Update: Please note that Dr. Matthew Kam left Carnegie Mellon University in August 2012 to change the world. This website has not been updated since then. To reach him, please see his personal website: http://www.matthewkam.org.

Admin assistant: Jo Bodnar
Tel: +1 (412) 268-6162 / Fax: +1 (412) 268-1266
jobodnar AT cs DOT cmu DOT edu

Office hours (Spring 2012): Tuesday and Thursday afternoons by appointment

Recent News and Travel

World Bank
Jun 12, 2012 - Washington D.C.

Computerworld Honors Laureate award ceremony
Jun 4, 2012 - Washington D.C.

Paper presentation @ ACM CHI 2012 conference
May 5-10, 2012 - Austin, Texas

USAID mEducation research roundtable @ Harvard
Apr 13, 2012 - Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cited in GSM Association's mWomen report
Mar 2012

Conference keynote @ DIGITEL 2012
Mar 24-30, 2012 - Takamatsu, Japan

Featured in The Guardian
Mar 13, 2012 - United Kingdom

Nokia Research Center
Mar 9, 2012 - Palo Alto, California

Meeting @ NSF
Mar 1-2, 2012 - Washington, D.C.

Featured in World Economic Forum report
Feb 2012

Feb 7-8, 2012 - Los Angeles, California

Featured in book commissioned by Qatar Foundation
Nov 2, 2011 - Doha, Qatar

Talk @ Virginia Tech

Oct 27, 2011 - Blacksburg, Virginia

Featured @ Clinton Global Initiative
Sep 19-22, 2011 - New York City

Featured @ World Economic Forum's session on "Closing the Education Gap"
Sep 16, 2011 - Dalian, China

Panel presentation @ USAID symposium on "Mobiles for Education for Developing Countries"
Aug 18, 2011 - Bethesda, Maryland

Our summer interns from India have their work featured in the press in Ahmedabad Mirror
Aug 2, 2011 - Ahmedabad, India

Commenced pilot of cellphone-based English literacy learning games with 250 children
Jul 29, 2011 - Hyderabad, India

ACM CHI 2011 conference
May 7-12, 2011 - Vancouver, Canada

Contact Information

Matthew Kam
Assistant Professor
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Computer Science
Human-Computer Interaction Institute

5000 Forbes Avenue
Newell Simon Hall, Room 3525
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891, USA
Tel: +1 (412) 268-9805 / Fax: +1 (412) 268-1266
AT cs DOT cmu DOT edu
twitter @matthewkam

“My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know -- he will know and through him we will know.” -- the non-literate Kino, in John Steinbeck's The Pearl

Matthew Kam
Assistant Professor
Carnegie Mellon University
mattkam AT cs DOT cmu DOT edu
twitter @matthewkam

Research interests: computer-assisted language learning, educational games, literacy technologies, mobile learning, technology in the developing world
Research | Teaching | People | Publications | Media Coverage | Bio | Recent News and Travel | Contact Info
I am building the Human Development Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. Please see its website for more details about my research, publications, media coverage, people whom I work with, the classes that I teach, and my service to the community.

My research investigates how culturally appropriate technologies and educational videogames can be designed to improve learning in underserved communities in both the so-called developing world and industrialized nations. We apply the latest -- and often under-specified -- learning theories to design innovative curricula and technology-enhanced learning environments. Through field studies, we refine existing conceptual frameworks and contribute towards knowledge that informs learning interventions for underserved learners. Despite being technology innovators, we maintain a healthy skepticism about technology. We adopt a participatory approach with end-users to understand their needs, attitudes, practices and political environments.

Some current research thrusts:

Mobile language learning in India - we are winding down an academic-year long comparative pilot study with 250 children in 4 low-income schools in India. Here, disadvantaged children learn English as a Second Language -- an important gateway to economic opportunities -- using the educational games that we have designed for low-cost cellphones.

