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Faculty & Research

Christopher Dede

Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology, Innovation, and Education Program

Christopher Dede

Degree:  Ed.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, (1972)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.3839
Fax:  617.495.9268
Personal Site:   Link to Site
Vitae/CV:   Christopher Dede.pdf
Office:  Longfellow 336
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member
Faculty Assistant:  Claire Goggin


Chris Dede's fundamental interest is developing new types of educational systems to meet the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. His research spans emerging technologies for learning, infusing technology into large-scale educational improvement initiatives, developing policies that support educational transformation, and providing leadership in educational innovation. He is currently conducting funded studies to develop and assess learning environments based on virtual worlds, augmented realities, transformed social interaction, and online teacher professional development. Dede is a leader in mobile learning initiatives and has developed a widely used Framework for scaling up educational innovations. From 2001 to 2004, he served as chair of the Learning & Teaching area at HGSE.

Click here to see a full list of Chris Dede's courses.

Areas of Expertise
Professor Dede’s current research focuses on three areas: emerging technologies for learning and assessment, leadership in educational technology implementation, and effective policy for educational technology utilization. His research in emerging technologies includes funded projects on multi-user virtual environments, augmented realities, transformed social interaction, and online professional development. His research on leadership focuses on issues of scaling up innovations from local to widespread use, and his work in policy centers on state and national level educational improvement strategies.
Award from Association for Teacher Educators for "outstanding leadership and dedication to the education profession",(2012)

National Environmental Education Week Green STEM Innovators Award,(2012)

Association for Educational Communications and Technology Distinguished Development Award,(2011)

Association for Educational Communications and Technology Immersive Learning Award, Interactive Category,(2011)

Fellow of the American Educational Research Association,(2011)

Special Achievement Award, Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education,(2010)

Certificate of Special Recognition, Consortium for School Networking,(2009)

The Friday Medal, North Carolina State University,(2009)

Twice received the Outstanding Reviewer Award, Educational Researcher, American Educational Research Association,(2008)

Honored by Harvard University as an Outstanding Teacher,(2007)

National Service Award, National University Telecommunications Network,(2007)

Timothy E. Wirth Professorship in Learning Technologies, Harvard Graduate School of Education,(2000)

Sponsored Projects

EcoMOD: Integrating Computational Thinking into Ecosystems Science Education via Modeling in Immersive Virtual Worlds (2016-2019)
National Science Foundation

Under Track 1 Design and Development of the STEM+C program, the Ecolearn group at Harvard University will develop and study ecosystems science curricula that introduce modeling concepts and processes to third graders, based on computational thinking and programming. Research has revealed that even young students can demonstrate sophisticated reasoning and understandings related to complex causal patterns and features, and can engage in computer programming activities. The EcoMOD (Model/Modify, Observe, Design) project will build on and extend our prior EcoMUVE curriculum for middle school, using a design-based research approach to combine an immersive virtual environment with hands-on interactive modeling through a scaffolded computational interface. EcoMOD will offer links between multiple forms of representation to help connect visual models to dynamic representations of ecosystem interactions in a simulated forest setting. The curriculum will provide a highly supported, object-oriented programming environment similar to Scratch or Starlogo NOVA with a simple, scaffolded block interface, customized to focus on ecosystems modeling and designed specifically for younger children. EcoMOD's learning goals in habitats and food webs are taught using a systems perspective, shifting the instructional focus from comprehension of static representations to consequential student interaction with dynamic computational models. EcoMOD will explore these research questions: RQ1 - Using a design-based research methodology, which approaches to abstraction and representation offer the best scaffolding to students? Given this scaffolding, to what extent are students able to construct, modify, and interpret computational models that represent ecological concepts in EcoMOD? RQ2- To what extent do students show gains in understanding causal dynamics in ecosystem science content knowledge and affective measures after using EcoMOD? RQ3 - How does teachers' use of the curricula unfold in practice? What types of supports are necessary prior to and during the implementation? RQ4- To what extent do teachers see usage of the EcoMOD curriculum in typical school settings as desirable and as feasible from a practical perspective? EcoMOD will develop measures and methods for assessing the outcomes of this third grade curriculum on students and teachers. The resultant proof of concept, case-based data can inform future research on controlled comparison studies.

