Category Archives: Technology

Congratulations Jennifer Jing Zhao!

Congratulations Jennifer Jing Zhao, for a successful defence and completion of the PhD program!

Tuesday September 24, 2019, 4:00 pm
Room 200 of the Graduate Student Centre (6371 Crescent Road)

Design of a 3D Virtual Learning Environment for Acquisition of Cultural Competence in Nurse Education: Experiences of Nursing and Other Health Care Students, Instructors, and Instructional Designers

ABSTRACT: This study investigates how a 3D virtual world or learning environment facilitates nursing and other health care students’ acquisition of cultural competence. The study specifically explores the experience of students, instructors, and instructional designers in a 3D virtual learning environment designed specifically for this research. The research questions are: 1) What are the experiences of instructional designers and instructors in a simulated immersive learning environment of a 3D virtual world for the acquisition of cultural competence for students in nursing and other health related fields? 2) What are the experiences of students in a simulated immersive learning environment of a 3D virtual world for the acquisition of cultural competence? The design of the 3D world and analysis of data draw on a framework based on Deweyan and Confucian theories of experience. The theoretical framework suggests that learning is best supported through affordances for continuity and interaction, which are essential when designing, integrating, and evaluating simulation and immersion in 3D virtual worlds. Design-based research (DBR) and user experience (UX) methodologies are employed to explore the experience of students, instructors, and other participants. A taxonomy of experience (ToE) established by Coxon (2007) guides qualitative data collection and analysis in this study. Users’ data were distilled through nine steps to help experiences to be “seen” and to make abstract concepts comprehensible and visible. The findings include seven themes distilled from the data: Simulation for 3D learning environments is best: 1) grounded in real-world contexts; 2) shaped through holistic design; 3) designed for embodiment; 4) designed for interactivity; and 5) designed for continuous experience; 6) 3D learning environments should take the complexity of the technical interface into account; and 7) Design for the acquisition of cultural competence should take the users’ experience and knowledge into account. Implications include: 1) Conceptualization of “designer as host” and hospitality through Chinese understandings of guest-host relations; 2) Consideration of virtual experience overlooked within Deweyan and Confucian pragmatism.


Prof Guofang Li (Language and Literacy Education)
Supervisory Committee:
Prof Stephen Petrina, Research Supervisor
Prof Hsiao-Cheng Sandrine Han
Prof Francis Feng
University Examiners:
Prof Marlene Asselin
Prof Samson Nashon

Invitation to Mirela Gutica’s PhD Defense


Mirela Gutica

Abstract: Emotional, cognitive, and motivational processes are dynamic and influence each other during learning. The goal of this dissertation is to gain a better understanding of emotion interaction in order to design Advanced Learning Technologies (ALTs) and Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs) that adapt to emotional needs. In order for ITSs to recognize and respond to affective states, the system needs to have knowledge of learners’ behaviors and states. Based on emotion frameworks in affective computing and education, this study responds to this need by providing an in-depth analysis of students’ affective states during learning with an educational mathematics game for grade 5-7 (Heroes of Math Island) specifically designed for this research study and based on principles of instructional and game design.

The mixed methodology research design had two components: (1) a quasi-experimental study and (2) affect analysis. The quasi-experimental study included pretest, intervention (gameplay), and posttest, followed by a post-questionnaire and interview. Affect analysis involved the process of identifying what emotions should be observed, and video annotations by trained judges.

The study contributes to related research by: (1) reviewing sets of emotions important for learning derived from literature and pilot studies; (2) analyzing inter-judge agreement both aggregated and over individual students to gain a better understanding of how individual differences in expression affect emotion recognition; (3) examining in detail what and how many emotions actually occur or are expressed in the standard 20-second interval; (4) designing a standard method including a protocol and an instrument for trained judges; and (5) offering an in-depth exploration of the students’ subjective reactions with respect to gameplay and the mathematics content. This study analyzes and proposes an original set of emotions derived from literature and observations during gameplay. The most relevant emotions identified were boredom, confidence, confusion/hesitancy, delight/pleasure, disappointment / displeasure, engaged concentration, and frustration. Further research on this set is recommended for design of ALTs or ITSs that motivate students and respond to their cognitive and emotional needs. The methodological protocol developed to label and analyze emotions should be evaluated and tested in future studies.

