What is this?

I’m currently an undergraduate research assistant with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education under the wonderful Dr. Yasmin Kafai (who was actually a developer of Scratch!) and have been since October ‘13. Yasmin is really interested in youth digital media, primarily investigating learning through making - whether it be through programming, e-textiles, wearables or games.

So upon hearing all this and feeling !! (because I’m a huge proponent for education gearing toward learning in more creative, hands-on ways), I reached out. Unfortunately they just finished hiring:

Dear Annie,

I’m sorry the position has been filled.

Huge, complete bummer. This was the only position I reaaaally wanted, I mean education & computer science?!?! So I sent out a more desperate email:

I’m wondering if there is any other way that I can be involved in the project, such as an unpaid opportunity? I’m really interested in the use of computer science and games as a means of learning and see the combination of computer science and education as a potential field that I’m interested in pursuing. If possible, I’d really like the opportunity to be involved, even in a smaller, unpaid position.

Then almost as if someone somewhere saw my desperation (and felt much pity), I got emailed back that their candidate had scheduling conflicts and so I would be interviewed. It went a little like !!!!!!!!! and the rest is a very happy history.

So what do I really do?

I work primarily with PhD students like Veena Vasudevan in running workshops geared toward making. So far with them, I’ve run two workshops in Digital Board Games where students create their own board game with digital components using Scratch and MaKey MaKey. It’s a great blend of learning to make games, while getting exposure to programming and cool technologies like the circuit board. Currently I’m helping run my third workshop, and a pilot about creating Flappy Birds with wearble technology.

The things I do within each workshop range entirely. I’ve taught the concepts and worked individually with students and groups. I’ve analyzed the content from these workshops to draw conclusions about how students learn and how effective these workshops are. But my favourite thing thus far was helping curate the teaching materials used and coming up with ways to teach the concepts in ways that students can understand best.

I also help run the Hour of Code workshops in Scratch.

Really interesting TED talk from a creator of Scratch here