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Research Groups and Current Projects

These are the following projects that faculty have open for graduate and undergraduate researchers participation. The projects are listed by faculty. Current Penn State students who want to work with these faculty should send a brief cover letter outlining their interests and related experiences as well as a resume or C.V.

Current Projects that are accepting students:

Marcela Borge 

1. ThinkerSpaces Design Club

Our project with children ages 8-11 centers around playful, human centered design experiences in informal learning spaces. Teams use a variety of digital and physical technologies (i.e., modeling clay, Legos, Minecraft, and robotics)  to develop creative designs to meet the needs of potential users. As part of this research, we want to understand what type of supports students need to engage in high quality collaborative, human-centered design thinking processes and what impacts different types of technology may have on these social learning processes.


2. CREATE (Collective Regulation & Enhanced Analysis Thinking Environment)

Our project with students in higher-education focuses on the design and evaluation of an online technology to help students develop socio-metacognitive expertise: the ability to understand, monitor, and regulate collaborative processes so as to improve them. The CREATE system allows students to have online conversations with a team about course content, while allowing us to create different support conditions for different teams, i.e. types of reflective activities, what processes students evaluate and work to improve, different ways to orchestrate collaborative activities). Our aim is to help students develop the important higher order-thinking processes associated with cultural, socio-emotional, and collaborative problem solving skills.

Dr. Ty Hollett

1. Interest-driven learning in action sports

This research focuses on the relationship between learning, digital media production, and skateboarding/BMX riding. Students interested in ethnographic research, data collection, analysis, and writing related to action sports, like skateboarding and BMX riding, are encouraged to contact Dr. Hollett. 

2. Collaborative video analysis in performance-based settings (In collaboration with Dr. Susan Land)

This research provides athletes and instructors with innovative ways to both capture and analyze video data. Students interested in data collection, analysis, and writing of research with contexts like golf and ballet are encouraged to contact Dr. Hollett or Dr. Land.

Dr. Simon Hooper

1. AvePM

  • Description: A suite of web-based tools to help teacher monitor student literacy development

  • Collaborators: Rayne Sperling, Penn State; Susan Rose, University of Minnesota

  • Student are needed help with research agenda (establishing tool validity, analyzing teacher and student use, usability testing, measuring system impact, etc.) and on-going site re-design and development

2. Missions with Monty

  • Description: A website for student to learn science content while developing metacognitive skills

  • Collaborators: John Nietfeld, N.C. State University; Rayne Sperling, Penn State

  • Student are needed help with on-going project design and development

Dr. ChanMin Kim

Student research roles on one or more of these projects will be participating in data collection and analysis, and write-ups for conference presentations and journal publications. Students will be guided to generate their own research ideas based on these research experiences and resources.

1. Early Learning and Debugging (ELD)

  • Funding Source: NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE)

  • Collaborators: Dr. Roger Hill, Dr. Brian Belland, Dr. Kyunghwa Lee, Dr. Leslie Rech, Dr. Bob Capuozzo  

  • Research Focus: Learning to use robots and debugging in preschool and kindergarten classrooms

2. Collective Argumentation Learning and Coding (CALC)

  • Funding Source: NSF STEM + Computing Partnerships (STEM+C) funded project 

  • Collaborators: Dr. Tim Foutz, Dr. AnnaMarie Conner, Dr. Barbara Crawford, Dr. Roger Hill, Dr. Sid Thompson, Dr. Dan Everett

  • Research Focus: Learning to teach programming within the elementary math and science curriculum

3. Teacher rejuvenation for enhancing agriscience students’ utilization of real-world experiences (TREASURE SAE)

  • Funding Source: USDA Professional Development for Secondary School Teachers and Educational Professionals (PDSTEP)

  • Collaborators: Dr. Eric Rubenstein, Dr. Nick Fuhrman, Dr. Lloyd Rieber, Dr. Milton Newberry

  • Research Focus: Gaming for non-formal immersive learning experiences

Dr. Susan Land

Please see this link for current projects:

Dr. Priya Sharma

1. Learning in online social networks

In this collaborative research with Dr. Susan Land (PSU) and Dr. Brian Smith (Drexel University) we examine the discourse and network structures of online social networks and affinity spaces to understand the types of knowledge sharing and participation that occur. Students interested in applying social network analyses and other statistical and qualitative methods to online spaces – formal and informal are welcome to participate in ongoing literature reviews, data analyses, and collaborative publication opportunities.

2. Design of learning spaces  

In this collaborative project with architecture and education faculty from Kansas State University, we examine the participatory process of engaging architects (students and experts) and pedagogists/learning designers to create physical learning spaces that serve students and facilitators. Also, we are interested in understanding how concepts from architecture of physical spaces can apply to online contexts and their participants. Students are needed to engage in literature reviews, design prototypes, data collection and analyses, leading to collaborative publication opportunities.

Dr. Tanner Vea

1. Learning with media technologies in animal rights activism

2. Analyzing political dimensions of preservice teachers’ carpool conversations. Students will help analyze dashcam video recordings of preservice teachers’ interactions and associated geolocation data, manage data records, and collaboratively author publications.

Dr. Heather Zimmerman

1. Augmented reality and mobile technologies to support outdoor learning 

Project Co-Leads: Drs. Susan Land, Heather Zimmerman

In this project funded by the National Science Foundation, we conduct design-based research on how mobile technologies can be leveraged by families and youths to learn science in outdoor learning spaces. We investigating how families and youths the role of augmented reality in supporting how people perceive community places, become scientific observers, collaboratively build knowledge, and develop identities congruent with science, nature, and technology. Students on the team collect, prepare, and analyze data in nature centers and gardens with opportunities for writing conference and journal papers.


2. Families learning about ecology

In the families learning about ecology study, we work with Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and other informal learning sites to study learning about ecology, earth sciences and the environmental sciences. We examine how everyday experiences outside and with nature provide resources for scientific knowledge, practices, and identities. Students collect, prepare and analyze data in outdoor and museum sites with families using video cameras as well as to write for conferences and journals.


3. Learning science and engineering in libraries, museums, and community organizations

In this study, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the research team works with rural informal learning institutions to understand how to design for equitable STEM learning. Data collection wraps up in late 2019 with opportunities for new students to prepare data for analysis and participate in analysis sessions as well as to write for conferences and journals.