EcoXPT: Affordances for experimentation in an immersive world to support the learning of ecosystem science and complex causality (2014-2017)
National Science Foundation

This project develops and studies a new curriculum, EcoXPT, that works alongside the previously developed EcoMUVE curriculum. EcoMUVE consists of two multi-user virtual environment (MUVE)-based modules, which center on immersive pond and forest virtual ecosystems. Each module represents an ecological scenario involving complex causality, providing a richly textured, situated environment where, through modeling and instructional support, students can explore, observe, and collect data in rich, immersive, simulated virtual ecosystems. EcoXPT goes beyond observational inquiry to center on experiment-based inquiry as practiced in the ecosystems science field and called for in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), through adding iterative cycles of experimentation, reflection, and revision. Interviews with ecosystem scientists support the team’s ability to develop EcoXPT so that students can authentically test their own hypotheses so as to better understand causal patterns they could previously only observe, thereby extending their comprehension of underlying causal relationships. Students are be able to manipulate variables that represent the connection between individual ecosystem components, as well as develop a concept map linked to experimental evidence. They design small- and large-scale experiments to discover both short- and long-term, expected and unexpected effects. Three summative studies will be conducted to assess how EcoXPT works in contrast to a Business-as-Usual, EcoMUVE, and Non-immersive simulation curricula.

Supporting Large Scale Science Education Change: Understanding Online Professional Development and Adoption Variation Related to the Revised Advanced Placement Curriculum (2012-2017)
National Science Foundation

The high school science Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum redesign includes changes in the breadth and depth of content, learning objectives that link content with science practices, and the introduction of inquiry-based laboratory investigations - all of which are aligned with related changes on the AP exams. As AP Biology, Chemistry, and Physics teachers begin implementing these mandated shifts in content and pedagogy, this study will analyze the correlation among the types of professional development teachers select, teachers’ level of participation and perceptions about effectiveness of this professional development, and their students’ performance on the new AP exams. The research will also analyze the ways in which the features of these alternative types of professional development align with dimensions of Dede’s model for scaling up educational improvements, leading to a better understanding of how to design professional development for widespread impact.

EcoMOBILE: Blended real and virtual immersive experiences for learning complex causality and ecosystems science (2011-2016)
National Science Foundation

Content knowledge about ecosystems and populations is an important strand of the life science content standards, and the processes underlying ecosystems exemplify sophisticated causal mechanisms (e.g., systems dynamics) foundational for advanced science and mathematics. However, even after instruction, students often hold inaccurate interpretations about ecosystems’ structural patterns and systemic causality. Prior research (Grotzer & Basca, 2003) has shown that students often have difficulty reasoning about the causal complexity inherent in ecosystems. Co-PI Grotzer’s NSF-funded Causal Patterns curriculum (Grotzer, 2002) has shown success in helping students understand and explain the causal dynamics of ecosystems. However, teachers struggle to convey in hands-on, engaging ways difficult concepts involving causality involving time delays, spatial distance, non-obvious causes, and population-level effects. To meet this shortfall in current, largely textbook-based curricula, with Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funding we have developed and are studying EcoMUVE ( a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE)-based ecosystems science curriculum centered on grades 6 through 8 life science National Science Education Standards (NSES). EcoMUVE is an inquiry-based, four week curriculum that includes two one-week modules focused on experiencing immersive, simulated virtual ecosystems through observation, with scaffolded, collaborative interpretation by students. The curriculum centers on ecosystems science, the inquiry process, and the complex causality inherent in ecosystems dynamics. Our research findings in classrooms show promising results on the perceived value, usability, implementation feasibility, and student and teacher experiences associated with our curriculum, as well as pilot data showing gains in student learning and motivation (Metcalf et al., 2010). We hypothesize that student understanding and self-efficacy in science would be enhanced if students using EcoMUVE could also use powerful mobile broadband devices (MBDs) to explore the real ecosystems in their own backyard. MBDs will allow students to collect and share data using probeware, cameras, and microphones; access on-demand, on-site information about ecosystem components; and visit geo-referenced locations to directly observe critical components of the ecosystem and to experience virtual simulations related to their underlying causality. To study these hypotheses, we plan to develop EcoMOBILE (Ecosystems Mobile Outdoor Blended Immersive Learning Environment): a complementary set of learning experiences based on using MBDs to infuse virtual information and simulated experiences into real world ecosystems. We aim to determine what types of complementary learning and engagement real world settings infused with virtual resources add to immersive simulations. With prior funding from the U.S. Department of Education, we developed and studied “augmented reality” curricula ( for learning middle school mathematics and English/Language-Arts (O’Shea, Mitchell, Johnston, & Dede, 2009; Dunleavy, Dede, & Mitchell, 2009). Since that research was completed, powerful mobile broadband devices are now the primary technology infrastructure used by young people (Chiong & Shuler, 2010; Project Tomorrow, 2010); the EcoMobile project will study their potential power in academic settings to improve motivation and deepen learning of ecosystems science. Combined, EcoMUVE and EcoMobile will encompass the types of learning strengths and preferences many students today bring to school, based on their usage of social media and Internet resources on mobile devices, as well as their involvement in immersive gaming.

