About

What does the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab do?

Our mission is to radically change how children learn science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in schools. But perhaps counter-intuitively, our approach is to make school STEM more similar to the real science and engineering practiced by professionals. Everything we develop — from low-cost robotics kits and science curricula to full-blown digital fabrication labs — is in support of making advanced STEM practices available to children, and of project-based, student-centered, constructionist learning. Unlike traditional science and math education, our focus is on making STEM learning more connected to student’s intellectual passions and interests, to their culture, and to local knowledge about how to build and make things. We want students to learn science and engineering by creating inventions to solve real-world problems, and by designing scientific experiments to examine problems they care about.

However, what makes the TLTL unique is that we combine this vision with rigorous research and careful implementation in real school systems. For example, to realize our vision around Maker Education and project-based learning we had to create an entire new field of research, Multimodal Learning Analytics, which uses sophisticated sensors and machine learning to characterize how people learn in open-ended environments. And to bring our vision to the real world, we created FabLearn, a community-building and implementation program that is taking research-based Maker Education to 22 countries around the world.

Today, the TLTL has projects, partners, fellows, and labs in all five continents, impacting thousands of students worldwide. We have also impacted research with more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles, 10 books chapters, 7 edited books, and about 150 conference papers and presentations. We did the very first studies on Maker Education and Multimodal Learning Analytics, and created new approaches to Science Education such as Bifocal Modeling and low-cost cloud-based labs (BioLab). We also design many different learning tools, such as the GoGo Board, Unfold Studio, Google Bloks, LightUp, and many others.

Innovation and collaborative problem-solving are core skills for the 21st century. Traditional education has not been optimal for teaching those skills. Enabling students to build things and solve real problems brings the classroom culture into line with real-world science and engineering, and gives student a clear sense of how learning can be transformative.

TLTL Firsts

  • First open source robotics platform in the world (GoGo Board)
  • First Makerspace at a school in the world in 2010 (at the MPEI 1502 School in Moscow)
  • First Makerspace at a school in the US in 2011 (at the Castilleja School, in Palo Alto, CA)
  • Together with then-graduate students Marcelo Worsley and Bertrand Schneider, the TLTL pioneered the field of Multimodal Learning Analytics (MMLA), one of the first applications of AI and Machine Learning for examining complex learning.
  • Most cited publication on Maker Education (“The Democratization of Invention“)
  • First paper using automated tools to research computer programming expertise.
  • Bifocal Modeling was the first framework to mix real time data and computer simulations in real time for Science Education

TLTL Statistics

  • About 4000 citations on Google Scholar.
  • 32 Journal publications, 10 books chapters, 7 edited books, about 150 conference papers and presentations.
  • 14 million dollars in grants over the last decade, 8 NSF grants, 31 total grants.
  • 8 doctoral students
  • 100+ MA students

About Lab Director Paulo Blikstein

Lab founder and director Paulo Blikstein is an Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, since 2018. From 2008-2018 he was on the faculty of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and (by courtesy) Computer Science Department. He is also the founder and former director of the Lemann Center for Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Brazil, a 10-year effort to foster innovation in public schools in Brazil. In July 2011, Blikstein was the recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award, in recognition of his work to innovate STEM education, and in 2016 he was awarded the Jan Hawkins Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association. Blikstein holds two patents and is co-inventor of the GoGo Board, the first open-source educational robotics platform in the world, and of Google Bloks, a tangile programming platform co-developed with Google and IDEO, amongst many other learning technologies.

For the past decade, beginning as a Masters’ student and then visiting scholar at Seymour Papert’s and David Cavallo’s group the MIT Media Lab, Blikstein has worked to bring new technologies and learning approaches to low-income schools in developing countries such as Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, Senegal and Costa Rica. Blikstein completed his PhD. at the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling at the School of Education at Northwestern University (Chicago), advised by Prof. Uri Wilenky, the inventor of NetLogo. A metallurgical engineering by training, Paulo also holds a MSc. in Digital Systems Engineering, both from the University of São Paulo, Brazil.