Sidebar: Learning about learning – a conversation with Deborah Tatar

Dr. Deborah Tatar, Virginia Tech

Deborah Tatar, cognitive scientist at Virginia Tech

Deborah Tatar is a cognitive scientist at Virginia Polytechnic University whose current research focuses on understanding and clearing the obstacles to student learning in mathematics and science. For example, she was a principal investigator on the SimCalc project, a software-based interactive math curriculum for middle schoolers that has shown demonstrable success when accompanied by professional development for teachers. She is a collaborator on the CPATH Distributed Expertise project for which I am a co-PI.

In this conversation about what it takes to bring students from under-represented groups into computing, Tatar cautions against easy generalizations and simplistic solutions, offering intriguing possibilities for ways in which we can assist learners in finding the paths to understanding that are most appropriate for them.

Tatar’s insights remind me of Georgetown University math professor Jim Sandefur’s use of “think-alouds” – recorded interviews with students who explain their thought processes while working on math problems. It also echoes and complements the insights from Visible Knowledge Project, spearheaded by Randy Bass during the last decade. I was a researcher in that project in the early 2000s. My research project for VKP, “Blogging on the Beat” details my action research project on whether having journalism students keep blogs will lead deeper and more richly-sourced reporting.

This interview is part of my work in progress: The Re-Education of Me: Journalism, Diversity and Computing. Pearson, a long-time professional writing practitioner and educator, is using auto-ethnography and literary journalism to probe the implications of the transformation of journalism by computer science for journalism education. This interview was recorded at the National Science Foundation’s CE 21 community meeting in New Orleans, Lousiana Jan. 30, 2011.

View the interview (Quicktime file, runtime about 26 minutes)

Posted in Computational Thinking, Diversity, Research, Social context of education, Teaching, Video and tagged , , , , , .

professorkim

My professional background is in public information, magazine journalism, blogging and journalism education. My current research is founded on the premise that democracy requires the broad participation of a computationally fluent citizenry. Civic media industries must reflect the communities they serve at the level of ownership, research and development, news gathering, presentation and community engagement. This adds greater urgency to the already critical need to broaden participation in computing. To that end, I have collaborated on curricular models for infusing computing into journalism education at both the scholastic and collegiate levels, and for promoting civic engagement in computer science education. My current interest is in exploring the potential of stochastic networks and as enhancement to social computing tools for broadening civic participation.
While most of this blog is devoted to my research in computational journalism and trends in journalism education, I occasionally do some storytelling of my own. This blog picks up where my other blogs, Professor Kim’s News Notes (http://professorkim.blogspot.com) and The Nancybelle Project (http://kimpearson.net/nancybelle.html) left off.