Identity Construction Environments: Technologies for fostering positive youth development

June 21, 2005
1:00 pm - 2:15 pm
Halligan 111
Speaker: Marina Bers, Eliot Pearson Dept. of Child Development
Host: Diane Souvaine


We live in a society where concepts of self, community and "what is right and wrong" are constantly changing. This makes it particularly challenging for young people to construct a sense of self. Therefore, there is an amounting pressure in schools, after school programs and society to create learning environments to explore these issues. Technology, in particularly virtual communities, can tackle this challenge. Two research questions are at the heart of the work to be presented in this talk: What kind of technology-rich learning environment will afford opportunities for young people to naturally engage in reflection and discussion about issues of identity and community? And, how can technologies have an impact on positive youth development? Prof. Bers will talk about her NSF funded research on identity construction environments (ICE), technological tools purposefully designed with the goal of fostering positive youth development. She will describe the design principles that distinguish these environments from other learning technologies and will present, as examples, several tools that she has implemented, such as SAGE (Storytelling Agent Generation Environment), the Zora 3D multi-user virtual environment that engages learners in the design of a graphical virtual city and its social organization and the Kaleidostories virtual community. She will describe previous work using these environments with different populations of young people in schools, after schools and hospital settings both in the US and abroad. She will conclude by talking about her new work using Zora with freshman at Tufts and with post- transplant patients at Boston's Children's Hospital.