When: March 17, 2014 @ 9:00 am
Where: Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, UBC

Video Gaming in the Classroom: Insights and Ideas from Teenage Students by Peter Halim

Peter and research participants in focus group

Congratulations to Peter Halim for successfully defending his thesis titled “Video Gaming in the Classroom: Insights and Ideas from Teenage Students”! Peter made the minor edits and closed his MA program, meaning that he will graduate in November. The thesis can be downloaded from the CIRCLE database.



Peter Halim

For this research, four high school aged teenagers participated in an intensive one week video gaming camp, at which time they articulated their attitudes and ideas about mainstream video games and their place in education. The purpose was to explore strategies for utilizing mainstream commercial video games for educative purposes in the classroom. The participants’ insights along with observations made on their interaction with video games were analyzed through Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation and the General Aggression Model. In summary, the participants, more or less experts in gaming, enjoyed video games and described them as one of their favourite activities. Furthermore, it was found that video games played both a positive and negative role in the participants’ lives. For example, all participants seemed to have developed healthy values and relationships directly through playing video games during their pre-adolescent years. Conversely, their responses also indicated that they experienced limits to video games and did not see innovation from market and home to school as a smooth, trivial process. Rather, they provided key insights into aligning specific games with specific content, curriculum, and courses. The participants’ insights suggest that the use of mainstream video games for learning will most likely continue to be a fringe strategy implemented by individual teachers who actively discern the educational uses of video games. Game and gaming literacies are among the most recent entries into new literacies research. This thesis contributes to this research by exploring teenagers’ ideas about gaming in the classroom. In conclusion, this study finds that mainstream video games have potential to be effectively used as learning strategies in the classroom in the future pending on continued progress and interest in this endeavor.

Designing Engaging Educational Games: An Identification of Emotions for Modeling Pedagogical and Adaptive Emotional Agents: Short Description

My dissertation research builds on my Masters thesis, has been ongoing in various stages for the past three years and is part of a larger project and lab mobilized around How We Learn (Media and Technology Across the Lifespan) within the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC.  The HWL lab, funded through various agencies including the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), sponsors and supports a range of undergraduate, MA, MEd, and PhD research theses.  My study has been designed and conducted in close collaboration with Dr. Stephen Petrina and the graduate team of
researchers assembled in the HWL.

The Heroes of Math Island game employs principles from computer science,  learning, emotion, and game theory.  The game is implemented on an XNA professional gaming platform (a runtime environment provided by Microsoft) that allows for implementation of rich game mechanics and uses heuristics and semiotics from the gaming field: achievements, avatars, characters, levels of difficulty and quests.  The game has a narrative and activities happening
on an island employing as a central site a castle where students get “quests”
from a king or queen.  Similar to Rodrigo et al. (2012), the Heroes of Math Island game has an agent (the monkey) that uses emotional expressions to respond to situations in the game.

This study will provide critical information about emotional design methodologies with a focus on exploring and understanding emotions during educational game play.  Understanding emotional responses in human-computer interaction is extremely timely and relevant for teaching and learning in digital environments.

Resarch questions:

  • What affective states are important with respect to student’s interaction with an educational game?
  • What affective states are elicited during the Heroes of Math Island game play?
  • What are students’ levels of interest and achievement in the mathematics content areas after gameplay?
  • What are the students’ subjective reactions with respect to Heroes of Math Island game and to the underline mathematical content?

The game has a mathematical content (students solve 3 activities: divisibility, prime numbers and de-composition); however the focus is on design of technology and on the affective interaction and response.

Experiments were conducted by me and three BCIT students who were knowledgeable with respect to this study and involved in the design and implementation of the game.


Research Questions

Questions I am investigating in my dissertation:

  1. How do girls, through their artifact making and designerly practices, story themselves and contribute to technology culture (i.e., what kinds of stories do girls make and tell about girlhood in-interaction-with/against technology)?
  2. What are the impacts and effects of adopting designerly roles (i.e., game designer, media producer, robotics engineer) in terms of developing girls’ ability, confidence, interest, and participation in technology?

