Designing Computational Environments for Mathematical and Scientific Expression

September 27, 2012
2:50 pm - 4:00 pm
Halligan 111
Host: Rob Jacob


Often when people think of educational technology, they are interested in 1) how technology can help students learn school subjects in ways that are more engaging or easier to understand, or 2) how to best introduce technology itself as a new school subject. In contrast, I am interested in how technology changes the nature of school subjects themselves, thus changing what young people can and should learn across the K-12 curriculum. In my work, I design educational technologies for the purpose of engaging middle and high school learners in new kinds of thinking - both as a research tool and an educational goal. In this presentation, I will describe three ongoing projects that illustrate this process:

The DeltaTick Project, a classroom-friendly model construction interface that allows students to explore the mathematics that underlie complex dynamic systems; Dynamic Representational Competence, a project in which I explore how young people represent complex and data-intensive quantitative situations visually and through animation; and SiMSAM, a new NSF-sponsored project in which I and my colleague Brian Gravel will be exploring how students learn to "translate" their own understandings into the languages of scientific simulation and mathematical analysis using a new technological tool that will allow them to progressively systematize, mathematically analyze, and compare their ideas of how scientific systems work.


Michelle Wilkerson-Jerde is an Assistant Professor of Education at Tufts University. She holds a PhD in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, and Bachelors degrees in Mathematics and Elementary Education from the University of San Diego. Michelle studies how expressive technologies (including computational modeling, graphical and narrative programming, and advanced data analyses and visualization) might provide middle and high school learners with bridges between their existing knowledge and experiences, descriptions of scientific phenomena, and the languages of mathematics and science. Michelle was elected 2012-2013 Chair of the American Educational Research Association's Special Interest Group in Advanced Technologies for Learning (SIG-ATL), and is PI of a new NSF Cyberlearning grant (with Brian Gravel) to develop and study student learning with SiMSAM, an integrated modeling, simulation and data analysis tool for middle school STEM students.