Psychology 101: Informal Learning and Technology

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/developed by Dr. Eugene Matusov & Dr. Kevin Crowley/

Psychology 101: Informal Learning and Technology
-- Fall 1996 --

Class Schedule

TIME OF CLASS: Mondays, Wednesdays 7:00-8:45 p.m. PLACE: Nat Sci Annex Room 102
TIME OF PRACTICUM: Group I -- Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:15-5:30 p.m.; Group II - Wednesdays and Fridays, 3:15-5:30 p.m. PLACE: Barrios Unidos (313 Front Street [nearby Laurel street]; bus stop "Bus Depo")

First class meeting: September 30 (Mon) Last class meeting: December 4 (Wed)

Instructor will be out of town for a conference: November 6 (Wed) -- guest speaker will be announced.

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Info about Instructor, Teaching Assistants, & Office Hours

INSTRUCTOR: Eugene Matusov, Ph. D. (postdoctoral fellow in psychology)
For more info about the Instructor see Eugene Matusov's Home Web Page
Office: Soc. Sci. II, Room#305 Phone: x5180 e-mail:
Office hours:11:00AM -- noon, Tuesdays

TEACHING ASSISTANT: Pablo Chavajay, M.S. (graduate student in psychology)
Office: Soc. Sci. II, Room#419 e-mail:
Office hours: 2-3 pm, Mondays

TEACHING ASSISTANT: Ed Lopez, M.S. (graduate student in psychology)
Office: Soc. Sci. II, Room#201 e-mail:
Office hours: 12-1 pm, Mondays

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Overview: The core 5 questions
In this seminar, we will draw upon psychological theory, empirical research, field experience, writing field notes, and students' own beliefs about learning to explore different modes and models of child development. Attached to the course is a required 2-unit practicum where students work with children in an informal computer-learning lab at Barrios Unidos, a local community-based program for Spanish/English bilingual youth. The readings and projects of the seminar, resulting in writing two final papers, are designed to facilitate the integration of these experiences with academic knowledge. We expect that the format of class discussions will vary and may involve the entire class, Web site, small group, and peers. Discussion of readings will be based on small group discussions because we do not expect each student to read all assigned papers -- brief sharing of readings in small groups is critical for the class.

The seminar is organized around five core questions:

1. How do we know that children are learning?
2. What could children learn from computers and computers games?
3. What's the difference between school-based learning and everyday learning?
4. What's the difference between learning alone and learning as part of a cultural community of practice?
5. What's the best environment to promote learning?

The seminar will spend two weeks of the course focusing on each question. We will read primary source material drawn primarily from psychology journals, but also incorporating related material from education, anthropology, sociology, and computer science. In-class discussions will focus on identifying the key concepts for the weekly reading and relating those concepts to the students' ongoing field work. Although we will focus on the questions individually, seminar discussions around each question will deepen our understanding of a shared set of conceptual issues involving the evidence of learning, the content of learning, the goals of learning, the cultural context of learning, and the promise of emerging computer technologies to facilitate child development.

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Practicum: Visiting the Barrios Unidos site
Class will be divided into two groups, each of which will have its own Teaching Assistant throughout the class. Twice a week each group will work with children at Barrios Unidos for one and a half hours and then will have a 30-minute debriefing, during which you are going to share your impressions and concerns and will create a list of issues that your group will bring for the entire class. (see Purposes & Expectations: Participation in field observations, debriefing, and helping children at the site).

Here is your work schedule at the site:

3:15 p.m. your arrival at Barrios Unidos
3:15-3:30 p.m. organizational meeting with the Site Coordinator
3:30 p.m. children arrive
3:30-5:00 p.m. helping children with their activities
5:00-5:30 p.m. debriefing
5:30 p.m. you leave the site

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First week's assignment

Description of your interests. (1 page, max.; DUE 10/4 Fri, by 7:00 pm)
Describe the reasons why you are taking the course and what you would like to get out of it. The following questions may guide your writing. Everyone should include the first question in your response. However, you may chose whether you want to respond to the remaining questions listed or to include other issues as you wish.

  1. How does the course relate to your interests (e.g., personal, professional, political etc.)?
  2. What are you expecting to learn from participating in the course ( e.g., in general, in contrast to other psychology courses you have taken, etc.)?
  3. How do you think you can make contributions to your own and others' learning in this course?
  4. How is the goal of the course, as you understand it now, related to your learning goals?
  5. List specific issues of your interest.

The purpose of the assignment is to facilitate your thinking about your expectations, learning needs, and demands for the course in order to make your own learning more meaningful and self-directive and to make the class more productive for everybody. The assignment also will help to make and design your final evaluation (see Purposes & Expectations: Participating in development of the class evaluation Web page that may help you to think through the issues).

