January 29, 2007: Seminar: Deborah Tatar: "Practice Into Theory: from serious work about learning in classroom environments to serious questions about the playful nature of control and coordination in computing"

Seminar Announcement


Practice Into Theory: from serious work about learning in classroom environments to serious questions about the playful nature of control and coordination in computing

Deborah Tatar
Associate Professor of Computer Science and, by courtesy, Psychology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Monday, January 29, 2007
1:30 PM, Room 1000 Science and Engineering Offices (SEO)


Abstract:

Education and engineering have in common that they are pragmatic fields. Success in both fields is tied to various kinds of import for the world. But the goal of impact means long-term research programmes in both areas should be framed expansively. Ironically, then, pragmatism often means careful thought about underlying theory. It implies a research programme that moves between the phenomenological ("this is what we have built", "this is what we see in the world", "this is the action we are taking") and the interpretive ("this the state of affairs we would like to see", "this is how we explain the phenomena or characterize those phenomena we cannot yet explain", "this is the meaning of our action"). The current talk starts with a pressing social problem---the problem of maximizing equity and excellence in K-12 education in a system constrained by material resources, time, human capabilities, and a multiplicity of important conflicting goals--- and explores a strategy for addressing this problem: the development of handheld-based tools to support classroom learning. It describes the development and use in real classrooms of two suites of such tools. It then outlines how this pragmatic experience has led to the exploration of the nature of coordination, utilizing Tuple Spaces and the concept of playground games.

Brief Bio:

Deborah Tatar (Ph.D. Psychology, Stanford, 1998; BA English, Harvard, 1981) is currently an Associate Professor of Computer Science and, by courtesy, Psychology at Virginia Tech. In high school, she was surprised to win an award for intellectual curiosity and has been trying to live up to it ever since. Stemming from her experiences as a senior software engineer at DEC, a member of the research staff at Xerox PARC, and a cognitive scientist in the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, her work can be thought of as falling into three categories: Making Mechanisms (designing new ways to do things with technology), Making Meaning (analyzing complex new systems), and Making Methods (creating new ways of coming to know about phenomena of interest). Recent mechanisms focus on the potential of handheld connectivity to help classroom learning, and the Anywhere Museum, a suite of projects that provoke inquiry in situated everyday environments. Recent meaning includes the analysis of online argumentation and emotion, the relationship between shared visual space and peripheral participation in learning conversations, and an analysis of the notion of a place with implications for the online world. Recent methods focus on the idea of project tensions as an important focus for coming to understand complex design problems. At the juncture of making meaning and methods lies the Scaling Up SimCalc project, a multi-year randomized controlled experiment to test whether SimCalc, a math learning environment developed in the cauldron of the cognitive revolution, has the potential to bring benefit to students in a wide variety of classrooms. She has the distinction of having edited the proceedings of the first two conferences on Computer-Supported Collaborative Work (1988 and 1990), and is currently convening the doctoral consortium for CHI 2007.

Host: Professor Tom Moher












































 
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