Learning : : Thinkering : : Mattering @ 101 Technology Fun—
Girls Designing Games, Media, Robots, Selves & Culture

(working abstract, your feedback is most welcome)

Recent advances in digital media and technology have led to breakthroughs in communication, education, entertainment, health, and learning. Today’s girls, the most avid technology users of any generation, now have widespread access to the most ubiquitous productivity tools in human history. With unprecedented opportunities to live better lives and realize their fullest potential, it is an exciting time for girls to be alive! And yet, despite all the liberating possibilities, many girls are distancing themselves from technology fields, careers, symbolism, and ideologies. Academic and industry research from the past thirty years documents that females continue to be under-represented in technology-related studies and professions, especially the industries that design and develop new technological innovations. How might we empower girls with the confidence, literacies, and tools that are necessary to benefit from and fully participate in advancing our increasingly mediated and technologically dependent society?

My dissertation begins with the premise that engaging girls with hands-on, heads-on, hearts-on, and feet-on experiences as designers and researchers of technology can be personally and culturally transformative in pro-feminist, pro-social, and empowering ways, rather than simply reproducing existing gender and generational roles. 29 co-researchers (girls ages 9-13) and I work closely with UBC faculty, graduate students, and teacher candidates at 101 Technology Fun, a series of intensive research camps offering designerly learning experiences in gaming, media, and robotics for middle school girls. Utilizing creative and participatory approaches to data collection, including design thinking challenges, iLife diaries, and ME documentaries, my study examines: How do girls story themselves through their artifact making and designerly practices? How are diverse cultural constructions of technology adopted, rejected, and remade by girls? What are the impacts and effects of adopting designerly roles in terms of developing girls’ agency, capability, interest, and participation in technology? Analysis of co-researchers’ artifacts, designerly practices, and research reflections are integrated with theoretical and empirical understandings to contribute a working portrait of how contemporary girlhood is constructed in-interaction-with/against technology and stories. Highlighting the need for girls’ voices to be recognized and given influence in educational research, this study exposes some of the gendered risks and opportunities, generational barriers, technical ingenuity, and transformative learning that girls articulate and reflect upon as they design and share artifacts and stories. Findings call for increasing girls’ agency and capability to participate as the designers and innovators of technology such that they can experience or effect more equitable and sustainable technology futures.


De/Constructing + Re/learning Media

There was a child went forth every day
And the first object he looked upon and received
with wonder or pity or love or dread
that object he became…

And these become of him or her that peruses them now
(Walt Whitman, 1855)

Popular media plays a persuasive role in our everyday lives as we make sense of our identities and the media constructed world in and around us. Consider how much of your view of reality is based upon “pre-constructed” media messages that have attitudes, interpretations and conclusions already built in. How do mainstream media affect the ways you see yourself (and others)? How do media advertising convey (explicitly or implicitly) ideological messages about the nature of the “good life”, family values, friendship, citizenship, gender roles, sexual attitudes, body image, sustainability and consumption?

All media are constructions. Media do not simply reflect external reality, rather, they present carefully crafted constructions from which we negotiate meaning and build our picture of reality. It is no secret that we are highly manipulated, gendered, socialized and commercialized by the media— we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Understanding persuasive and ubiquitous media is vital for participating in our shared world(s), however we spend precious little time analyzing the influencing media messages that we are bombarded with each and every media-saturated day.

As today’s youth are exposed to more mediated messages in one day than their great grandparents were exposed to in an estimated year, how do we educate global citizens and future innovators to be confidently prepared for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life— and not merely conformists or voracious consumers?  True death equals a generation living by unquestioned rules and attitudes, an unthinking generation who produce more and more people who do the same…

Here are a few handpicked ads to deconstruct. Note: they reflect the zeitgeist of the early 1900’s and were not designed with irony or humor.

Douche with Lysol or you will be so utterly repulsive down there that your husband will lose all sexual interest in you and your marriage will fall apart and it will all be your smelly disgusting fault!

Cocaine was sold over the counter and commonly found in products like toothache drops, dandruff remedies and medicinal substances. See how happy your children will play together if you treat them tococaine candies!