Kafai, Y.B., & Dede, C. (in press). Learning in virtual worlds. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Second Edition. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.,(forthcoming)

“'Neomillennial' Learning Styles Propagated by Wireless Handheld Devices" (with E. Dieterle and K. Schrier) in Ubiquitous and Pervasive Knowledge and Learning Management: Semantics, Social Networking and New Media to Their Full Potential (ed. by M. Lytras and A. Naeve),(forthcoming)

Fishman, B., & Dede, C. (in press). Teaching and technology: New tools for new times. In D. Gitomer & C. Bell (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Teaching, 5th Edition (American Educational Research Association). New York, NY: Springer.,(forthcoming)

"Building University Faculty and Student Capacity to use Wireless Handheld Devices for Learning" (with E. Dieterle) in Ubiquitous Computing: Invisible Technology, Visible Impact (ed. by M. van’t Hooft).,(forthcoming)

"Collaborative Design of Online Professional Development: Building the Milwaukee Professional Support Portal" (with D.E. Spicer) in Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,(forthcoming)

"Studying Situated Learning in a Multi-User Virtual Environment" (with D.J. Ketelhut, J. Clarke, B. Nelson, and C. Bowman) in Assessment of Problem Solving Using Simulations (ed. by E. Baker, J. Dickieson, W. Wulfeck, and H. O’Neil),(forthcoming)

Dede. C. (2013). Commentary one: Open education – disrupting the classroom. In L. Squires and A. Meisner, Advances in Digital Education and Lifelong Learning: Volume 1, pp. 173-185. London, England: Emerald Press.,(2013)

Sabelli, N., & Dede, C. (2013). Empowering design-based implementation research: The need for infrastructure. In B. J. Fishman, W.R. Penuel, A-R Allen, & B.H. Cheng (Eds.), Design-based implementation research: Theories, methods, and exemplars (National Society for the Study of Education, Volume 112, Issue 2), pp. 464-480. NY, NY: Teachers College, Columbia.,(2013)

Dede, C. (2013). Connecting the dots: New technology-based models of postsecondary learning. EDUCAUSE Review, 48(5), 33-52.,(2013)

Dunleavy, M., and Dede, C. (2013). Augmented reality teaching and learning. In J.M. Spector, M.D Merrill, J. Elen, & M.J. Bishop (Eds.), The Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (4th ed.), pp. 735-745. New York: Springer.,(2013)

Dawley, L., & Dede, C. (2013). Situated learning in virtual worlds and immersive simulations. In J.M. Spector, M.D Merrill, J. Elen, & M.J. Bishop (Eds.), The Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (4th ed.), pp. 723-734. New York: Springer.,(2013)

Dede, C. (2013) Opportunities and Challenges in Embedding Diagnostic Assessments into Immersive Interfaces. Educational Designer, 2(6), 1-22.,(2013)

Dede. C. (2013). Reaching scale beyond a school-level innovation. School Administrator, 70(4), 33-37.,(2013)

Kamarainen, A.M., Metcalf, S., Grotzer, T., Browne, A., Mazzuca, D., Tutwiler, M.S., & Dede, C. (2013) EcoMOBILE: Integrating augmented reality and probeware with environmental education field trips, Computers & Education, Available online 14 March 2013, ISSN 0360-1315, 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.02.018.,(2013)

Grotzer, T., Kamarainen, A., Tutwiler, M.S., Metcalf, S., & Dede, C. (2013). Learning to reason about ecosystems dynamics over time: The challenges of an event-based causal focus. Bioscience 63(4), 288-296.,(2013)

Dede, C., & Richards, J. (Eds.). (2012). Digital teaching platforms: Customizing classroom learning for each student. New York: Teacher’s College Press.,(2012)

Online Professional Development for Teachers: Emerging Models and Methods, ed.,(2006)

Dede, C., (Ed). (2006). Online Professional Development for Teachers: Emerging Models and Methods. Cambridge, MA, Harvard Education Press.,(2006)

"Scaling Up: Evolving Innovations beyond Ideal Settings to Challenging Contexts of Practice," in Handbook of the Learning Sciences (ed. by R.K. Sawyer). Cambridge University Press.,(2006)

"A Design-based Research Strategy to Promote Scalability for Educational Innovations" (eith J. Clarke, D.J. Ketelhut, and B. Nelson) in Educational Technology.,(2006)

