MST Times

Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter

MST New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nathan Holbert, Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design

By • Jan 5th, 2015 • Category: Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design
Dr. Nathan Holbert (Photo Credit: Heather Van Uxem Lewis)

Dr. Nathan Holbert is excited to be joining the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design program in the Mathematics, Science, and Technology department this spring. Dr. Holbert received his Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-based Modeling.

Dr. Holbert’s research explores how children engage in testing, tinkering, and sense-making during play around topics or phenomena that they find personally engaging. In particular Dr. Holbert studies how children use intuitions about natural phenomena and scientific principles to interpret and assimilate central representations and tools found in these play spaces, and how we might reconceive these environments to provide rich learning experiences that children will see as highly connected to formal tools and ideas. This work involves attending closely to the design of representations and tools within these play spaces as well as the artifacts (both tangible and intangible) constructed by children during play.

Dr. Holbert studies play in a variety of forms and contexts. In one line of research Dr. Holbert has explored the design of popular commercial games to gain insight into the representations and game-actions that resonate with children’s intuitions about motion and material properties. This work culminated in the creation of two prototype games (FormulaT Racing and Particles!) developed to explore and evaluate various game design features that might help players to connect intuitions about game-action to more formal representations and explanations of relevant domain phenomena. Studies conducted with these prototype games have informed a set of design principles for creating informal game experiences and tools that players will see as relevant when thinking and reasoning about related topics outside of the game. Results from this work has been published in Technology, Knowledge, and Learning and presented at the International Conference for the Learning Sciences, Constructionism 2014, and the Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association.

Dr. Holbert continues to research the affordance of what might be called constructionist video games. This work involves both continuing to explore the ways in which popular game design impacts intuitions about science phenomena as well as projects engaging children in the design and programming of their own educational video games.

As play is not restricted to virtual video games Dr. Holbert also studies designed real world construction environments. This work includes the creation and analysis of blended activities that integrate the construction of tangible and virtual artifacts as well as projects targeted at overcoming gender and ethnic homogeneity in high tech maker spaces.

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