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Out of the Playpen into the Playground: Learning with Technology in the Digital World

About the series

Out of the playpen into the playground: learning with technology in the digital world


Playgrounds are popular spaces for young children to play and learn. They are designed to promote exploration of the physical environment and the development of motor and social skills. Young children can be autonomous while developing different sets of competencies. Playpens, in contrast to playgrounds, corral children into a safe, confined space. Although they are mostly risk-free, there is little exploration and imaginative play. From a developmental perspective, the playground promotes, while the playpen hinders, a sense of mastery, creativity, self-confidence, social awareness and open exploration. This presentation will use the playpen/playground metaphor to explore the design and study of technologies for young children that promote these areas while engaging children in learning programming and engineering. Dr. Bers will introduce the Positive Technological Development framework and the Scratch Jr programming language and the KIWI robotic kit. Results from several research programs will be presented as well as case studies.


Marina Umaschi Bers, PhD, is a professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and the Computer Science Department at Tufts University. She heads the interdisciplinary DevTech research group. Her research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote positive youth development. Dr. Bers received prestigious awards such as the 2005 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), an NSD Career Award and the American Educational Research Association’s Jan Hawkins Award. Over the past decade and a half, Dr. Bers has conceived, designed and evaluated diverse educational technology projects ranging from robotics to virtual worlds in schools, after-school programs, museums, hospitals, both in the US and abroad. Most recently Dr. Bers has focused her research on technological environments for young children, 4 to 7 year old. Dr. Bers has received several NSF grants that allowed her to develop such technologies. Both of those, the KIWI robotic kit and the ScratchJr programming language, are leaving the academic ivory tower and becoming available to the wide public. ScratchJr will be found as a free app late in May and KIWI is being commercialized through an NSF SBIR grant and will be available in September.  The philosophy and theoretical approach for developing these technologies as well as the curriculum and assessment methods can be found in Dr Bers’ books "Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom" (2008; Teacher's College Press) and “Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground”, (2012, Oxford University Press). Dr. Bers is from Argentina. In 1994 she came to the US and received a Master's degree in Educational Media from Boston University and a Master of Science and PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory working with Seymour Papert. More on Dr. Bers: http://www.tufts.edu/~mbers01/


The Webinar will be held from 12:00pm to 1:00pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

Please register at: https://nsf.webex.com/nsf/j.php?ED=249228702&RG=1&UID=0&RT=MiMxMQ%3D%3D by 11:59pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

After your registration is accepted, you will receive an email with a URL to join the meeting. Please be sure to join a few minutes before the start of the webinar. This system does not establish a voice connection on your computer; instead, your acceptance message will have a toll-free phone number that you will be prompted to call after joining. In the event the number of requests exceeds the capacity, some requests may have to be denied.





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