Dede, C., Honan, J., & Peters, L., (Eds). (2005). Scaling Up Success: Lessons Learned from Technology-Based Educational Improvement. New York: Jossey-Bass.,(2005)

"Why Design-Based Research Is Both Important and Difficult," Educational Technology,(2005)

"Planning for 'Neomillennial' Learning Styles: Implications for Investments in Technology and Faculty," in Educating the Net Generation (ed. by J. Oblinger and D. Oblinger),(2005)

"Designing Distributed Learning Experiences: An Overview" (with D.J. Ketelhut, P. Whitehouse, and T. Brown-L’Bahy) in Encyclopedia of Online Learning,(2005)

Scaling Up Success: Lessons Learned from Technology-Based Educational Improvement (ed. with J. Honan and L. Peters). Jossey-Bass.,(2005)

Design-Based Research Strategies for Studying Situated Learning in a Multi-User Virtual Environment (with D. Ketelhut, B. Nelson, J. Clarke, and C. Bowman) in Proceedings of the International Conference on Learning Sciences,(2004)

"Distance Learning (Virtual Learning)," (with T. Brown-L'Bahy, D. Ketelhut, and P. Whitehouse) in The Internet Encyclopedia (ed. by H. Bidgoli),(2004)

"If Design-Based Research is the Answer, What is the Question?" in Journal of the Learning Sciences,(2004)

Learning from Leapfrog: Creating Educational and Business Value (9-804-062) (with L. Applegate and S. Saltrick). Harvard Business School Case Study.,(2003)

"Motivation, Usability, and Learning Outcomes in a Prototype Museum-based Multi-User Virtual Environment," (with D. Ketelhut and K. Ruess) in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ed. by P. Bell, R. Stevens, & T. Satwicz),(2003)

"Designing and Studying Learning Experiences that use Multiple Interactive Media to Bridge Distance and Time," (with P. Whitehouse and T. Brown-L'Bahy) in Current Perspectives on Applied Information Technologies. Vol. 1: Distance Education,(2002)

"No Cliché Left Behind: Why Education Policy Is Not Like the Movies," in Educational Technology,(2002)

"Enhancing State and Local Policy Making about Educational Technologies," in Great Expectations: The E-Rate at Five,(2001)

"Using Virtual Reality Technology to Convey Abstract Scientific Concepts," in Learning the Sciences of the 21st Century: Research, Design, and Implementing Advanced Technology Learning Environments (with C. Salzman, B. Loftin, and K. Ash),(2000)

"Emerging Influences of Information Technology on School Curriculum," in Journal of Curriculum Studies,(2000)

"Emerging Technologies and Distributed Learning in Higher Education," in Higher Education in an Era of Digital Competition: Choices and Challenges,(2000)

"Multisensory Immersion as a Modeling Environment for Learning Complex Scientific Concepts," in Computer Modeling and Simulation in Science Education (with M. Salzman, B. Loftin, and D. Sprague),(1999)

Learning with Technology, yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, ed.,(1998)

Dede, C., Ed. (1998). Learning with Technology (1998 ASCD Yearbook). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.,(1998)

MITx Press Editorial Board,(2013-2016)

Consulting Editor, Educational Technology Research and Develpment,(2010-2016)

Editorial Board, Educational Researcher,(2000-2016)

Editorial Board, International Journal of Science Education,(2000-2016)

Editorial Board, Journal of Science Education and Technology,(2000-2016)

Review Board, Journal of the Learning Sciences,(1998-2016)

Consulting Editor, Educational Technology,(1988-2016)

Editorial Review Board, the Journal of Technology in Teacher Education,(2001-2015)

Editorial Board, American Educational Research Association Review of Research in Education,(2002-2005)

National Advisory Board, Association for Teacher Education Commission on Technology and the Future of Teacher Education,(2002-2005)

National Advisory Board Member, Milwaukee Public Schools,(2000-2003)

International Steering Committee, Second International Study of Technology in Education, International Educational Assessment Association,(1997-2003)

Technology Expert Panel, U.S. Department of Education,(1999-2001)

MITx Press Editorial Board,(2013-)

Educational Technology Research and Development journal, Consulting Editor,(2010-)

Advisory Board, George Lucas Education Foundation,(2005-)

National Design Team, PBS TeacherLine,(2005-)

Board of Directors, Tech Boston Academy, Boston Public Schools,(2003-)

Education Advisory Board, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills,(2002-)

National Advisory Board, University of Texas Telecampus

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