to evaluate its validity.

Assignment due: Technology review short paper.

April 6: Virtual Communities for Learning

Readings for class:1.) Bruckman, A. (1998). Community support for constructionist learning. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 7, 47-86.

2.) Dede, C., & Ketelhut, D. Designing for motivation and usability in a museum-based multi-user virtual environment (MUVEES project).

3.) Bers, M. (2001). Identity construction environments: Developing personal and moral values through the design of a virtual city. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 10(4), 365-415.

Design Studio: In groups, students will explore with different software to create on-line communities:

The Inquiry Learning Forum
A Community of Teachers
Quest Atlantis
The Math Forum
Tapped In
Knowledge Forum

Then students will work in groups in Zora to create the "ideal" technology-based school, where each room can be a content area or a powerful idea iof the world of technology. You can follow up on the powerful ideas that we talked about last time for your room.

Assignment due: Mid-term paper.

April 13: A Curriculum Challenge - Integrating New Technologies

Readings for class: 1.) Bers, M. (2003) Kaleidostories: Teachers and students creating a cross cultural virtual community through narrative. Convergence: The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 9(2), 54-58.

Kaleidostories software.

Design studio : Peer-review of mid-term papers.

April 20: Assessment and New Technologies

Readings sfor class:1.) Brown, A. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.

2.) Jonassen, D. (2000). Assessing Learning with Mindtools. In D.H. Jonassen & D. A. Stollenwerk (Eds.), Computers as mindtools for schools: Engaging critical thinking (pp. 3-20). NJ: Prentice Hall.

3.) Shavelson, R. J., Philiphs, D. C., Towne, L., & Feuer, M. J. (2003). On the science of education design studies. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 25-28.

4.) Readings in preparation for Eric Klopfer's talk: and

Guest Speaker: Eric Klopfer, "Participatory and Augmented Reality Simulations for Learning"

April 27: Final Projects

Readings for class: None

Design studio: Final in class presentations.

Assignment due: Final project due May 2!