Our brilliant sparkling lights in a Stygian year.

A picture of a Zoom meeting with numerous smiling members of the HCIL.
A picture of a Zoom meeting with numerous smiling members of the HCIL.
HCIL online!

I’m sitting outside on my porch, with the sun shining brightly and the cicadas timidly starting to buzz, and thinking back over a long and often sorrowful year. Writing this news roundup made me think about all the amazing (and often invisible) work so many people in the HCIL put in this year to change research methods and lab meetings, move classes fully online, and increase the amount of emotional support provided to their students, move the weekly HCIL Brown Bags fully online, and move the annual Symposium fully online — all this while simultaneously taking care of their partners…


One way we’re failing to establish trust in technology.

Photo by marcos mayer on Unsplash.

In my day job, I design videogames that support mathematics learning. Despite my training in more traditional classroom-based mathematics teaching and learning, I chose videogames as a platform specifically because people playing a good game have trust in the game. When you experience failure during gameplay, you look automatically for feedback paired with that failure — because a good game won’t just arbitrarily fail you. There’s a reason for that failure, and the game will tell you what the reason is.

I believe that trust is a key component to all…


Whether you design physical objects, digital experiences, or classroom curricula, your design is a contract with the users.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Well designed products of all stripes — videogames, classrooms, objects from the Internet of Things — all make a promise to the player/student/user: this product is usable, reliable, and trustworthy. However, there is not always a promise for ease of use — especially when, as with videogames and classrooms, learning is part of the designed experience. Instead, there’s a Design Contract between the designers and the users, that goes beyond usable, reliable, and trustworthy.


Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Years before the pandemic hit, I found myself teaching fully online and asynchronously — that is, I was specifically mandated to not require students to be anywhere at a specific time, online or offline. While I was teaching at an institution that is renowned for its online education, I was new to it — so over the following four years, I built, revised, and revamped a Math Methods course. Little did I realize, I was preparing for modern times! …


As we (still) shelter in place, who cares?!

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash.

I have always struggled to be on time. Somehow, my natural tempo sends me to places either 10 minutes early or 5 minutes late, leaving me bored out of my skull (what can you actually do in 10 minutes?) or harried and flush with embarrassment. I have always assumed that this was my superpower (hey, superpowers can be bad — just because they’re not good doesn’t mean they’re not superpowers), and all I could do was fight to be the person that shows up annoyingly early every time. …


Or: why you should sometimes set players on fire.

The author’s “professor wizard” outfit in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

When I was first asked to present a plenary talk at the 37th Annual HCIL Symposium at the University of Maryland, I was a tad nervous. After all, I’m a new inductee into the lively brilliance that characterizes our HCIL faculty, and my background is in mathematics and mathematics education. But my last decade or so of work has focused on something we all care deeply about: failure.


How to make social distancing work for families with children.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash.

By Caro Williams-Pierce, Nihal Katirci, & Ekta Shokeen

Just a few weeks ago, the first author was a rare bird in the USA: the product of unschooling (the wild west sibling of homeschooling). Now, the youngest generation joins her as millions of children around the world can no longer physically attend school, and parents, guardians, and teachers are scrambling. Just as so many adults are struggling to transition their full-time jobs into a fully online format because of the pandemic, they are also struggling to care for, educate, and entertain…

Caro Williams-Pierce

Assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s iSchool

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