See also: Curriculum Vitae

Selected Interests & Expertise

  • ​​Communication
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Instructional Design & Evaluation
  • Media & Technology
  • Project Management
  • Psychology
  • Training

PopMatters Staff Writer

Selected Research

Prior to starting my PhD, I studied educational technology and innovative school organization structures. I focused on open source software and open content, and I advised K12 administrators (e.g., CIOs) on the pros and cons.

From my PhD studies to the present, I've focused on increasing human capacities such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and perseverance. I believe that we can implement better leadership, training, and socio-emotional climates to more intentionally, sustainably develop and leverage human capacities.

My core inspirations include Vygotksy's Zone of Proximal Development, Csikszentmihalyi's Flow and Creativity, Dweck's Mindset, Mishra and Koehler's Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), and especially Spiro's Cognitive Flexibility Theory (CFT). I'm fluent in backwards design models like ADDIE and the Kirkpatrick Model.

My research and development has intentionally criss-crossed the problem space of human capacities. My projects all overlap at three desirable behaviors that I call the Trying Trio: Admit Ignorance, Take Risks, and Own Mistakes. These behaviors are desirable because they catalyze learning. Learners who intentionally confront their ignorance and actively experiment with answers and strategies will learn faster than learners who conceal their ignorance and hold back. We should foster Trying behaviors in formal and informal education settings as well as workplaces, to bring out the best in people.

In graduate school, I focused on user engagement and reluctance. Intentional design choices can decrease reluctance and increase Trying behaviors. As part of my dissertation, I developed a video game preview that dynamically adapted to an individual to be more appealing.

Subsequently, my projects have included:

  • Educational technology. I've extensively studied a variety of classroom tools, including individual response devices ("clickers"), interactive whiteboards, web publishing, and more. Sometimes technology can promote Trying behaviors and at other times it hinders them. Instructor modeling of Trying behaviors with new technology can be highly influential, yet instructors themselves often hesitate to try new tools.
  • Reciprocal teaching. I've studied the pros and cons of sharing ownership of instruction with students. I built a custom learning management system (like Blackboard or Canvas) to support experimental curriculum and assessment. Reciprocal teaching can substantially increase Trying behaviors
  • Responding to learner reluctance. I've studied why learners hesitate to engage in Trying behaviors, including in early childhood education. I've explore strategies and media to decrease reluctance.
  • Psychology of games. I've written extensively on the ways that video games and other games affect how people think, feel, and act. This includes how games can foster Trying behaviors. I've written a series of essays for PopMatters, an online international magazine of cultural criticism and analysis.
  • Teaching using games. I've developed and tested a variety of games, including video games, card games, and board games. As special contexts, games can foster Trying behaviors better than traditional teaching modalities.
  • Adolescent development and video games. I've studied this intersection closely. I've explored adding video games to public libraries' teen centers. I've written and presented on how parents/guardians should view video games. I cautiously recommend video games for many reasons, including how they can foster Trying behaviors.
  • Cultural capital. I've assessed various populations' recognition of images of famous real people versus video game characters. Adults only recognize famous people. Children recognize both famous people and video game characters. Children are pushed to learn famous people because adults value this cultural capital. In contrast, children voluntarily, intentionally learn video game characters as part of the youth culture they collectively co-own.

CC 2018 | Kym Buchanan
Photo of Kym by Eva Donohoo


The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write,

but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. -Alvin Toffler

​Kym Buchanan