Continuity of Operations planning information for the College of Education: Click here


Dr. Susan Land

Susan Land
Associate Professor of Education, University Park


Current Projects that are accepting students:

  • Social media as affinity spaces and cultures for informal learning.

  • Mobile and digital technologies to support science learning in and out of school


Mobile and digital technologies to support learning in and out of school

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

PSU Partners:  Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology (Chris Millet, and the Center for Online Innovations in Learning (COIL) (

In this project, our research group ( is conducting design-based research on how technologies (digital and mobile) can be leveraged by families to learn science in informal spaces (like museums, nature centers, and arboretums) and then how these technologies can be used to support learning more broadly. We are interested in how youth and families use technologies to perceive the space around them, become scientific observers, develop identities congruent with science, nature, and technology, integrate science with their everyday experiences, and progressively and collaboratively build knowledge. We are working with students who are interested in designing mobile technologies and collecting and analyzing research data. 


Student research roles on this project

Students will collect data in outdoor and museum sites with families. Students will prepare data for analysis and participate in analysis sessions. Opportunities exist for writing conference and journal paper submissions as well as designing technology solutions for learning in various settings.


Social media as affinity spaces and cultures for informal learning.

Project Co-Leads: Drs. Susan Land, Priya Sharma

Faculty collaborators: Dr. Brian K. Smith, Drexel University

Our research explores how a variety of social networking sites and/or social media create opportunities for participation and learning that are quite different from those encountered in formal educational settings. Educational researchers have begun to explore how people learn in a range of informal contexts, where free-choice learning is the dominant focus, and which involves participation within social networks of families, hobbyists, or other communities. Broadly characterized as affinity spaces, online social networks offer individuals the opportunity to learn from interacting with others who share similar interests, needs, or goals. We examine how knowledge is shared and participation is shaped by the social or material resources of the space. We focus on data gathered from two different types of social networking sites (1) public hobby sites (e.g., ESPN Fantasy Sports-Basketball); and (2) a health social networking site (Type II Diabetes) as well as how social media like Twitter engage people in advancing knowledge and practices of relevance to them (see Swain dissertation, 2013).


Student research roles on this project

Student research opportunities: transcribe data set from social networking message boards; assist with coding of the content of the discussion posts, using existing and emergent coding schemes. Future needs: conduct social network analyses; refine coding scheme through additional content analyses of social network posts.