Research Lab

Welcome, and thank you for your interest in my research lab: The SPINEL Lab!

(S)ociotechnical (P)edagogy (I)dentifying (N)arratives, (E)mpowering (L)earners


“Spinel” is a rare gemstone whose name is derived from the Latin “spinella” or spine.
Our work is the backbone of the fourth industrial revolution, by preparing and empowering citizens to be able to not only survive, but thrive within an increasingly digital world.

In gem symbology, Spinel is a fiery stone which encourages passion and devotion – the same traits we apply to our research goals! Spinel is also associated with revitalization and devotion to others, just as we center and empower digital citizens.

We blend software development, cognitive and learning sciences, accessibility, user experience design, scientific
communication, and information representation to create a world where computing is more accessible, engaging, and
relevant to all humans.

As our society becomes increasingly digital, citizens must gain greater literacy to communicate effectively about and with these digital tools. From the classroom to the community, we research how people learn to use, create, and communicate about technology. We create informed tools and approaches to help achieve learning

“Computing education research preparing fellow humans to navigate and thrive in a digital society”


We are committed to groundbreaking, interdisciplinary approaches that reinvent learning in our digital society through a multifaceted lens, focused on humans.


  • To design computing education and educational computing environments that are engaging, authentic, relevant, and valuable – creating curious technologists and eager lifelong learners. 
  • To encourage ethical and conscientious future technologists to become leaders in the fourth industrial revolution
  • To create tools, environments, and curricula that broaden the representation and understanding of diverse perspectives for future technologists, promoting the creation of equitable, diverse, and inclusive technological futures.


  • Leading research in analogical representations for computing education
  • Innovative blending of experience design within educational research
  • Ethical and conscientious design of pedagogical environments, tools, and curricula
  • Iterative improvement to pedagogical and research design in pursuit of educational outcomes, retention, and engagement
  • Multidisciplinary collaboration which breaks traditional departmental silos


  • Connection and Relationships. 
    • We commit to creating lasting connections: between researchers, learners, computing, and visions for a better tomorrow. 
    • We design for people, and build relationships in order to understand needs and perspectives.
  • Creativity and Innovation. 
    • We approach educational experiences with fresh perspectives and novel ideas.
    • We will not be tied down by one approach, method, or way of thinking.
    • We welcome and encourage interdisciplinary approaches to find new and creative possibilities.
  • Advocacy and Responsibility. 
    • We develop solutions responsibly, considering the communities and individuals they affect.
    • We advocate for designs which elevate the equity and inclusion of all individuals. 
  • Adaptability and Honesty.
    • We navigate all projects with integrity and transparency to acknowledge what works and what doesn’t.
    • We pivot from shortcomings, developing methods that allow us to iterate toward success
    • We communicate openly about obstacles and lessons learned along the way. 
  • Genuine and Passionate.
    • We love what we do, and truly believe in our research and vision.
    • We possess personal, genuine pride in our projects.
    • We empower our researchers to approach their work with drive and passion, “finding themselves” in what they do.
    • We believe this authenticity leads to unique innovations and empowered, dedicated researchers.


Analogy Design in Computing Education

We’re exploring how to better design pedagogical analogies for computing contexts. We are continuing to text, refactor, and apply the OPAL structured analogy framework to analyze and explore computing analogy design.

Current Areas of Investigation:

  • Pedagogical outcomes in the classroom using OPAL analogies
  • Using OPAL to investigate data structure analogies which utilize a single entity
  • Applying OPAL to analogical comic and story representations to assess computing pedagogical content
  • Exploring the structural analogical reasoning implicit in engaging forms of modern communication, such as memes

Critical Investigations in Computing Education

We’re exploring with critical methodologies how computing education has created and perpetuated difficulties in recruitment and retention, especially among historically marginalized groups – and how all groups of students are impacted by design choices with computing and computing education. We’re applying interdisciplinary perspectives and methodologies while exploring the field and its history in order to shape a better, more inclusive future.

Current Areas of Investigation:

  • Centering the embodied human and lived experiences when learning to program
  • Methods for implementing new pedagogical approaches which center different ways of knowing and being
  • Identifying historic roots and bones in computing history and analyzing their catalytic effects today
  • Digital anthropology examining computing and software artifacts for their impacts today, as well as preservation and curation of computing education history through these activities.

“Punk Programmers” and Sociotechnical Futurism

We’re exploring how to empower technologists to re-story the present and re-imagine the future in ways that center the needs of people and communities. “Punk” has historically been a movement of unrest – of frustration with the future laid before you and expression of some different future. “Punks” don’t care if folks say “that’s how it has to be” or “you can’t do that” – they’re going to do-it-yourself and fight for it anyway. The future of technology is not written in stone – we can imagine and create a new tomorrow.

Current Areas of Investigation:

  • Methods for leveraging art, popular culture, and personal aesthetics to spark technology change agents.
  • Using personal stories and experiences to inspire calls to action and imagination about computing futures.
  • Developing pedagogy and tools which guide imagining, creating, and implementing computing innovations and expressions for new sociotechnical futures.

Communication and Computing Education

We’re exploring how learners communicate about and with computers, and how to give all citizens the tools to communicate effectively within a digital society. Not understanding the digital tools and infrastructure which have become major aspects of our lives leaves most of the world a “black box”. Citizens within a society should not become second-class due to an inability to navigate, understand, or speak about its technologies. We are researching the roles of communication within the computing classroom, how to prepare conversational programmers, and how to increase digital and computing literacy so that all citizens feel empowered to communicate effectively about and within today’s world.

Current Areas of Investigation:

  • Behaviors in programming student communication, between peers and with instructional staff
  • Increasing digital literacy and communication skills about essential technologies among populations
  • Identifying new ways for students to communicate computing knowledge in the classroom

Experiential Design and Computing Pedagogy

We’re exploring how to apply user experience methodologies and design based research to the computing classroom in order to better serve, engage, and retain future technologists. Understanding and observing students and their experience, coupled with design methodologies, can allow for unique pedagogical approaches and innovation.

Current Areas of Investigation:

  • Application of user experience tools and methods to pedagogical research design
  • Observation and interview with students and educators to design tools and interventions for authentic needs and desires
  • Testing and designing new pedagogical approaches, modules, tools, and pathways in computing classrooms for student engagement, outcomes, and retention.
  • Design and flow of tools, curricula, and physical spaces, and the design and testing of research-based suggestions for improvement


We’re always looking for motivated students passionate about creating a better future with computing education.
Contact us today!