Research

(Photo: Emily Balli/Cronkite News)

Dr. Aguilera’s research focuses on issues at the intersection of literacy, technology, and educational equity. Below are the details of selected current and prior projects that Dr. Aguilera has led or participated in. Please note that the dates below reflect Dr. Aguilera’s participation, and not necessarily the completion cycle of projects themselves.

Current Research Projects:

Understanding the Experiences of First-Generation College Students Across Virtual and Face-to-Face Contexts (August 2018-Present)

PI: Dr. Earl Aguilera

In this multi-phase inquiry project, I examine the experiences of students who are among the first generation in their families to attend college as they participating in coursework taught across virtual and face-to-face contexts, with the goal of informing more equitable educational efforts to support the success of diverse populations of college-going students.

Related Publications:

Aguilera, E. (2020, in press). Centering first-generation students’ lived experiences through critical digital storytelling. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 63(5).

Aguilera, E., & Lopez, G. (2018). Transforming literacy education for first-generation college students. New Jersey English Journal. April 2018.

Student artifacts from First Gen Study


Pre-Service Teachers’ Experiences with Educational Technologies (August 2019 – Present)

PI: Dr. Trang Phan; Co-PI: Dr. Earl Aguilera

In this survey research project, we explore the technology-mediated experiences of pre-service teachers within and beyond their educational coursework. Preliminary findings suggest opportunities for teacher-preparations programs to engage the creative and collaborative potentials of digital media and networked communication technologies, along with the importance of critically analyzing the philosophical underpinnings and ethical dimensions of educational technology use.

Aguilera with Students


Completed Research Projects:

Braincandy: Providing Students Authentic, Engaging, and SAFE Spaces to Articulate and Refine their Thinking with Others (January 2017-May 2018)

PI: Dr. J. Bryan Henderson

This project explored the use of a freely-available student response platform called Braincandy, which was utilized to facilitate undergraduate STEM courses. Findings suggested both the value of the peer-instruction cycle as an underpinning to classroom response technologies, as well as variations in the complexity of student discussions during peer-instruction opportunities.


Related Publications:

Henderson, J.B. & Aguilera, E. (2020, in press). Utilizing Technology to Support Scientific Argumentation in Active Learning Classrooms. In J. Mintzes & E. Walter (Eds.), Active Learning in College Science: The Case for Evidence-Based Practice. Springer.

Henderson, J.B. & Aguilera, E. (2019). On the screen, beneath the screen, beyond the screen: Using educational technology to support argumentation. NSTA Reports, 31(4). 3.


Code Club 2 Kids pointing!

Analyzing Digital Literacy Demands, Practices, and Discourses within a Library Computer Programming Club for Children (April 2017-April 2018)

Dissertation Committee: Dr. Elisabeth Gee, Dr. James Paul Gee, Dr. Frank Serafini

My dissertation project, completed in April 2018, focused on understanding digital-age literacies as enacted through design, practice, and discourse within a library-based computer programming club for youth aged 8-14. Known colloquially as a Code Club, these weekly sessions were designed to engage students in self-directed learning with the aid of adult facilitators, peer interactions, and online learning platforms. Analyzing artefactual, interview, survey, and observational data from 12- months of co-facilitating the club, the project illuminated the role of literacy practices across the content, computational, and contextual dimensions of digital interactive media.

Related Publications:

Aguilera, E. (2020, in press). Beyond coding: Youth creativity, literacies, and social engagement in a computer programming club. Proceedings of the 2019 Connected Learning Summit. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press.

Aguilera, E. Stewart, O.G., Perez Cortes, L., & Mawasi, A. (2019). Seeing beyond the screen: A multidimensional framework for understanding digital-age literacies. In Sullivan, P. M., Lantz, J. J. & Sullivan, B. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Integrating Digital Technology with Literacy Pedagogies. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Aguilera, E. (2017). More than bits and bytes: Developing digital literacies beyond the screen. Literacy Today. 35(3).


EAGER: MAKER: Play in the Making: Supporting Design Thinking in Maker Spaces among Underrepresented, Underserved, and Minority Students through Game Design (NSF #1623558; June 2017-December 2019)

PI: Dr. Sinem Siyahhan; Co-PI: Dr. Elisabeth Gee

The goal of this two-year exploratory research project was to develop an empirically-based teaching and learning model for broadening participation of girls, minority, and low-income middle school students in STEM and Making through game design. The project leadership collaborated with six mentors (3 teachers and 3 librarians) to iteratively design, test, and refine design challenges in a formal and informal learning environment. Students engaged in the design thinking process, which emphasizes the role of empathy and understanding human needs as central to effective design. They were introduced to a variety of tools ranging from paper-based and cardboard construction to e-textiles, programming, and robotics as they participate in design cycles of empathizing, defining, prototyping, and testing. Parents were also invited to participate in different stages of the design process as informants, co-designers, and user testers to support students’ learning and Making process. Project summary adapted from NSF.

Related Publications:

Aguilera, E. (2021, in preparation). Writing the rules: Youth game-making practices as digital writing. To appear in Theory into Practice (Special Issue: Reconceptualizing Digital Writing), 60(2).

Gee, E. & Aguilera, E. (2020, in review) Critical digital literacies and the role of design. To appear in Pedagogies: An International Journal (Special Issue: Critical Literacies in a Digital Age). (Issue and volume TBD).


Girls playng CS games

AISL Pathways: The Role of Story in Games to Teach Computer Science Concepts to Middle School Girls. (NSF #1421806; January 2016 – June 2017)

PI: Dr. Elisabeth Gee; Co-PI: Dr. Carolee Stewart-Gardiner

This project, based on an earlier successful prototype, used an iterative research-based design process including paper prototyping, playtesting, and focus groups (N=20) to create age appropriate activities, based on the CS Unplugged series, that support learning concepts from the Data, Internet, Algorithms, and Abstraction sections of the high-school level CS Principles curriculum. A quantitative, quasi-experimental design was used to determine the overall effectiveness of teaching CS concepts under three types of game conditions: (a) games alone, (b) games with fictional settings, and (c) games with stories. A novel assessment instrument was developed to assess content learning and qualitative observation using a standard observation protocol will be used to gauge interest and engagement. 70-80 middle school girls were recruited for afterschool participation in the study in two states. As part of the dissemination efforts, a facilitator’s guide, rule book, and materials such as maps and storyboards were created and shared with the game. In addition, a workshop for computer science and other teachers who are interested in using games to teach CS concepts were conducted. Project summary adapted from NSF.

Conference Presentations:

Gee, E., Aguilera, E., Kachorsky, D., Parekh, P., Stewart-Gardiner, C., & Carmichael, G. (April 2017) “The Design and Outcomes of Story-Enhanced Games to Teach Computer Science Concepts,” American Educational Research Association, 2017. San Antonio, TX.

Gee, E., Stewart, C., Harteveld, C., Smith, G., Tran, K., Eoranidis, S., Folajimi, Y. & Aguilera, E. (August 2016). Using games to teach computer science concepts. Workshop presented at the 12th annual meeting of the Games+Learning+Society Conference. Madison, WI.