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Betsy DiSalvo is an Assistant Professor in the School of Interactive and founder of the Learning Ecologies Lab. Her research engages in the study of informal learning and the impact of cultural values on technology use and production. DiSalvo also develops installation and socially engaged art, frequently exploring issues around food and domestic technologies.
Her work has included the development of games such as the Click! Urban Adventure game that encouraged middle school females interest in technology and science, and casual games to build interest in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Her project, the Glitch Game Testers, leveraged young African American males passion for gaming into an interest in computer science through authentic work and learning experiences.
Currently, the Learning Ecologies Lab is exploring parents’ use of technology for informal learning. In its first stages, this research is developing an understanding of how and why parents use or don’t choose to use computers, mobile devices, and other technology for learning. We are finding differences in patterns of use based upon gender, education level and income level. Future work included design research using participatory design methods to create parent portals that encourage the use of informal learning across socio-economic divides.
The Learning Ecologies Lab is also developing a community lab for computational learning in the Westside of Atlanta. The Westside neighborhoods have an impoverished educational landscape for K-12 students, yet border Georgia Tech and other higher education institutions. The community lab will consist of a computer services youth co-operative, where high school students will be trained to upgrade and fix donated surplus computer from local institution and companies, sell them in their neighborhood, and offer ongoing service and support to their customers. Exploratory computer science classes and research on learning motivation and support will be explored with in the context of the co-op.
As an artists and researcher DiSalvo is working on documenting the participation in her most recent artist residency at the Walker Art Center. The informal networks developed through participatory art practices are regarded as having positive cultural and learning ripples through social networks. This project, The Kitchen Lab, has been contacting the participant who came to the table in developing it and tracing their connections to each other and other community members in the Twin Cities.