Culturally congruent curriculum design - the above games incorporate a curriculum framework that we designed for one entire academic year of ESL lessons. It draws from pertinent theories of monolingual and multilingual reading development (>50% of the world's population is multilingual!). It targets the local state government's ESL curriculum, and bridges the gap between this standard and the limited ESL proficiency that disadvantaged rural children currently have.

Productive vocabulary practice supported by speech recognition - while computer-aided learning has mostly targeted passive vocabulary knowledge, speech recognition enables us to target active vocabulary. We have shown improvements on word reading scores among rural children in India, and are extending this line of research to smartphones in the US (recall Google Voice and Siri).

Kinesthetic learning via motion-sensing game scenes - based on the adolescent fiction for US middle school students, we are designing motion-sensing game scenes for the Kinect to understand how physical actions in videogames relate to learning and reading comprehension processes.

Physics learning videogames - this is part of a large DARPA funded project, in which we are designing and evaluating physics learning games for pre-K to 3rd-grade children in the US. I am working with Sesame Workshop to study learning and adoption in a national network of after-school programs.

My previous research include:

Cross-cultural game design in India and China - we examined the game mechanics in 28 traditional village games from India, and contrasted these elements against those in contemporary Western videogames. This analysis enabled us to identify guidelines for designing culturally appropriate games for rural Indian children. This approach was replicated with traditional Chinese village games for rural children in China with promising early outcomes.

Gender empowerment - building on previous in-situ studies of mobile learning in Indian villages, where we discovered how caste and gender act as social fault-lines that affect learning and technology adoption, we have explored the space of technological possibilities for non-government organizations to impact girls and marginalized women in the developing world using mobile technology.

$10, 8-bit television computers - we studied how videogames on this low-cost device was used in peri-urban households in India, and identified implications for designing educational games for this setting. An open community associated with this project has designed and developed games for this platform for health, computer literacy, language literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Multiple-mice computer - this is another low-cost computing platform, in which a regular computer was adapted such that multiple mice input devices could be connected to it, thus enabling it to be shared by several children. I mentored a team of Master's students who designed and field-tested a collaborative learning game on this platform for their capstone project; they received the top prize from their department.

Microfinance in Uganda - I was part of a team of third-party evaluators who studied the Remote Transaction System, which was spearheaded by a consortium convened by Hewlett-Packard to improve the tracking of micro-loans to low-collateral borrowers.

Educational tablets - back in 2000 (way before the iPad!), we studied how wirelessly connected tablets could be used to promote small-group collaborative learning in large lecture classes.

In spring 2012, I am teaching, for the third time, an introductory course that I designed, which combines educational technology with the science of how humans learn. Alumni from the first two offerings of this course are spinning off their class projects as a commercial start-up and 501(c)3 non-profit organization. By the end of the course, students will have a "survival level" of knowledge about the latest scientific research on human learning to design and implement high-impact educational initiatives in the workplace, home, classroom and community. On May 3, 2012 from 12 noon to 1:20pm in GHC 6121, students will present their posters and demos on their following projects:
  • Adapting iTextBooks for Elementary Education
  • Bad Luck: Promoting Survival Skills Using Interactive Fiction on Short Messaging Service
  • Improving Future Learning in Honduras
  • Kekii: Teaching Financial Literacy in Colombia
  • Mobile Phones for Adult Literacy in Nigeria
  • Organizing Online Educational Videos
  • Robots and Electronics Kits in Education
  • SCIdKick: Promoting Inquiry-Based Science Learning Through Mobile Data Collection
  • Sifteo Cubes for Learning About Magnetism
  • Speech Recognition for Early Literacy with Sesame Street e-Books
  • STEM Learning on the $35 Aakash Tablet
  • Teaching Seniors Technology
  • The Counting Cooks: 1+1 = Healthy Eating
  • Virtual Piano Book on the One-Laptop-Per-Child for Music Education in Rwanda