Q&A with Cigdem Uz Bilgin, Researcher at MIT’s Education Arcade

June 5, 2020

Cigdem Uz Bilgem is a researcher with Reach Every Reader. Her work on the project includes exploring ways to promote data literacy for teachers and conducting research to ensure our diagnostic assessments and screeners are user-friendly and accessible for literacy educators.

Cigdem holds a master’s in Computer Education and Instructional Technology from Hacettepe University and a doctorate in Computer Education and Instructional Technology from Middle East Technical University. Her research focuses on the use of virtual environments and games to create playful experiences for teachers and students. Cigdem is a research assistant at Yildiz Technical University, and she is currently working as a researcher in the Education Arcade / Scheller Teacher Education Program at MIT. When she’s not conducting literacy and education research she likes riding her bike, hiking and being in nature!

When and how did you become interested in educational technology?

After high school, I was looking for an undergraduate program that I found interesting and fulfilling. I decided to enroll in the Computer Education and Instructional Technology program, a unique interdisciplinary major which brings together education science and the effective use of technology to improve teaching and learning. Learning to design and develop technology enhanced learning environments was a great experience, and I decided to pursue a graduate program that would give me a more in-depth understanding of the field. As a PhD student, I took a class called Serious Games and Simulations which focused on the theory and application of creating game-based learning experiences. This class inspired my current research work on creating and evaluating playful learning experiences.

How can we use technology to make learning more effective?

Technology used in learning environments should not shift the focus away from the learner. Technology can help instructors and instructional designers to create enhanced learning environments that promote learners’ critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving which are essential skills in the 21st century. Another advantage of technology is that it can be used to meet the specific needs of each type of learner.

With students learning virtually across the globe, what do you consider the biggest challenge facing these students and their instructors in this unprecedented time?

Because of the unexpected and abrupt shift to remote learning, instructors have had a very short amount of time to adopt the technology, resources, and strategies needed to support online learning.  This transition is not an easy process, and not all teachers are able to adapt quickly. Some students are also struggling to adapt to remote learning, as it can be challenging to meet their social and emotional needs in addition to their educational needs.

What is your favorite thing about your work with Reach Every Reader?

The best thing about Reach Every Reader is that it involves experts from many disciplines. My favorite part of working for Reach Every Reader is exchanging ideas and sharing experiences with amazing team members. We also collaborate with families, teachers, and industry partners which is the best way to create solutions to strengthen the literacy skills of children.