Discovery Museum 2022 Speaker Series: Marina Umaschi Bers

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Thursday September 22

7:00 PM  –  8:30 PM


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Join the conversation at the Discovery Museum 2022 Speaker Series featuring

Marina Umaschi Bers, PhD

Professor, Boston College
Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Secondary Appointment, Computer Science Department

Playgrounds vs. Playpens: Coding, Computational Thinking, and Robotics in Early Childhood

Thursday, September 22, 2022
7:00 – 8:30 PM ET

Presented virtually via Zoom webinar

In this talk, Dr. Bers will present an overview of her interdisciplinary DevTech research program by using the metaphor of playgrounds vs. playpens to understand the role of technology in children’s lives. Playgrounds are designed to promote exploration, discovery, and the development of motor and social skills. In contrast, playpens corral children into a safe, confined space. Although they are mostly risk-free, there is little imaginative play and problem-solving. This presentation will use the playpen/playground metaphor to explore the role of coding, robotics and computational thinking for young children. Dr. Bers will provide examples of work with young children and teachers all over the world, involving the two environments she created: the free Scratch Jr programming language and the KIBO robotic kit. The talk will cover ideas from her recent book “Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming” in which she argues that coding should be taught not only as a technical skill but as a new literacy — a new way for children to express themselves and engage with the world and others.

About the speaker:

Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers is the Augustus Long Professor of Education at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College. She is also affiliated with the Computer Science Department and the Schiller Institute for Science and Society. She is the director of the interdisciplinary Developmental Technologies (DevTech) research group, which she started in 2001, when she was a professor at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development.   Her research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote young children’s positive development. She is a pioneer in the field of early childhood technology with projects of national and international visibility. Dr. Bers is the co-creator of the free ScratchJr programming language, used by over 30 million children all over the world, and the creator of the KIBO robotic kit, which helps children learn how to code in a playful way without screens or keyboards, using wooden blocks. She is author of five books on the topic of education, new technologies and children. Her newest book “Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming” was published in March 2022 by The MIT Press.

After completing your registration, you should receive a confirmation email with the Zoom link. If you do not receive that email, please contact Lynn Protasowicki at so that we may help you with your registration. 

Discovery Museum Speaker Series events are free and open to the public.

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