CMU logo
Expand Menu

All the World's a Stage: Mobile Computing Across Multiple Contexts to Support Science On-The-Go

Chris Quintana
Associate Professor in Educational Studies, School of Education, University of Michigan


Newell-Simon Hall 1305 (Michael Mauldin Auditorium)

Video link


As computing devices continue to evolve from personal computers to mobile and wearable technologies, new learning opportunities are opening up. Specifically, we have been interested in supporting science learning, and considering how a range of these technologies can be designed in a supportive manner to support such learning across multiple contexts. Our Zydeco project has explored the coordinated, integrated use of mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets), web applications, and the cloud to support middle school students with science practices across formal classroom and informal out-of-class (e.g., museums and parks) contexts. Zydeco helps students plan their inquiry in classrooms, collect different data artifacts (e.g., photos, videos, audios and texts) outside the classroom, and analyze those artifacts to build a scientific explanation, thus framing an activity structure that integrates different contexts into a larger educational setting. 


As we have developed Zydeco, we have also examined how particular design methods, such as Luckin's Ecology of Resources approach, can help identify factors, conflicts, and challenges that arise when designing supportive tools for cross-context use. Working with middle school teachers, students, and museum educators, we have identified different issues when trying to create a more cohesive fit between the formal and informal contexts where students will engage in their scientific activity: (1) resource fit, or the challenge teachers face in understanding what resources are available in out-of-class contexts and how those resources connect to their curricula and current science standards, (2) supportive fit, or the scaffolding features that need to be developed and embedded in the mobile tools, museum exhibits, and other resources to support students with the reflective and analytic activity needed for sensemaking with respect to their science questions and goals, and (3) cultural fit, or the potential mismatch between the goals of structured and free-choice contexts, the way these different goals impact exploratory activity, and the anxieties about technology that arise in many informal contexts. In this presentation, I will give an overview of the Zydeco project and software, and discuss the Ecology of Resources model and consider how this and similar models are needed to help identify various elements and issues for cross-context design.

Speaker's Bio

Chris Quintana engages in research that is at the intersection of education and learning sciences, human-computer interaction, and computer science. He has focused much of work on software-based scaffolding for middle school science students, including the development of scaffolded software tools, scaffolding frameworks for software, and learner-centered design processes. His recent work includes heading the Zydeco Project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore how mobile devices and web-based technologies can be integrated to connect science classrooms and museums to expand science learning opportunities. Using Zydeco, Quintana is exploring not just how software tools can support students with various science practices in different contexts, but also the possibilities and challenges of developing learning activities that integrate formal and informal learning environments. Other recent work includes exploring the use of wearable technologies (e.g., smartwatches) by K-12 teachers in their classrooms to help monitor student activity and the classroom envionrment.

His previous work involved working as a principal investigator in the Center for Highly Interactive Classrooms, Curricula, and Computing in Education (hi-ce), where he worked on several learning technology projects. Quintana previously led NSF-funded projects focused on developing and assessing software that supports students with different inquiry-based practices, such as the creation of software- based “digital ideakeepers” to support students in analyzing and synthesizing information found in digital libraries to answer science questions. He was on the research team for a project focusing on how media-rich digital texts that follow a “universal design for learning” approach may impact science learning. Other previous projects that Quintana has worked on include the ASSESS project to develop a “scaffolding design framework” to guide developers and researchers of learning technologies, and the Symphony2 project to develop a software framework that could be used to build scaffolded work environments. Aside from developing and researching different types of learner-centered software, Quintana is also interested in design processes and the notion of “design thinking” for education. His design activity informs his courses on the design and assessment of learning technologies, and other work exploring the development of new technology-enhanced learning spaces within the School of Education.Quintana received his BS from the University of Texas at El Paso in Biological Sciences, and his MS and PhD from the University of Michigan in Computer Science and Engineering.

Amy Ogan