Please, use Post Discussion Message page for submitting your paper. Put "First week's assignment" in the subject of your message.

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Writing field notes
Within 24 hours of visiting the Barrios Unidos site, students will write and publish their field notes formatted by our template on our class Web. For more info about goals and expectations about writing field notes, please, visit the Purposes & Expectations: Participation in writing Field Notes page.

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There is a required reader composed of primary source material. Articles are drawn from edited professional volumes as well as developmental, cognitive, and educational psychology journals. In addition to psychology research articles, we will also cover the work of sociologists, anthropologists, and computer scientists who have explored issues relevant to interactions between technology and human development. Each assigned reading is accompanied with info about:

We expect you to read minimal readings indicated in the parentheses below.

Because we do not expect that you read all assigned papers, we are going to discuss reading in the three following phases in class:

  1. in small 4-6 people groups, which involve such a composition of students to cover all the assigned papers for the current week, there will be sharing among the students about the reading of the week guided by the questions below and your emerging questions;
  2. in class "circle," students who did not read a paper will be asked to share with the class what they have learned in small groups from their fellow students who read the paper; and, finally,
  3. in class "circle," there will be a general discussion of the all assigned papers guided by the questions below and your emerging questions.

Week 1-2. 09/30-10/09 Readings due October 7 (read at least any two of the following papers)
Topic 1. How to help children learn? What is philosophy of teaching and learning? What is evidence of learning within each educational philosophy? What is a community of learners?

Rationale for the topic: We anticipate that in the first few weeks, you will be concerned about how to provide help to children at Barrios Unidos. Also the readings will introduce notions of cultural diversity (Moll), non-school learning (Matusov), innovative schooling (Rogoff; Moll), intrinsic motivation (Rogoff; Voss), and discussion of evidence and assessment of learning (Rogoff; Matusov).

Week 3. 10/14-10/16 Readings due October 14 (read at least any two of the following papers)
Topic 2. How to find evidence of learning through writing and analyzing field notes? How to write field notes?

Rationale for the topic: Although we plan to provide some guidance about how to write field notes in class starting from the first week, we anticipate that this issue for you will be important perhaps throughout the first part of the quarter.

Week 4-5. 10/21-10/30 Readings due October 21 (part I; read at least any two of the following papers).
Topic 3. How can computers and technology contribute to children's learning?

Rationale for the topic: After you have settled down in the class and at Barrios Unidos a bit, we think you will be ready to start considering the role of technology in learning. We also want you to focus on issues of cultural diversity (DeVillar), innovative schooling (Campione), and informal learning settings (Allen).

Due October 28 (part II below; read at least any two of the following papers)

Week 6-7. 11/04-11/13 Readings due November 4 (part I; read at least any two of the following papers).
Topic 4. What are cultural, gender, institutional, and individual differences and similarities in how and what people learn? What are differences and similarities in trajectories of individual development? How do verbal and non-verbal communication contribute to learning? How does institutional environment define learning and its sustainability?

Rationale for the topic: In the second part of the quarter, we want you to focus on different psychological phenomena related to learning: cultural diversity, verbal and non-verbal communication, gender differences, language.

Due November 11 (part II below; read at least one paper)

Week 8-9. 11/18-11/27. Readings due November 18 (part I; read at least one paper).
Topic 5. How can learning and development be conceptualized? What is relationship between learning and development? How does informal and everyday learning differ from traditional school learning?

Rationale for the topic: We expect you to be working on your final research papers these weeks, so we suggest you to read the following theoretical and conceptual papers on the relationship between learning and development, a sociocultural approach to studying development, the notions of ZPD and leading activities, and the concept of situated cognition.

Due November 25 (part II below; read at least one paper)

Please, let us know if the order and the content of the topics meet your needs, so we can adjust them as we go and/or change for the next time we teach this class (see Purposes & Expectations: Reading the assigned literature).

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Two final papers
Reflection on children's learning. In one 3-4-page single-spaced research paper students will integrate field note data with conceptual issues from readings and in-class discussions to answer a developmental research question about children's learning. The process of developing students' individual research interests will be ongoing throughout the course and, where appropriate, will be integrated into in-class activities. You can work with peers on one combined paper under one title -- the size of the combined paper should be 6-7 single-spaced pages.

Reflection on student's learning. In a separate 2-3-page single-spaced research paper, students will reflect upon their OWN learning processes throughout the course. Once again they will draw upon field notes and course readings, but the questions will focus on their own development: How has learning occurred in your own theories about learning? What have you learned from the children and what have you taught the children? What have you learned from the other members of the seminar and what have you taught them? (Members of the seminar, of course, include the instructors as well as the other students.) What does teaching have to do with learning?

Both papers should have abstracts of about 150-words.

