Learning Sciences & Technology and Computing Education

Learning scientists study both how learning happens in real-world situations and how to better facilitate learning in designed environments—in school, online, in the workplace, at home, and in informal environments. Learning sciences research is guided by constructivist, social-constructivist, socio-cognitive and socio-cultural theories of learning.

In the College of Computing, we particularly emphasize the role that technology plays in learning: as a place for learning, as facilitation for learning, as a subject of study.  Computing education researchers are a kind of learning scientist who studies how people come to understand computing—and how to improve that understanding.

Current LS&T/CE research in the School of Interactive Computing has several themes:

  • Constructionism: Constructionism advocates learning through design and construction activities, or learning through working on personally meaningful projects. The Internet has a unique potential to make constructionist learning scalable and sustainable in real-world settings, because it makes it easy to provide social support for learning and teaching.
  • Identity and its role: Learning is a process of becoming, so students' sense of goals and the practice of communities influence learning.
  • Social learning: Students learn in a social process.  Some theorists argue that all learning is social.  Technology is particularly good at supporting social activity.
  • Beyond lectures: Lectures are a cost-efficient but learning-poor technique.  We can use technology to replace the lecture's role, or to supplement it so that lecture time can be more learning effective.
  • Contextual learning: Too much computing education is done in the abstract.  Learning computing in a particular context of use provides relevance and improves engagement.

Our computing education researchers study how people come to understand computing (including computational thinking practices) and how we can facilitate that understanding. We are particularly interested in broadening participation in computing; we explore how to engage more women and members of under-represented minorities, how to increase and improve teaching about computing, and how to help professionals from non-computing disciplines learn about computing.

We publish in venues like the ACM SIGCSE (Computer Science Education) Symposium, International Computing Education Research (ICER) workshop and the ACM Transactions on Computing Education. Among our best-known computing education projects are:

  • Glitch, which engages African-American teen men in computing by training and hiring them to be game testers.
  • Georgia Computes!, NSF-funded alliance to broaden participation in computing across the entire state of Georgia.
  • Media Computation, an approach to introduce computing through the context of manipulating and creating digital photographs, sounds, and videos.

Coordinator: Amy Bruckman