MST Times

Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Yoo Kyung Chang

By • Nov 7th, 2011 • Category: Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design, Lead Story

The Magical Journey of Dr. Yoo Kyung Chang

CCTE’s newest faculty member recounts her circuitous path from Korea all the way to Teachers College.

Professor Yoo Kyung Chang has led a life on the move.

Communication, Computing and Technology in Education’s (CCTE) newest full-time lecturer is originally from Seoul, South Korea. She earned her BA in English Literature and Language from Korea’s prestigious Yonsei University.

After college, she eventually settled in New York. Professor Chang has been living in the area for 13 lucky years starting back in 1998. Pre-9/11 New York is difficult to remember, clouded by some world-shifting memories. What is equally puzzling, from the vantage point of our increasingly tech-centric world, is remembering a time when the Internet wasn’t a central part of it. When she arrived at the famous Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University (NYU), Clay Shirky was a lighting designer in experimental theater and the legendary Red Burns ruled the roost.

“ITP was a big eye-opener,” Professor Change recalls fondly. “I remember the first time sitting in front of a Mac computer in the school lab spending about 10 minutes to identify the power button on the keyboard.”

From these humble beginnings, Professor Chang’s migration into technology and education was gradual. “I started off with hardly any technology literacy. Then I was exposed to different types of media.”

Full immersion happened later.

Professor Chang worked in public relations for a few years, when the Internet had just started to take hold.  This was when she was first exposed to new media.

“I was only used to traditional media,” she said, most likely a common experience at the time. “Then I found how media can connect people. I was fascinated by the workings of it.”

As she sagely identified, technical literacy was in its infancy. “The Internet was a dominant topic back then,” she recalled. “But there were other tenets of new media, such as physical computing that were being explored.”

Her professional career has been a site of progressive advancement. With increasing experience with technology and media, her interest grew deeper in understanding the human factor beyond technology. Professor Chang worked four years as a programmer with, a web-consulting firm. She then turned to the NYU School of Medicine where she worked in its educational technology laboratory – the Division of Educational Informatics.

She loved it.

“It was the first time I was exposed to educational technology. It was the intersection of my two strands of interest, technology and human development” she exclaimed. “For the last 7 years I have been using technology and media together to promote educational interests.”

It was through the medical school consortium that she learned about the esteemed Educational Communication and Technology program at NYU, headed by Professors Jan Plass and Ricki Goldman. Dr. Plass, her eventual doctoral research advisor, was working on a research project with the School of Medicine. It was during her doctoral studies that she narrowed her research focus.

“My research interest was focused on technology’s role in understanding the development of our internal processes,” Dr. Chang explained. “I wanted to see educational technology as a means to provide learning opportunities but also as the method to assess and understand how learning emerges, namely the cognitive, metacognitive, and affective processes.”

During her studies she worked as a research assistant for a program called “Molecules and Minds” that involved chemistry learning. The goal of this project is developing chemistry simulations that are effective for a wide range of learners, especially those who have been identified as having underachieved academically. Dr. Chang studied how students’ patterns of interaction with the learning environment reveal different information about the students learning processes, using the methods of data mining and data visualization.

After completing her doctoral studies, she worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the New York Hall of Science, the hands-on science and technology center located in Queens. Professor Chang worked on a play-based science learning project where technological enhancements were implemented to help students develop abstract concepts through concrete, physical play with science phenomena. She conducted observations and qualitative analysis of how student demonstrate learning, or lack of, through their play behavior.

Some of the major research questions that fueled the research were: identifying the design principles that promote play-based learning of complex scientific concepts, and finding appropriate methods of assessing play-based science learning.

“It was an interesting but challenging project,” said Dr. Chang. “The most difficult part was trying to marry student-driven exploration, namely play, and the goal of implementing New York State science standards.”

When Professor Chang saw an opening at Teachers College, she was excited about pursuing it.

“I am still a very early career researcher,” stated Professor Chang. “I am happy to be exposed to such a great faculty of researchers” she enthused.

She is very enthusiastic about her new position.

“There is great diversity and expertise within CCTE, MST, and the entire TC community” she exclaimed. “As a masters student adviser, I will be exposed to many different people with different interests. They will bring expertise and interests that will further extend my interest and understanding.”

But working in this role is not the end of the line. Ideally not for her. Nor for her students.

“My goal is to grow not only for myself but also with my students,” Professor Chang stated. “I look forward to a solid learning opportunity as my advisees grow as well.”

The idea of being a mentor to students pleases her.

“The best learning experience is learning from your own experience,” shared Professor Chang. “The best mentors are those you could relate to. I hope that is something I can provide to my students. It reflects my life as a student.”

And she has an invitation to new students starting off at Teachers College, just like herself when she began her very own New York story over a decade ago.

“Open your eyes,” invited Professor Chang. “We all come with different interests and goals. For new students, be open to new ideas and the tenets and facets of educational technology.”

She readily draws links between academics at Teachers College and the deeper exploration of life itself.

“It’s similar to living in NYC,” she confided. “It may be nerve racking, but it’s good to get lost sometimes. How else will you come across the pleasure of unknown surprises unless you go beyond your familiar path?”

By Dino Sossi, Communication, Computing and Technology in Education Student

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