We are fortunate to have a wide range of expertise and experience on the iRead project team. In a series of blog posts we will introduce each of our partners and find out what motivated them to get involved in the iRead project. Next up is the UCL Knowledge Lab (introduced by research associate Dr Laura Benton).

Introducing UCL Knowledge Lab (UCL KL)

The UCL Knowledge Lab is a leading interdisciplinary digital research and design centre within the UCL Institute of Education. UCL KL’s mission is to understand and to develop digital technologies to support and transform education, and beyond. Based on research evidence, we devise new pedagogies, design and implement innovative digital media and smart technologies for teaching and learning, and inform policymakers and educational stakeholders.

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I am currently a research associate at the UCL Knowledge Lab. My background is in human-computer interaction and my research focuses on education technology design for children using design approaches such as participatory design and design-based research. Since finishing my PhD in 2013 I have had the chance to work on several different research projects at the lab which have been focused on the design and use of education technologies for literacy, computer programming and mathematics within schools.

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Dr Mina Vasalou is the UCL team lead and the iRead coordinator. She is a former interaction designer and user experience researcher and is now a senior lecturer at the UCL KL. She has extensive experience researching and designing technologies for social and learning contexts. In her work she takes a ‘design thinking’ approach to innovation using participatory methods that involve end users and stakeholders to design technologies for change.

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Dr Manolis Mavrikis is a Reader in learning technologies at the UCL KL. His research interests, and more than 15 years of experience, lie at the intersection of technology-enhanced learning, human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence. His experience and leading role in the EU-funded Metafora and the multi-awarded iTalk2Learn project all revolve around the design and integration of Learning Analytics.

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Dr Kaśka Porayska-Pomsta is a Reader in adaptive technologies for learning at the UCL KL. Her research focuses on developing adaptive interactive environments for learning and communication that are underpinned with user and context modelling, and learning analytics. She has close to twenty years of experience of working with diverse students, including children with and without special needs, using participatory design as well as knowledge elicitation methods.

Why did we get involved in iRead?

The UCL Knowledge Lab brings together experts with imagination and insight from across different disciplinary backgrounds to:

  • Undertake cutting edge research on digital media and technologies
  • Provide an innovative and exciting interdisciplinary range of postgraduate courses
  • Create empowering technologies for communication and learning that lower the barriers to knowledge and widen access
  • Incubate enterprise and achieve impact via partnerships with public sector, business and industry.

Connecting with the iRead Innovation agenda, the lab has a long standing record in developing intelligent technology for typical and atypical populations through its ‘designing smart technologies for teaching and learning’ and ‘designing for diversity’ themes and has strong links with industry through research, consultancies and innovation projects.

 The use of digital technology within schools has been steadily increasing, but there remain many challenges particularly around teacher skills and knowledge around these technologies as well as effective pedagogical practices. There is also an on-going challenge within this area of research in relation to sustainability of innovations that are developed through research projects in order to continue the use of new technologies within schools once a project has come to an end. We hope that the iRead project provides us with an opportunity to develop technologies that can have a real impact on individual children’s reading during and beyond the project through our close collaboration with schools and industry partners. By working closely with both teachers and pupils we believe that this will enable us to design something that is both engaging and needed within the school context. We are very excited to see where this leads!

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