University of Pittsburgh
February 21, 2013

Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary With 2013 Distinguished Speaker Series

Contact:  412-624-4147

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Written by Danielle Cameron

PITTSBURGH—A center dedicated to advancing the study of learning was established 50 years ago by two University of Pittsburgh visionaries. The late Robert Glaser, a renowned Pitt cognitive psychologist, and the late James Steele Gow Jr., a longtime Pitt administrator and an educator in political science, came together in 1963 as cofounding directors of the internationally renowned Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), which continues to bring together top experts in a range of fields such as law, computer science, and psychology to promote research on learning.

To celebrate its five decades of research, LRDC will kick off a special 2013 Distinguished Speakers Series Feb. 28 with a lecture by Massachusetts Institute of Technology learning research professor Mitchel Resnick titled “Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society.” The series of six lectures—four this spring and two in the fall—will feature leading U.S. educators and research scientists.

All lectures will be held at 3 p.m. at the University Club, 123 University Place, Oakland. They are free and open to the public, but reservations are required; visit to RSVP. 

LRDC also will host a series of other events throughout the year—including an alumni conference and gala dinner in May—in honor of its 50th anniversary. Visit or call 412-624-7020 for more information.

The schedule for the initial four lectures in the 2013 Speaker Series follows.

Thursday, Feb. 28
Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society”
Resnick will discuss new technologies and activities designed specifically to help children think creatively and reason systematically. He will demonstrate this through his program, Scratch, which enables children to create their own online interactive stories, games, and animations.

Thursday, March 21
Kate Nation, professor of experimental psychology, University of Oxford, England
“Learning to Read and Learning to Comprehend”
Nation will present research demonstrating how children’s language skills develop, especially with regard to the written word. Her research focuses on better understanding how children progress from novice to expert readers, moving from reading a single word to understanding a text in its entirety.

Thursday, April 4
Gautam Biswas, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, Vanderbilt University
“Open-Ended Environments That Help Middle School Students Develop Metacognitive Strategies for Learning Science”
Biswas has developed a computer program with a teachable agent named “Betty,” which, once taught, can answer questions and explain those answers and even take quizzes graded by a mentor agent. Biswas will explain how this program helps students to assess their own knowledge and motivates them to learn more.

Wednesday, May 15
Bruce McCandliss, Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University
“Educational Neuroscience: Points of Mutual Influence Between Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and the Science of Education”
McCandliss studies how cognitive abilities can change through learning and education. He has conducted training studies with adults and children, longitudinal research with school-age children, and naturalistic school-based studies.



Bruce McCandliss, Patricia and Rhodes Hart Chair and Professor of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University

Guatam Biswas, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Senior Research Scientist, Vanderbilt University

Kate Nation, Professor in Experimental Psychology, St. John's College (Oxford)

Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, MIT