Current projects focus on digital media creation as a catalyst for social agency, networked resources for families with young children, inquiry through citizen science, and forms and sources of variability in collaborative effort. Brief project descriptions, focal questions, and selected papers:



Networked resources for families with young children

The LIFE Center coined the term joint media engagement (JME) to broadly describe what happens when people learn together with media. The mobile, networked, and asynchronous qualities of increasingly affordable digital technologies offer new opportunities to co-engage children and parents—especially those from underserved populations—with high-quality educational content. However, equity concerns persist for reasons that transcend mere access to these tools. Project work in this strand is a result of collaboration between youthLAB and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop as we seek to understand how families access and use new technologies together in order to design better opportunities for learning.


Lee, J. and Barron, B. (2014). Aprendiendo en cas: Media as a resource for learning among hispanic-latino families. A report written for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.


Barron, B. (2011). Case studies of joint media creation as a form of joint media engagement. In Takeuchi, L., & Stevens, R. (Eds.), The new coviewing: Designing for learning through joint media engagement. New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Barron, B., Bofferding,L., Cayton-Hodges, G., Copple, C., Darling-Hammond, L. and Levine, M.H.. (2011). Take a Giant Step: A Blueprint for Teaching Young Children in a DigitalAge. A report written for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.


Inquiry Through Citizen Science

What patterns of personalized learning can we identify among a diverse group of teachers/learners who vary in prior experiences and community socioeconomic status? When do cyberlearning opportunities sustain engagement beyond the classroom? Exploratory research to advance understanding of the transformational potential of networked learning to allow learners and teachers to pursue personalized lines of activity and bridge more and less formal educational settings. We studied a genre of cyber-enabled activity known as Citizen Science. Our research is based in the premise that we need to understand Cyberlearning as a human-technical system and that to advance design relevant knowledge we need to attend to both the social community and the ways that the technology supports learning within the community. Vital Signs, a citizen science networked system located in the state of Maine run by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, was the living lab for our research, including both online participation and teachers and students engaged with the work in face-to-face classrooms.

Crowley, K., Barron, B.J., Knutson, K., & Martin, C. (in press). Interest and the development of pathways to science. In K.A. Renninger, M. Nieswandt, and S. Hidi (Eds.), Interest in Mathematics and Science Learning and Related Activity. Washington, DC: AERA.

Barron, B.(2014). Formative Assessment for STEM Learning Ecosystems: Biographical approaches as a resource for research and practice. Successful Out-of-School STEM Learning: A Consensus Study. Board on Science Education sponsored by the National Science Foundation.


Digital Media Creation as a Catalyst for Social Agency

School and after school synergies. What 21st century skills are nurtured through design projects and how can we assess these? How do design projects support students' identities as creators and critiquers of new media? We have conducted a longitudinal studies to follow cohorts of students through middle and high school grades as they work through computational and design-based curricula. Environments included an inner-city charter middle school that was part of the Digital Youth Network, an in-school and after-school program focus on new media literacies and programs, and high school students in the Bermuda Computing Curriculum project, a collaborative effort by the Computer Science Department and the School of Education at Stanford University to develop a computing curriculum for Bermuda public schools that uses programming as a central theme. During these projects we worked closely with the program design team and the participating educators and youth to create a multi-dimensional picture of the students and their work.

Computer clubhouses as learning ecologies for fluency development. What drives the generation of self-defined projects in computer clubhouses and how does learning occur within them? A learning ecologies framework is used to understand the role the clubhouse plays in the member’s broader life learning space of home, school, peers, and distributed learning resources and to design interventions that might spark cross context learning. In this research the development of technological fluency is studied in the context of a community-based computer clubhouse that provides 10-18 year-olds with high end computing tools and software.

Fluency development in peer and home contexts. What is the nature of high school students’ involvement in technological activities outside of school? We study the factors that drive youth who participate in technological fluency building activities, their use of learning resources, the meaning the activity holds for them, and whether the activity leads to pursuit of formal education. The goal of the research is to identify social processes, learning strategies, resource use, and the emergence of learning goals within informal activity.


Barron, B., Gomez, K., Pinkard, N. and Martin, C.K. (2014). The Digital Youth Network: Cultivating Digital Media Citizenship in Urban Communities. Boston, MA: MIT Pres.

Barron, B., Wise, S., Martin, C.K. (2011). Creating within and across life spaces: The role of a computer clubhouse in a child’s learning ecology. In B. Bevan, Bell, P., Stevens, R., Razfar, A. (Eds.) LOST Opportunities: Learning in Out-of-School Time. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.

Barron, B. (2010). Conceptualizing and tracing learning pathways over time and setting. In W. R. Penuel & K. O'Connor (Eds). Learning research as a human science. National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook, 109(1), 113-127.


Barron, B., Martin, C.K., Takeuchi, L., Fithian, R. (2010). Parents as learning partners in the development of technological fluency. The International Journal of Learning and Media.


Barron. B. (2006). Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecologies perspective. Human Development, 49, 193-224.


Forms and Sources of Variability in Collaborative Efforts

Barron, B., Martin, C. K., Mercier, E., Pea, R., Steinbock, D., Walter, S., Herrenkohl, L., Mertl, V., & Tyson, K. (2009). Repertoires of collaborative practices. In C. O'Malley, D. Suthers, P. Reimann, & A. Dimitracopoulou (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): Volume 2. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Practices (pp. 25-27). New Brunswick, NJ: ISLS. doi:10.3115/1599503.1599513

Darling-Hammond, L., Barron, B. (2007). Teaching for meaningful learning: A review of research on inquiry-based and cooperative learning. Research review for the George Lucas Education Foundation.



Copyright © 2014 Stanford University. YouthLAB is affiliated with the LIFE Center.