DevTech Research

Prof. Marina Umaschi Bers and her students in the DevTech Research Group examine the role of computational technologies that are developmentally appropriate for young children and that help them learn about new things in new ways. We are exploring the notion of what is "developmentally appropriate" in the light of the opportunities for inquiry and active construction of knowledge offered by new technologies that engage children in programming activities. Through NSF funding, we developed a developmentally appropriate robotics construction kit for children in Pre-K through 2nd grade. The prototype, called KIWI (Kids Invent With Imagination), inspired the creation of the KIBO robot kit. We also collaborated with the MIT Media Lab to develop ScratchJr, a free app designed to engage children in grades K-2 in programming and storytelling.

The DevTech Research Group developed the Early Childhood Robotics Network, a virtual community for early childhood educators interested in using robotics and computer programming in their own classrooms. This network features curriculum resources as well as project videos and pictures from educators across the country.

Our group has developed several curriculum units for use with a variety of robotics kits (LEGO® Wedo™, LEGO® Mindstorms™, and KIWI). These curricula (listed below) provide a hands-on introduction to a selection of computer programming and robotics concepts and powerful ideas that are integrated with math, science, social studies and language arts core curriculum frameworks: Who Am I?, Robotic Animals, Transportation in the Community, The Iditarod, The Playground (for Pk-K and 1st-2nd), How Things Move, Sensing the World Around Us, Dances from Around the World.

DevTech regularly offers child-only programs, such as our Summer Enrichment Programs, that engage young children with new technologies. Additionally, DevTech offers parent-child programs focused on robotics, such as Project Interactions and professional development programs for early childhood educators.

Current Projects

  • ScratchJr
  • KIBO Robot
  • Trovador

    Past Projects

  • Tangible Kindergarten: investigating the use of innovative new technologies to teach computer programming in early childhood education
  • Project Inter-Actions: parents and very young children learning about robotics
  • Zora @ Hospitals: a virtual community of transplant pediatric patients using Zora to create a peer-support network and improve medical adherence & school adjustment. This project was funded by NSF and received additional funding from the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund.
  • Zora @ Camps: a virtual community of youth affected by cancer and blood disorders that use Zora to maintain camp friendships built at Camp For All (Burton, Texas) and to improve their sense of hopefulness and social connectedness.
  • Zora @ Computer Clubhouses: a virtual community for pre-teens and teens participating in the national and international network of after-school computer-based learning environments, who use Zora to develop cultural awareness and respect for cultural diversity.
  • Zora @ Tufts: a pre-orientation for incoming freshman students who use Zora to create the campus of the future and explore connections between campus and community.
  • Robotics Academy: child development and engineering students collaborating in robotics-based projects for education
  • Kaleidostories: a narrative web-based on-line environment
  • Bridging the gap through design: Technological learning environments to engage marginalized populations in SMET
  • Virtual friends: self-disclosure as a factor in adolescents' online friendships (pdf brochure)