I am interested in designing, developing, deploying, and studying the use of technologies for empowerment. “Empowerment” is a loaded word. For me, it encompasses a collaborative endeavor of sharing and hearing voices of concerned stakeholders and thereby acting upon it to support stakeholders to build “power-to” (do). While many of my projects have not been successful by my own measures, they have all been enthralling learning experiences. Here, I discuss two of my current projects that are close to my aspirations of working with technologies for empowerment.

I consider education a vital means of empowerment. The question that I want to explore is: “How can we improve the interaction between children and learning applications such that the children from diverse background are well prepared for future learning?” 

To this end, I am involved in the Chem+C project where we have developed a curriculum containing four units and accompanying multi-agent simulation activities that combine Chemistry with Computational Thinking for 8th-grade science class. Our approach involves the integration of STEM education with computing through structured argumentation. This leads to a synergetic opportunity to improve upon students’ STEM knowledge, computational thinking, and reason-based argumentation skills. The multi-agent simulations can be accessed here. Our iterative design-based-research approach is described in this paper.

chem_computationComputing has permeated many disciplines and has transformed the way we work. Scientists and other practitioners rely heavily on computer programs to solve their problems. Moreover, computational thinking is likely to become a basic literacy skill like reading and writing. However, this transformation in scientific practice is yet to be reflected in the school curriculum. The existing curriculum in most of the places are already overloaded with coursework and have stringent standards to follow. Advocating for additional computer science classes may be hard to implement especially in schools that are already low in resources. Our findings from one of the studies present evidence that providing a carefully-designed, flexible curriculum that integrates science with computational thinking provides an opportunity to promote computational thinking while deepening science learning in a low-resource setting.

My other on-going project involves working with organizations dedicated to preventing sex-trafficking and helping survivors in Nepal. I recently concluded an initial investigation where I conducted an ethnography study of the two organizations followed by participatory design sessions. The ethnography work included interviewing staff members and survivors, observing key players at work through shadowing and conducting group discussions with survivors living in rehabilitation homes. I also designed and deployed a design-game focusing on the ludic aspects of the game to further elicit survivors’ values. Both the organizations are inspirational in their work and we are in the process of further studying and locating opportunities for making contributions.

  • Gautam, A., Wall Bortz, W., Tatar, D. (2017). Case for Integrating Computational Thinking and Science in a Low-Resource Setting. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development ICTD. ACM. [PDF]
  • Gautam, A., Vishwasrao, S., Servant, F. (2017). An empirical study of activity, popularity, size, testing, and stability in continuous integration. In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Mining Software Repositories (pp. 495-498). IEEE Press. [PDF]
  • Gautam, A., Wall Bortz, W., Tatar, D. Lipscomb, K., Rivale, S., Orsino, C. and Etzkorn, F. (2017). Finding Abstraction-Comprehension Balance: A Study of Model-Based Integrated Science and Computational Thinking Application. American Educational Research Association (AERA). San Antonio, Texas. [PDF]
  • Gautam, A., Williams, D., Terry, K., Robinson, K., & Newbill, P. (2018). Mirror Worlds: Examining the Affordances of a Next Generation Immersive Learning Environment. TechTrends, 1-7. [PDF]