And if your dear ones have a cough, cold or any other disease of the throat and lungs, do not worry as a good dose of heroin will save the day! From 1898 through to 1910, heroin was marketed as a cough suppressant by trusted companies like Bayer, alongside the company’s other new product, Aspirin.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrupcontained 65 mg of morphine per fluid ounce for teething children.

“More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarettes,” so of course you should too!

Dr. Batty’s Asthma Cigarettes claimed to provide temporary relief of everything from asthma to colds, canker sores and bad breath, although “not recommended for children under 6.”

Status of Females in IT

101 Technology Fun

101 Technology Fun
Design Research Camp for girls in grades 6 & 7
July 18-22; July 25-29

>> make robotic pets using Lego Mindstorms NXT and Pico Cricket
>> design computer games, websites and virtual worlds
>> be a technology co-researcher in a UBC study
>> edit and animate your own mini-movies

We welcome all girls in grades 6 or 7. Please note that space is very limited. Registration is complimentary. A nutritious lunch, snacks, and outdoor adventures will be provided daily. Location: UBC Education Building. Program: 9:00-3:30 (with supervision available until 5pm).


101 Technology Fun is part of the UBC Research Project: HOW WE LEARN (Technology Across the Lifespan). The program is made possible with the enthusiastic support of Graduate Students and Teacher Candidates in the Faculty of Education.

If you are interested in a volunteer position, whether it be instruction, curriculum design, photography, videography, or what have you, please contact PJ Rusnak. Thanks!

The Mind’s I

The Mind’s I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul is a radical exploration of mind/brain/body/soul in which editors Hofstadter & Dennett (1981) have arranged an enigmatic collection of provocative texts to problematize the nature of self:

  1. A Sense of Self
  2. Soul Searching
  3. From Hardware to Software
  4. Mind as Program
  5. Created Selves and Free Will
  6. The Inner Eye

“Where Am I” (chapter 13) is Dennett’s fantastical piece (reprinted from Brainstorms) recounting his highly dangerous and secret mission for the Dept. of Defense (in collaboration with NASA and Howard Hughes) to develop a STUD (Supersonic Tunneling Underground Devise). In short, Dennett’s assignment is to undergo an advanced surgical procedure: the radical separation of his brain from his body.

After the operation is deemed successful, a lightheaded Dennett gets really excited to take a good look at his brain – of course he is excited, wouldn’t you be?! Upon seeing his brain, floating in a mysterious bubbling fluid that looks like ginger-ale, Dennett wonders why his thoughts are originating from his body? Why is he staring at his brain-in-a-vat instead of believing that he is suspended in the effervescent fluid, being stared upon by his very own eyes? He tries and tries again to think himself into the sparkling vat, but to no avail. Riddled with confusion, he attempts to orient himself by giving names to things:

Yorick,” I said aloud to my brain, “you are my brain.  The rest of my body, seated in this chair, I dub ‘Hamlet.’”  So here we all are:  Yorick’s my brain, Hamlet’s my body, and I am Dennett. Now, where am I? And when I think “where am I?”, where’s that thought tokened?  Is it tokened in my brain, lounging about in the vat, or right here between my ears where it seems to be tokened?  Or nowhere?  Its temporal coordinates give me no trouble; must it not have spatial coordinates as well?

Of course, this story isn’t (and couldn’t) be true. Dennett’s philosophical fantasy seeks to shake-up our unquestioned assumptions about the mind/brain/body/self (particularly to provoke the narrow-minded, no-nonsense, scientific view of the human soul). Dennett’s philosophical truths of “underwhelming significance” serve to make the strange obvious and the obvious strange, revealing perplexities with absurdity, such that we may be jolted to see throught our conditioning and begin to rethink our assumptions. Where is Dennett? His brain (aka Yorick)? His body (aka Hamlet)? Or is there no Dennett? Or is Dennett wherever he thinks he is (i.e., his point of view is also the location of his self)? If the sense of location is but illusion, then perhaps so is the sense of self?

