My Final Report


I first heard of CRA's Distributed Mentorship Project from one of my undergraduate advisors, Professor Janice Cuny, University of Oregon - Computer Science. Professor Cuny encouraged me to apply for a placement in the program, and has been very supportive throughout. When I first heard I was selected, I was very happy, when I later found out I was going to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I was ecstatic, then nervous. I had never been to the Southeast, I had never been away from all my creature comforts for longer than a month, but mostly I had no idea what was expected of me. Upon arrival, after meeting my advisor and the grad students I would be working with, most of my fears were quelled. My mentorship experience was fulfilling, educational, and definitely qualifies for good resume material.

Project Overview

My mentor, Janet Kolodner, is a professor at Georgia Tech, College of Computing. Her area of research is in Education Technology. She currently heads a group of graduate students and research scientists that make up the Learning By Design group. Having a strong background in Cognitive Science, Learning Science, and Artificial Intelligence she focuses mainly on issues regarding problem solving, memory, and learning. By clicking on her name above, you can read about her work in much greater detail.

During my stay at Georgia Tech, I worked most closely with PhD candidate, Kristin Kaster Lamberty on her Digital Quilt Design Project (DigiQuilt). DigiQuilt is an interactive software program designed to teach elementary level students math through the use of art, and art through math. More specifically the program models the construction of a quilt using proportionally sized shapes (squares, triangles, and rectangles) that the learner uses to solve various fraction challenges. For example the learner is asked to construct a quilt consisting of ¼ green patches, ¼ blue patches, and ½ red patches. The learner can then use DigiQuilt to accomplish the task and in the process, learn about the way shapes fit together and the relation of fractions. At the same time the learner can also exercise his or her artistic abilities while designing the quilt, thus giving the learner the ability to share their work with family and peers.

This is a screen shot of the current version of DigiQuilt. DigiQuilt is still very much in the developing stages. I am sure there will be many interface and design changes before the finish product is published.

Besides working on the DigiQuilt with Kristin, I spent a large amount of my time reading various papers and articles concerning education technology. These papers are listed on my readings page. I learned a lot from the papers that I read. The majority of them focused on the way we learn and the way we learn to learn. Some of the papers were a bit over my head since I have never taking a course in cognitive science course or in psychology, but I understood most of them. Other papers I read focused on various designs for learning structure currently researched. I was keenly interested in a project developed by University of Michigan called, Kids as Global Scientists not really for the curriculum itself, but the way in which it is taught. The program appears to successfully mold kids in to critical thinkers, i.e. scientists. Any program that can teach kids not only content but learning skills they can then transfer to other areas of study seems to be most effective to encourage a love of learning.


At times through out my mentorship, I felt that I was more in the way then actually contributing although I have been told by both Janet and Kristin that this was no so. I designed and built three separate tools for the DigiQuilt project. Each of the sets contained a various number of options in how the learner could use the tools.

The first tool I created was a color changer tool. With the color changer the learner can select from the quilt patches color palette an 'old' color and a 'new' color. The color patches are placed in to their appropriate boxes, and then the user can chose to 'swap' the colors or just 'change' from all the old colors to the new colors. This tool changes all instances of the colors in the current quilt design. This tool was to better promote the understanding of fractional amounts. During the original testing phase of the project, Kristen found that the learners had a difficult time identifying that two identical quilt patterns with distinct color combinations were actually identical. This tool allows the learners to quickly change or swap the colors in the design and maintain the same pattern. From an artistic perspective, it allows the learners to experiment with a variety of colors before choosing a color combination they are happy with and want to 'publish' for display.

The second tool created was one to allow for the division of the Quilt work area, so called the BlockWorkArea. The divisor tool drew thick black lines across the BlockWorkArea and divided the quilt patch up into various partitions. I made thirteen different ways to divide the BlockWorkArea: In half, quarters, eighths, and hundredths in all directions,horizontally, vertically and diagonally. These partitions would serve as scaffolds for beginner learners, a guide to demonstrate the most simple of possibilities for filling fractional amounts of color in the quilt. There was no artistic reason for this tool, it was purely a scaffold.

The third tool is not terribly exciting but provides the learner with the ability to learn about more complicated fractions than divisions of 2. This tool was the size selector tool. The tool gives the learner four choices of Quilt size to work with. They can create a 4-patch quilt, a 9-patch, 16-patch, or 25-patch quilt. For the less advance learners, starting with a 4-patch quilt allows for an uncomplicated visual for learning about 1/4 and the equality of 2/4 and 1/2. For the more advanced learner the 9-patch and 25-patch quilts allow for more complicated fractions, and the 25-patch quilt especially allows for more interesting and creative artistic creations.

I didn't have time to add the functionality that I wanted to add to the size selector. There has to be a dialogue box that asks the learner if they really want to change the size of their quilt, as they old design will disappear before the new size is drawn. The program should ask if they want to save their current creation before changing sizes. I didn't have time to learn about dealing with keyboard I/O in Squeak.

Transfer of Learning

I learned so much during my mentorship at Georgia Tech through reading, programming, and working in person with the learners involved in testing the LBD materials. According to all the cognitive scientists I've been reading, through the reiterative exposure and hands on experience I've been getting in the classrooms, I should be able to take much of what I've learned and apply it to my own learning and studies. Come September when I start my last year at the University of Oregon, I will be working on my undergraduate thesis with my advisor, Jan Cuny. The project I'm working on is a collaborative project between the Computational Science and the Geology Sciences departments. The Geology professors want the CompSci folks to create classroom software tools for themselves and their students for use in teaching about an archeology dig going on in Oman. I am sure that much of what I learned during my mentorship about interfaces and design of educational software for science will transfer over to my thesis project at home.


My mentorship project has been very fulfilling and educational. I have learned much about the research process with regards to graduate studies and beyond. I have been exposed to many sides of computer science that I never knew existed and have developed an interest in education that may lead to a future career in graduate school. I am still uncertain if graduate studies are in my future, at this point I have too many interests and abilities to explore them. I would like to learn more about education technology, I am very interested in education and finding ways to combine my intellectual pursuits would be most satisfying.