Working on final research projects will take several steps:

  1. You will write a title and a paragraph about your future final papers and submit them to your TA via e-mail on November 6 by 7:00 pm. In the paragraph for the first paper (reflection on children's learning), you should briefly describe: what question you are going to investigate, why you chose it, what is exciting in this question for you (and potentially for other people), and how you are going to address this question (i.e., how you are going to get evidence and what literature you are going to use). In the paragraph for the second paper (reflection on your own learning), you should briefly answer on the questions provided above in the paragraph titled Reflection on student's learning.
  2. In the class "circle" on November 11, each student will tell what s/he is going to write on, why, and what will be the most interesting idea or observation in his/her papers. Other students will ask questions and/or provide feedback on the project.
  3. You will write the first draft of your papers and bring the papers to class (see Purposes & Expectations: Writing the final papers for more details about what is involved in the final papers). The first draft of the papers is due November 18 by 7:00 pm, before the class.
  4. In the class on November 18, the students will be divided into pairs. You will exchange your papers with your partner and provide feedback for each other by finding the most exciting places in the papers. Then in the class "circle," each student will tell the class what s/he will have found exciting in the paper of his/her fellow student.
  5. You will produce the second draft of the papers and submit them to your TA via e-mail. The second draft is due November 20 by 7:00.
  6. After receiving TA's feedback on November 25 (in class), you will work on your third, and the final, draft of the papers.
  7. You will produce a poster for the first paper (reflection on children's learning) for the poster conferences (see below). Poster should include: title, author name, short abstract (can be even shorter than in the paper), brief description of your method, findings, and conclusion (see Purposes & Expectations: Writing the final papers for more details). The body of the text should be written using at least 24-font size, the headings and titles should be in bigger fonts. Poster is due December 2 by 7:00 pm, before the class, for Group I; and December 4 by 7:00 pm, before the class, for Group II.
  8. In the final week of the class (December 2 and 4), there will be two poster conferences. In each conference, one group of students will be in the role of hosts (presenters), while the other group will be in a role of guests (audience). There will be food refreshments. The UC links steering committee, Psychology Department faculty members and grad students will be invited (students can bring their friends).
  9. During the exam week (December 9-13), you will finish editing by incorporating comments about your first final paper given to you at the Poster Conference and will publish your final papers on the Web for general public. Both papers should be posted on the Publishing Web for Students' Final Papers on December 13 by 7:00 p.m. Keep in mind, please, that you are writing your papers for unknown readers, not knowing what kind of feedback they may give (if at all) -- which is, in our view, what publication is about. You should learn how to foresee interest of unknown readers and engage them in a dialog via your text.

For further requirements and formats see Purposes & Expectations: Writing the final papers.

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Evaluation will be based on two research papers and each student's active participation in seminar and practicum activities.

There won't be a final exam.

The final evaluation will include abstracts from two final papers and a paragraph from field notes representing student's work selected by the student. The abstracts and the paragraph are due December 13 by 5:00 p.m. Send them to your TA via e-mail. The narrative format of the final class evaluation will be discussed in the class -- this discussion is considered to be a part of the course curriculum (see Purposes & Expectations: Participating in development of the class evaluation).

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Feedback on the class
In addition to the traditional University evaluation at the end of the class, we really want your regular feedback on the class so we can improve it down the road. So we want to ask you to fill out biweekly feedback survey forms every even Saturday of the month. The reports of the feedback will be prepared timely and published on our class Web. We also plan to discuss them in the class. You are also welcome to send your questions, comments, and/or suggestions via e-mail or raise them during the class or office hours. We appreciate your help and partnership in running the class and making it comfortable and meaningful for every member (see Purposes & Expectations: Filling out the biweekly feedback surveys).

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Estimated class workload per week
Below is our rough estimation of students' workload per week (in hours) (we averaged time if work does not occur every week):

Type of students' engagement Time

Working with children (twice a week)

Debriefing on the site (twice a week) 1.0
Transportation to and from the site* (twice a week) 1.0

Writing your own field notes (twice a week plus revisions)

Reading and commenting on other students' field notes 3.5
Participating in Web discussions 2.0

Reading for the class (40-50 pages per week)

Preparing for the final papers (on "average") 1.0

Attending classes (twice a week)

Visiting Instructor and TA in their office hours (on "average") 1.0
Total: 21.5

* Note: this type should not be counted as coursework.

Your biweekly feedback will probably help us to correct some of these numbers.

According to the guidelines of UCSC CEP (Committee on Educational Policy), 5 credit hours represent 3-3.5 hours of classwork plus about 12 hours of preparation; 2 credit hours represent 2 hours of classwork and about 4 hours of preparation. This totals about 21.5.

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For comments and questions contact the Instructor Eugene Matusov.
1996. Last changed: September 05, 2001