Computational Literacies Lab

All assignments are due by midnight the evening before class. For example, if an assignment is listed as due on Week 3, it is due by Monday night of week 3.


Prepare an 8-minute presentation of your project with a working prototype to present to an invited panel of outside experts. The panel will discuss and critique your project, providing feedback you can use to refine your project. One submission per group.


{{< info >}} More details on this assignment will be released as we get closer. {{< /info >}} Prepare a working prototype of your educational technology to be displayed at the Computational Futures Expo. More details coming.

Conference Paper

Your culminating writing assignment for the course is a short paper (~4 pages, depending on conference requirements) suitable for submission to an academic conference such as ISLS Annual Meeting, Interaction Design and Children, ACM SIGCSE, ACM CHI, ISTE, CSTA, MozFest, the Web Conference, Fablearn, or ITiCSE. Here is a list of more potentially-relevant conferences. You may also propose a different venue so long as you are writing for some authentic audience. The criteria for your final paper are defined by that venue's submission requirements. Typically, papers of the expected length will be submitted as Notes, Short Papers, Work-in-Progress Papers, or Posters.

Here are some examples. Many are student final projects from Beyond Bits and Atoms, a course Dr. Proctor co-taught with his advisor, Dr. Paulo Blikstein, at Stanford and at Columbia Teachers College.

  • {{< pubref proctor_2017_interactive >}}
  • {{< pubref campos_2017_conference >}}
  • {{< pubref kralicek_2018_inside >}}
  • {{< pubref mongkhonvanit_2018_testudinata >}}
  • {{< pubref boles_2018_manipul8 >}}

Publishing your research

You will prepare a paper you could submit to a conference, but there is no requirement that you actually do so. If you would like to submit your work to the conference, keep in mind the following:

  • Discuss your plans with Dr. Proctor well in advance. Don't underestimate how much work goes into preparing an academic publication.
  • Generalizable research involving human subjects must be conducted within the scope of an IRB protocol. Therefore, you must either (a) conduct a project which is part of an ongoing research project with an existing IRB protocol; (b) submit an IRB protocol for your project (beyond the scope of this course; requires substantial advance planning) or (c) focus your paper on the technology you have designed, not on interactions with its users.
  • In general, it does not work well to enter the class with a fixed idea for your final project and it is unfair to your group to insist on a particular project because of external constraints. As always, open, early communication with your group is essential.
  • Attending premier conferences is expensive but also potentially important for careers in academia or in industry research. There are many potential sources of funding for conference participation; start planning early.
  • Discuss with your group how authorship credit will be assigned.

Conceptual Prototype

Create a conceptual prototype illustrating the proposed functionality of your tool. Drawing on your literature review and your fieldnotes, prepare slides for a pitch which argues why your learning goal might be valuable to your target users and how your design might help users achieve the learning goal. These will be presented and discussed in class.


This assignment has two deliverables: the conceptual prototype and your pitch deck (slides). Your conceptual prototype should be a physical object or a visual (potentially-interactive) document. The most important function of your conceptual prototype is to communicate intended usage, highlighting affordances. Formats which can work well include:

  • wireframe diagrams (Balsamiq; Sketch; or low-fi tools like paper and sharpie work well too) storyboards
  • scripts (perhaps an interactive story via Unfold Studio?)
  • card-flipping demo
  • low-fi physical prototype (e.g. made from cardboard, buttons drawn on, wizard-of-oz narration)

The structure of your pitch should roughly follow this outline:

  • Need: What kind of learning are you after? Why is it important?
  • Problem: Why isn’t this kind of learning happening now? While part of the answer might be practical (e.g. it’s too expensive), part of the answer should also be theoretical–something we haven’t yet figured out about learning. The language of design-based research will help you justfy why building something is a good way to find answers to the problem.
  • Solution: What kind of solution are you aiming for? Use your conceptual prototype to illustrate your idea. Draw on analysis of your fieldnotes for initial evidence that it might work. Don’t present false confidence: your conceptual prototype is the beginning of a design process, not the end. It’s helpful to hear about the problems you stll need to figure out, or even fundamental uncertainties about the approach.


  • As always, you are invited, even somewhat expected to schedule time to discuss your project with Dr. Proctor.
  • See the examples presented in class during [Week 4]({{< ref "courses/studio/schedule/04/" >}}).

Design Iteration

{{< info >}} Considering the difficulties introduced by the pandemic, this assignment has an optional modification: Instead of conducting additional user research, you may submit evidence of your own design iteration, as discussed in class. {{</ info >}}

This assignemnt has three components:

  • Design questions: What 2-5 questions are most crucial to the success of your project?
  • Design research: Engage with someone else--close to your target group if possible--in a procedure which may help you answer your questions. Possible formats include think-alouds, wizard-of-oz prototyping, artifact-based interview.
  • Design iteration: Reflect on how your research informed your questions and iterate your design based on what you learned. This may take the form of writing, sketches, updates to your conceptual prototype.

What you submit should be sufficiently organized that it can make sense to someone besides yourself, but there is no pressure to make it presentable. Think of what you submit as what you might show collaborators in the course of your work.

Pilot Study

Guided by a design-based research conjecture (Sandoval, 2014), conduct a small pilot study of your tool with users (ideally from your target population, otherwise other users, minimum three, are fine), collecting quantitative and qualitative data. Think of this assignment as a brief introduction to working with learning analytics, and as a sketch of possible future research you might conduct after this course is over.


Prepare a brief report summarizing your methods, results, and analysis. A full report would have a substantial background section grounding your research questions, but you may omit that here. The pilot study will be more of a white paper for an internal audience of this class. The entire pilot study should be no more than three pages, and two pages may be quite sufficient.

Your report should have the following structure:

  • Introduction: A short paragraph positioning the study in broader context. The introduction should explain the project you're working on
  • Background: In bullet points, list the big ideas your project is exploring. End by listing your research questions, one design question and one theory question.
  • Methods: Explain the context of the study, including where you conducted it and with whom. No need to inflate this; if you met with three people on Zoom for 10 minutes each, say so. Explain how you collected your data, and your plans for analyzing it. You are required to have one qualitative and one qualitative data source.
  • Results: Present a summary of the data you collected, connecting it to your research questions.
  • Discussion: In one or two paragraphs, reflect on what you learned about your reserach questions, your project, and through conducting this research.

Note: Your final paper for the course should not be about this pilot study: there isn't time after the pilot study to include a thoughtful analysis and write-up. Instead, let the pilot study (and particularly your planning for it) help clarify your theoretical and design ideas, and inspire plans for the future.


  1. Define your research questions using Sandoval's {{< pr sandoval_2014_conjecture >}} conjecture mapping framework. You should have at least one design question and one theory question.
  2. Describe your methodology, planning backwards from your research questions. What kind of data could help you answer your research questions? What kind of environment, data collection, and analysis could help produce such data?
  3. Conduct a small-scale pilot study and report the results.