In questioning his “essential Dennettness”, Fortinbras (Dennett’s new body, after the expiration of Hamlet) routinely flips an intentionally unmarked Master Switch that allows him to switch from Yorick to Hubert (his newly cloned brain) or vice versa. Every time he flips the switch, nothing happens. Dennett doesn’t have any idea where his self is. But he continues to flip in the switch, longing for the moment of understanding, and then, all of sudden:

“THANK GOD!  I THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER FLIP THAT SWITCH! You can’t imagine how horrible it’s been these last two weeks — but now you know; it’s your turn in purgatory.  How I’ve longed for this moment!  You see…

I’m not one to spoil a good story, so you’ll have to find the answer for yourself in Dennett’s text: Where Am I?

10 Paradoxes of Technology

Andrew Feenberg tells that most of our ideas about technology are… wrong!

He questions the counter-intuitive nature of what we know about technology and points out that paradox may very well be intrinsic to technology. He distinguishes ten technological paradoxes, in the hopes they will cease being paradoxical and become the new common sense. Paradoxically, however, when we come to the crossroads of “true and false” understandings of technology, we have to “go both ways” so we are better equipped to control the consequences of our actions as human powers increase through technology.

Here are some of my notes and reflections on Dr. Feenberg’s talk:

1. Paradox of the parts and the whole

We fail to realize the dependence of the parts upon the complex whole to which they belong. To put it another way, technology does not have meaning without relationships, environment and context. To put it yet another way, consider Heidegger’s puzzling question whether birds fly because they have wings or have wings because they fly? Humans can no more abandon technological development than birds can abandon flight.

2. Paradox of the obvious

What is most obvious about technology is also what is most hidden. For example, fish do not know they are wet as they are so perfectly adapted for the niche environment they exist in; neither do humans think much about the air we breathe; neither do we think very carefully about the technologies we take for granted. When we watch a movie, we lose sight of the screen as a screen, just as we have many experiences of technology in which the obvious withdraws from view.

3. Paradox of the origin

Behind everything technological there is a forgotten history. Technologies seem to be disconnected from their past as they appear self-sufficient in their everyday functioning. We have little idea where technologies come from, how they developed, what decisions were made to determine unique features, etc. Consider the lighted exit signs in a theatre: we see the glowing letters, but we are blind to the story behind their origin.

4. Paradox of the frame

Efficiency does not explain success; success explains efficiency. While all technologies must be more or less efficient, what explains why specific technologies are present in our milieu technique (chosen from among many possible alternatives)?

5. Paradox of action

Feenberg applies the Newtonian reciprocity of action and reaction to human/technology behaviour to find that: in acting, we become the object of action. This is the illusion of technique that blinds us to three paradoxes of technical action: 1) causal side effects of technology; 2) changes in the meaning of our worlds; and 3) transformation of our identities.

6. Paradox of the means

The means are already the end. Obviously means and ends are related, but Feenberg’s point is that they are “one and the same” over a wide range of technologies. Possession of the means is an end in itself because identity is at stake in human relations to technology: the technologies we own symbolize the kind of people we are and social status is in part determined by the technologies we use.

7. Paradox of complexity

Simplification complicates! As technology is already decontextualized (separate from its natural connections and conditions), recontextualization is not always successful. Awareness of context is a matter of concern as there are all-too-many examples where the decontextualizing and recontextualizing processes of technical objects result in unexpected problems. Technologies suitably adapted to one world may consequentially disrupt another world.

8. Paradox of value and fact

While it may appear that technical knowledge (fact, truth) and everyday experience (values, desires) interact separately, Feenberg finds them to be complimentary. Values are not opposite of fact: values are the facts of the future. This overall dynamic of technological value and fact completes the paradox of action: “what goes around comes around”.

9. Paradox of democracy

Society and technology are co-constituted in an “entangled hierarchy”. Society and technology cannot be understood in isolation from each other because neither has a stable identity nor separate form. Consider Escher’s self-drawing hands (where each hand is drawing the other).

10. Paradox of conquest

Feenberg’s paradox of conquest can be succinctly stated by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “the victor belongs to the spoils”. Technologies enable society to conquer, exploit and oppress nature (and other beings), but paradoxically, these actions often come back to haunt a society despoiled by its own violent assault (pollution, environmental toxins, etc.)

Now is the time for radical change in our understanding of technology!

View Dr. Feenberg’s talk online: