Florence R. Sullivan, Ph.D.

Research Projects


EDUC 597S - Service Learning and Teaching with Computational Media

Course Description: This course takes a generative justice approach to learning and teaching with computational media. Through coursework, students prepare to work with youth in Holyoke in an after school computer club. In this class, students will work to understand their own positionality vis-a-vis the US educational system. They will become knowledgeable about the impediments to meaningful involvement in computing for women and students of color in the US, and they will become involved in addressing this issue through helping to lead an after school program devoted to computer programming for Latina, middle-school aged girls in Holyoke, MA. To help prepare for working with Latinas in Holyoke, students will engage in the study of racial identity (Black, White, Latina, Native American, and Asian) as well as learn more about Holyoke as an industrial center in the Northeast, the subsequent decline of manufacturing in the USA and the experience of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the USA.

In addition to the sociological foundations of the class, students will learn how to program using Scratch, Culturally Situated Design Tools and Arduino technology. And they will engage in readings related to the development of computational thinking abilities for individuals and about how to create engaging learning environments, featuring computational media, for youth.

Finally, and most importantly, students in this class will provide an after school computer programming course to middle school aged girls at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) in Holyoke, MA. The course will meet face-to-face at the MGHPCC. Transportation from the UMass campus to the MGHPCC will be provided through the five colleges service learning office. UMass students will begin the first week of class learning the curriculum they will help the Girls, Inc students learn later in the semester. Therefore, learning in the course will proceed along two lines. Students will engage in readings and discussions related to the educational context in the US vis-a-vis computer science and they will learn how to program using educational software created to teach programming to children.

EDUC 603 - Computer Mediated Communication

Course Description: Computer-mediated communication is very much a protean technological development of immense complexity and scope, one that will continue to disclose significant emerging characteristics for several decades. Digital networks are global and they greatly diminish the significance of distance and of time. Yet, people remain embodied in and live in the here and now. Communications' innovations rarely eradicate their predecessors; rather they incorporate them into a new mixture of traditional and innovative practice. We will inquire into the mixture that is emerging and its social, political and educational consequences by studying how information and communications technologies are likely to strengthen and to weaken human communication and learning. This course will analyze characteristics of computer mediated communication systems such as discussion boards, blogs, chat, and multi-user virtual environments.

EDUC 692K - Foundations and Theories of Learning

Course Description: This is a survey course of the major theories of human learning and development as they have been created over the last 125 years from three philosophical perspectives: experiential learning (pragmatism), constructivism (structuralism), and the socio-cultural approach (including situated learning). The course is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the primary learning theories currently ascribed to by professional educators and educational researchers, as well as a general understanding of the intellectual history of these theories. As such, the course presents readings from the foremost Western educational philosophers and researchers of the 20th century, including John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky and Jean Lave.

EDUC 693B - MSLT Research

Course Description: The purpose of this course is to support graduate students as they move forward in their research and scholarly work in science and mathematics education and learning technology. One intent of the course is to encourage the development of a community of learners and scholars who will continue to support each other throughout the doctoral program and into professional lives. Students will collectively engineer the course to address scaffolds identified with potential to further studentsí scholarly writing and research needs.

EDUC 704 - Issues of Gender in Science and Science Education

Course Description:This course is designed to address issues of gender as they relate to the full and legitimate participation of all individuals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activity--education, careers, and daily practice. Participants in this course will examine the influence of societal beliefs and practices on the historical and on-going roles and activity of females in STEM and STEM education. Participants will critically examine current literature and research that describes the structures, policies, and practices in STEM and STEM education that support, limit, and prohibit females' legitimate participation. Included in course readings, activities, and discussions will be an exploration and examination of the kinds of instructional approaches, curriculum materials, school structures, and educational practices that are effective, equitable, inclusive, and participatory for all students and those that are not. This course will use a "multi-centered" perspective--one that recognizes the intersection and relationships between gender, race, ethnicity, and class.

EDUC 737 - Educational Media Theory

Course Description:In this course, educational media is taken to be any of the multiple modes of representation that may be used in meaning making (text, video, audio, images, gestures). We will focus on the study of learning with media from two separate, but related, theoretical lenses: socio-cultural learning theory and social semiotics. Both of these approaches are semiotic in nature. Semiotics is the study of signs in communication and meaning making. Socio-cultural learning theory (based on the work of both Vygotsky and Bakhtin) emphasizes the importance of culturally based and historically developed tools and signs in learning, thereby implicating the primacy of the social in learning. Social semiotics focuses on the social context in which signs and symbols are deployed as central to the process of interpretation and meaning making. While both of these theoretical approaches are semiotic in nature, the socio-cultural approach has a strong focus on the importance of language to meaning making, whereas social semiotics attempts to understand the totality of communicative practices in meaning making (including speech, gestures, gaze, positioning of bodies in space, etc.). This latter approach focuses on multimodal expression, multimodal learning and, by extension multiliteracies.