Cultivating Inclusive Ecologies of Learning through Making and Gaming: Interrogating Culturally-Sustaining Pedagogical Approaches and Technology-specific Material Affordances for Learning and Diverse Engagement
Gabriela Richard

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Pennsylvania State University

Primary Discipline

Despite influential theories and designs, research and practice continues to face significant questions around key crucial relationships between the scale of influence of informal or interest-driven technology activities to lifelong pursuits, and the complexities involved in scaffolding culturally-sustaining, equitable and accessible STEM learning in informal making and gaming contexts. For instance, youth-supportive content creation communities, such as Scratch, have become increasing critiqued for agnostic design, while commercial content creation platforms that have traditionally operated from content agnostic positions have become increasingly leveraged for formal and informal education. The proposed research for this project will integrate this collective body of work to interrogate how culturally-situated tools and culturally-responsive practices are (or are not) designed within wide-reaching, informal learning ecologies around making and gaming, how learners respond to those designs, and how we can bring effective applications from more formally-influenced environments to these naturalistic, interest-driven ones. Richard will utilize naturalistic observational techniques, mixed methods and iterative design-based research techniques to (1) better understand the ways that learners integrate playing and making in their naturalistic learning ecologies, by utilizing livestreaming as a participatory learning and teaching tool; (2) interrogate the affordances and limitations for culturally-sustaining practices in informal learning, including in naturalistic learning ecologies; and (3) explore alternative models for fostering inclusivity by utilizing and reframing implicit values in digital media and content creation tools. Results will provide groundwork for scalable interventions aimed at designing informal learning environments and systems for socioculturally diverse and prosocially supportive computational participation and STEM pathways.
About Gabriela Richard
Gabriela T. Richard is a researcher, designer and educator of learning technologies, media, games and play. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Learning, Design and Technology program at Penn State, where she conducts research on the ways that diverse youth and adults engage in learning, collaboration, identity formation, and self-efficacy with gaming, livestreaming, makerspaces and computing. Prior to getting her doctoral degree, she worked as an instructional designer and an interactive media developer, as well as created, spearheaded and taught early maker and design education efforts (then termed “physical computing”) in the New York City public schools with underserved students and teachers. In particular, she explores ways that technologies can be culturally-situated and inclusive and employs intersectionality as a frame for understanding complex sociocultural relationships across gender, race/ethnicity, culture, sexuality and dis/ability in media and design. She has written extensively about video games, diversity and inclusive design, and co-edited the third book in an influential series on gender and gaming, Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat: Intersectional perspectives and inclusive designs in gaming (ETC/CMU Press). She has also authored several papers on equitable and inclusive learning with culturally-situated and designed technologies in coding, design, making and informal computing education, often taking a learner-centered perspective and approach. She is the recipient of multiple awards, fellowships and grants from organizations including the National Science Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State and the American Educational Research Association.

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