The DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, directed by Prof. Marina Umaschi Bers, aims to promote STEAM learning for young children through theoretical contributions, design of new technologies, teaching materials and strategies for professional development and community engagement, and empirical research to inform sustainable and scalable evidence-based programs for young children with a focus on computational thinking and engineering.
Our research is strongly inspired by two theoretical bodies of research: the constructionist theory of learning developed by pioneer in the field of educational technology, Seymour Papert, who was the doctoral advisor of Prof. Marina Umaschi Bers at the MIT Media Lab. The second, positive youth development, as conceptualized by applied developmental sciences. These two bodies of research inform our positive technological development framework. A description of the PTD framework can be found in Marina Bers’ book Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground.
Our research pursues questions such as: How can children use technology in positive ways to lead more fulfilling lives and to make the world a better place? How can we develop programs to help children use technology in effective ways to learn new things, to express themselves creatively, to communicate in better ways, to take care of themselves and each other, and to contribute in positive ways to the self and the world? Based on an understanding of the positive impact of new technologies in the lives of children, how do we develop computer-based interventions that, leveraging what children are already doing with technology in positive ways, build on their strengths and assets? How do we evaluate these complex interventions? How do we design software and hardware; interventions that, from conceptualization to evaluation, are aligned with positive technological development?