Dr. Marina Bers Named Chair of Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

(Waltham, MA) October 24, 2018 — Dr. Marina Bers has been named the new department chair of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. This appointment puts Dr. Bers at the forefront of one of the country’s leading departments serving children, youth, and families. With her new appointment, Dr. Bers will continue to explore and research how young students learn to be creators and collaborators with technology and with each other.

In addition to being named department chair, Dr. Bers is also the director of the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, where she leads the team researching the impact of computational thinking and coding education in early childhood. With her team, she conducts original and peer-reviewed research into the value of these skills for children in society.

Dr. Bers’ research has led her to design several programs for children in pre-K through 2 grade that center on an open-ended curriculum enabling student-driven exploration. These programs include the KIBO robot, a developmentally appropriate robotics construction set; and ScratchJr, a visual, block-based programming language for tablets. She describes how coding is seen as a “new language,” and how it can be presented in a playful context, merging STEM/STEAM and coding with social-emotional learning.

Dr. Bers said, “I am honored to have been appointed as the new chair of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. Although I have been a professor at Eliot Pearson since 2001, my own doctoral training is not as a developmentalist, but as a designer of technologies for children. As a designer, my goal is to lead our department into the 21 century by creating new opportunities for doing research and applied work that is both scholarly and meaningful, and that will have a significant and positive impact on the lives of children and families around the world.”

Through her efforts at both the DevTech Research Group and the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Dr. Bers has taught and guided thousands of students to become educators and practitioners working with pre-K through 2-grade children in diverse educational settings such as schools, museums, libraries, and daycare centers.

Heather Lee, a current student at the Early Childhood Technology program and leader of early education at the Idaho STEM Action Center, described her experience. “Dr. Bers' Early Childhood Technology graduate certificate program has opened so many doors for the intentional, developmentally appropriate, and playful offerings of technology to the youngest citizens of my state. I am voraciously learning everything I can to be a conduit for Idaho at a time when early STEM has become a lens through which we support statewide early education efforts.”

Dr. Bers has written multiple books, articles, and research studies based on her decades of work with young children and their development. Her latest book, Coding as a Playground, draws on her ongoing and groundbreaking research within the field of creative technology in early childhood education. In addition to her published work, Dr. Bers discussed her unique approach to helping young children explore STEM thinking, including both programming and engineering/building, in her 2014 TEDx talk, “Young programmers — think playgrounds, not playpens.”

About Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers

Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers is a professor and department chair at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. She also heads the interdisciplinary Developmental Research Group at the University. Her research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote children’s positive development.

Dr. Bers performed her undergraduate studies in Social Communication at Buenos Aires University and received a Master’s degree in Educational Media and Technology from Boston University as well as a Master of Science and PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory, where she worked with Seymour Papert, whose ideas and inventions transformed how millions of children around the world create and learn.

Her recent research focuses on how new technologies such as robotics and programming languages extend the possibilities of traditional learning manipulatives that can be successfully used to promote math, science, technology, and engineering education in early childhood alongside socio-emotional development and the arts. One of the tools she developed is the KIBO robot, which is designed for children 4 to 7 years old and can be programmed with wooden blocks without using keyboards or screens. Dr. Bers co-founded the start-up KinderLab Robotics, Inc. to commercialize KIBO and make it available worldwide.

Dr. Bers is passionate about using the power of technology to promote positive development and learning for young children. For more information, see her 2014 TEDx talk, “Young programmers — think playgrounds, not playpens.”

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