Gabriela T. Richard


education design research

About Me


Gabriela T. Richard

I am a researcher, designer and educator of learning technologies, media, games and play.

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Learning, Design and Technology at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Prior to coming to PSU, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow through a competitive fellowship sponsored by the Vice Provost for Research at the University of Pennsylvania in the Graduate School of Education and affiliated with the Center for Collaboration, Computation, Complexity, and Creativity in the Learning Sciences. I received my Ph.D. from New York University in the Educational Communication and Technology Program in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and my master’s degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program, where I designed interactive and embodied systems. I’ve received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for outreach projects, pre-doctoral studies, dissertation research, and continuing research on emerging and digital technologies as sites for learning, engagement, social justice and equity. I have also received funding from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for related work. As well as being a designer, researcher and educator, I am also a lifelong gamer, and I enjoy playing and pondering how that play shapes learning, as well as our understanding of culture and society.

In additional to looking at issues of equity, diversity and play, I also investigate learning and engagement in youth-based computational participation, games, making and other interest-driven informal activities, as well as tangible and wearable technologies (or electronic textiles), in education and socioculturally inclusive learning. My research speaks to issues important to media designed for formal and informal education. In particular, my past research highlights that we have to be attuned to the ways that popular media and technology differentially affect certain people (particularly women and ethnic minorities) from pursuing STEM (since past research shows a high correlation between computer and digital game use and STEM careers), as well as how we design educational media and technology to be sensitive to these complexities and overall inclusive.

Prior to starting my doctoral degree, I worked for several years as an interactive instructional designer, and also designed and researched embodied and tangible interfaces, and their relationship to social experience, understanding and empathy. I also started an early outreach project in 2004 teaching physical computing (now thought of as makerspace education) to diverse students and teachers in New York City public middle and high schools. I also have contributed to research and design internationally, including at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, where I worked on projects involving tangible and augmented technologies, as well as digital games.


Research and Projects

Inclusive learning through Bidirectionally Responsive Design

In 2014 and 2015, I designed a curriculum that combined multiple digital and digital toolkits so that youth could create personally-meaningful projects and artifacts with digital and physical responsiveness. I’ve been researching how both the diverse toolkits and the learning activities reinforce collaboration, distribution of interests and inclusive learning.

Youth-Based Game Making and Learning in Scratch

Some of my current work explores how youth learn game making with Scratch 2.0, specifically looking at diversity and community structures. I am leading this collaborative project with Yasmin Kafai.

E-Crafting, Electronic Textiles and Learning

One aspect of the work I do at Penn looks at how youth learn STEM through designing and making wearable electronics and electronic crafts, particularly in informal spaces but also in formal ones. I designed and studied an advanced curriculum for high school students, which is now being refined for a second iteration in spring 2015.

Inclusivity and Alternative Entry Points to Engineering

Part of my research focuses on how alternative entry points to STEM and engineering might be achieved by combining the interests of different communities of learners. For example, eCrafting with the Lilypad Arduino requires the same skill development as working with the traditional Arduino but may tap into different interests and skill sets that might be more gender inclusive or culturally responsive. We will be presenting on this work at upcoming conferences. Check out the blog for more information.

Interest-Driven Learning in Game Culture, and Its Application to Formal Learning

Our prevailing hobbies and interests can play a large role in our pursuits and learning activities. Interest-driven learning often occurs in these online game and fan spaces (termed “affinity groups”). I study how informal learning in online gaming communities can inform learning in more formal learning domains.

Online Gaming Experiences Across Gender, Ethnicity and Sexuality

When I started this research in 2008 and 2009, there was very little written about the gaming experiences of ethnic minorities, LGBT gamers, and males. I wanted to take an intersectional approach to studying player experiences online, as part of my dissertation work. I have since written and presented extensively on the subject. Check out my blog for more updates on this work.

Stereotype Threat and Learning in Interest-Driven Informal Activities and Game Culture

Stereotype threat is a phenomenon that affects the short-term interest and long-term investment of individuals of negatively stereotyped groups, when activated. Often, situational bias, whether explicit or not, can trigger it. Females and ethnic minorities are most often the victims of ST. Since 2009, I have studied and explored representation and stereotype threat in game culture, receiving an NSF research grant in 2010 to do so.

Supportive Online Communities and Resiliency-Building for Marginalized Groups

In online spaces, particularly gaming spaces, women, ethnic minorities and LGBTQI-identified individuals are often subjected to harassment and marginalization, due, in part, to negative stereotypes about their interests and abilities. I have studied how gender-supportive communities can create safe spaces and help their members build up resiliency in the face of bias.

Past Projects

Multi-Touch Displays and Social Interaction

As part of my NSF and TEKES (Finnish Funding Agency) international fellowship, I studied the relationship between multi-touch technology, interface design and social interaction at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology.

Digital Puppetry and Museum Engagement

While at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, I assisted Celine Coutrix and Prayag Narula in studying augmented, multimodal digital puppetry in youth-based museum settings.

Physical Computing and Learning

In 2004, I started a pilot project in the New York City public schools to have students and teachers make and learn physical computing together in order to make their own tangible and embodied learning tools. Physical computing is the use of microcontrollers and sensors to create alternative and physically interactive interfaces. We received a grant in 2005 from NSF. I developed the curriculum and lead a team of instructors on the project until 2007. Click more info for some of the projects created.

More details

Interactive Art Installations on Touch and Narrative Connectedness

In an effort to understand the affordances of touch to interpersonal connectedness, I designed several art installations on women’s personal hair narratives, navigated through touching their hair choices – an often personal and forbidden experience for African American women. One of the installations was featured at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, and as part of the 2005 Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival.


Available upon request.

Current papers and presentations

can be found on ResearchGate here.