Working Playfully to Learn: The Roles of Mediated Environments for Meaning-Making


December 10, 2012


Meagan K. Rothschild


Microsoft Research/IEB Intern


Attendees of this talk will gain a greater understanding of the roles that digital media play in learning and meaning-making across the span of childhood, and discover strategies for leveraging the power potential of digital worlds for learning and content engagement. Meagan Rothschild weaves together three of her studies from the course of her six-month Microsoft internship into a larger discussion framing “lifespan technologies” as the roles of digital media from the young through workforce development and beyond.

The story begins with findings from a series of interviews with successful younger women who are at various stages of study and work in the field of computer science. The life stories of these women shed light on the roles of technology and social dynamics for females who find power and purpose in the field of computer science. A common thread weaving through the stories is early engagement with media, creating a segue to question how interactive media can be used to support early learning. Meagan investigated this topic with a study of Kinect Sesame Street TV, and specifically tackles questions related to comprehension, engagement, replay, gender, and embodied cognition.

The session concludes with an overview of research conducted with the implementation of StudioK (Kodu curriculum) in after-school programs in both Bellevue, Washington, and Madison, Wisconsin, investigating specifically how social dynamics play out in mediated environments of play and creation within the contexts of game design and computational thinking for middle school students.


Meagan K. Rothschild

Meagan Rothschild is a Design Researcher and PhD Candidate in the Games+Learning+Society Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work as a Microsoft Intern has been under the guidance of Rane Johnson (MSR) and Alex Games (IEB). With a focus on early childhood and digital learning, Meagan specifically investigates the way children construct meaning in and through narrative worlds in different mediums. She is also very interested in the role/spirit of play, playfulness in learning, and in the roles of narrative (both experienced and co-created) in learning. She primarily applies these interests to design and research with kiddos between preschool age and elementary school. Her favorite soapbox is the importance of practicing wonder & curiosity with young children, as it is particularly important for the development of early STEM mindsets, hopefully resulting in an increased readiness for STEM disciplines. Meagan began her career as a K-12 educator, but after realizing the power potential of interactive media for learning, moved into game design and design research. Meagan’s first love is finding ways for kids to become active participants in their mediated worlds, but her affection for fun and funky socks is a very close second.