The Opposite of Disaster Project


When most people think about the aftermath of a natural disaster, they might imagine a situation similar to “The Walking Dead”. They think of an environment where survivors have an “every man for himself” attitude. However, this is not what actually happens. Decades of research show that in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the majority of people help each other, come together, and experience positive community.

The misconception about how people respond in times of crisis informs how the government and other relief organizations make policy and send aid. For example, if someone was expecting a “Walking Dead” scenario, they might send police instead of food, or riot gear instead of hospital supplies. This misalignment of perception inhibits recovery and relief for those affected by these disasters.

Games can have the power to change player’s perspectives, challenge assumptions, and influence thought processes. Our research team made a transformational game that employs metaphors to change this misconception about how survivors respond to disasters. In addition to exemplifying how metaphors can be used in transformational games, our hope is that the game could positively influence people who inform policy and relief efforts.  


Amy Cook
Jessica Hammer
Geoff Kaufman

Educational Technology Across Cultures (ETAC)

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The ETAC (Educational Technology Across Cultures) project looks at educational technology that is relevant in places that have multilingual classrooms, where English is one of the modalities, but not the only one that students use. The project looks into how students navigate single language technologies when they have multiple languages in their background

This project has branches in 4 sites around the world: Philippines, Tanzania, Chile and the Ivory Coast.


Technology that is designed in a Western context doesn’t transfer very well to the rest of the world. Work that we’re doing in the Philippines is to investigate some of the phenomena that we see. We are looking to see how students in classrooms where they speak multiple languages leverage their local language with the main language and considering how students approach technology given their vast experiences.


We took a piece of technology that was developed at CMU that we thought should be shared with partner schools in Chile, because this technology is used across the US in thousands of classrooms. We were very interested to see what typical classroom behavior patterns were and how the technology would influence classroom behavior. Classrooms and computer labs in Chile were observed to see how the technology is not aligned with their prefered ways of interacting in the classroom. The system expects a 1:1 student to computer interaction, which isn’t the case in the cultural context of Chile. We are looking into how adaptive technology can be created that’s meant to adapt to student performance when the student to computer ratio isn’t 1:1.

Ivory Coast:

This project involved leveraging current technology present in the Ivory Coast to enable mobile learning on dumb phones. We are using the infrastructure that already exists in the Ivory Coast, and not taking new technology to introduce. This project aims to deliver curriculum to students through these basic phones to teach them French.


  1. Yarzebinski, E., Dumdumaya, C., Rodrigo, Ma. M. T.,  Matsuda, N., Ogan, A. (to appear). How students in different cultures customize their AIED agent’s characteristics. To appear as a short paper at the 18th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education.
  2. Ogan, A., Yarzebinski, E., Fernández, P., & Casas, I. (2015). Cognitive Tutor Use in Chile: Understanding Classroom and Lab Culture. In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (pp. 318-327). Springer International Publishing.
  3. Yarzebinski, E., Ogan, A., Rodrigo, M. M. T., & Matsuda, N. (2015). Understanding Students’ Use of Code-Switching in a Learning by Teaching Technology. In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (pp. 504-513). Springer International Publishing.


Amy Ogan
Evelyn Yarzebinski

Social Justice Communities and Self-Organizing Movements


Social justice activists use Twitter to give voice to their causes and communities and to take collective action towards a more equitable society. This ongoing project aims to further understand social justice communities, their collective actions, and their individual interactions with the platform and their audiences.

In this mixed methods study we have conducted interviews with self-identified social justice activists in order to gain further insights into their motivations and methods. We also developed a database of their tweets and conducted a user-based analysis on how their tweeting behavior. We then created sketches and design probes to address issues of managing multiple audience and sustaining authenticity and credibility.

Future work in this area includes research on the role of authenticity in narratives of resistance and the design of audiences’ participation, interaction and support of social justice messages.  


Judeth Oden Choi
Jessica Hammer
Jodi Furleze