John Black

John B. Black is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Telecommunications and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; where he is a member of both the Department of Human Development and the Department of Math, Science and Technology; and serves as Co-Director of the Institute for Learning Technologies. He has a BS degree (1970) in math from MIT and a PhD degree (1979) in Cognitive Psychology from Stanford. He was an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Yale before joining the TC faculty. He has served as a consultant to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, IBM Research and Bell Laboratories. He is the author of over 80 refereed publications and 4 books. His research focuses on cognitive research and its application to the design and use of educational technology.

Susan Lowes
Associate Director/Director Research and Evaluation

Dr. Susan Lowes is Director of Research and Evaluation at the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has conducted research on teaching and learning at both the K-12 and university levels, including many online initiatives, and has evaluated multi-year projects funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education (PT-3, FIPSE, TIGC, 21st CCLC, and TAH), NSF (ITEST, IGERT, REU, GK-12), private foundations, and city and state governments. She has served on Department of Education and NSF Advisory and Review panels and was Co-PI on a NSF-funded GK-12 Project awarded to Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering. Her research focuses on engineering education; on online teaching and learning, particularly at the K-12 level; and on geography education.

Dr. Lowes joined the staff of ILT in 1996 to work on a number of professional development initiatives and curriculum projects, including the Living Schoolbook Project, the Reinventing Libraries Project, and the Seneca Village Project (with the New-York Historical Society). In 1998 and 1999, she worked with museums, archives, and libraries as Coordinator of Web Resources and Curriculum for a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant to District 1’s American Gateways Project, and served as a consultant to the New York State Archives and Records Administration’s Erie Canal Project, the North Hudson Electronic Education Empowerment Project’s museum-school initiative, the Twin Tiers Coalition for Learning’s professional development program, the National Council for Research on Women, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and the United Nations CyberSchoolBus. From 1999 through 2001, she was a manager of Curriculum and Professional Development for ILT’s Eiffel Project. In 2001, she became Director of Research and Evaluation. From 1997 through 2003, she was also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at the Hunter College School of Education of the City University of New York, teaching courses on curriculum and technology. She is currently Adjunct Professor in the program in Communication, Computing and Technology in Education at Teachers College, where she teaches courses on research methodologies and on virtual schooling.

Dr. Lowes received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in 1994, with distinction. Her dissertation, “The Peculiar Class: The Formation, Collapse, and Reformation of the Middle Class in Antigua, West Indies, 1834-1940,” was nominated for the Bancroft Dissertation Award. She has done fieldwork throughout the Leeward Islands and in London, England, and attended the M.A. program in anthropology at Hunter College before moving the Teachers College, where she received her M.Phil. Her work on Antigua can be found at

Her full resume, with publications, can be found here.

Jialing Zeng
Senior Research Associate

Jialing Zeng is a Ph.D. student in Cognitive Science in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She serves as a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Learning Technologies; and is also a research assistant in the Neurocognition of Language Lab. She is interested in attention and cognitive load monitoring using electroencephalography and eye-tracking, especially within the context of mathematical learning, and its application to the design and utilization of educational technology for enhancing learning.

Lab Directors

John Black, Cognition & Learning Lab

Xiaodong Lin, Motivation & Instruction Lab

Susan Lowes, Online Learning Lab

Graduate Researchers

Salvatore Garofalo

Salvatore Garofalo is Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Education in the SEYS Department at The City University of New York, Queens College. He earned his doctorate in Cognitive Science in Education at Columbia University. His expertise is in pedagogical content knowledge related to the integration of technology in science education. In particular, his areas of research include cognition in science and technology, the development of spatial thinking skills in STEM, the impact of technology on spatial ability and conceptual understanding, constructionism, and embodied cognition. In addition to teaching science education courses, Dr. Garofalo also teaches the introductory biology course in the Biology Department at Queens College. He is a coauthor of the research book Spatial Intelligence: Why it Matters from Birth through the Lifespan. Dr. Garofalo also serves as an NSF co-principal investigator on a Noyce grant that investigates science instruction, exploratory practices in STEM, technology integration in the STEM classroom, and the retention of science education majors and teachers. His current research examines the use of next-generation technologies such as augmented reality, drones, and artificial intelligence on cognitive load and conceptual understanding of abstract STEM concepts.

Josh Friedman

Josh Friedman holds a PhD in Cognitive Science in Education from Columbia University, and is currently teaching at Hunter College, CUNY while working with researchers from Columbia University’s Psychology department. His research primarily focuses on the social nature of cognitive development and skills. Beyond what we learn from others, Josh studies how we learn how others learn, how we learn through others’ learning, and how learning about others helps us or changes how we learn from them. Specifically, Josh’s work focuses on deep quantitative modelling of social dynamics between teachers and students, and parents and children, through multivariate statistics, machine learning, and time series analyses of physiological, facial, and brain data to understand how synchronous coordination of behavior and brain dynamics during learning interactions impacts learning and reasoning processes.  

His work in the past has analyzed brain and behavior dynamics in students and teachers at Columbia University, as well as fMRI hyperscanning research on parent-child interactions at the Zuckerman Institute for Mind, Brain, and Behavior. Prior to entering the world of research, Josh spent 5 years teaching English, Philosophy, and Leadership skills across 5 continents, and developing a socially active philosophical skills building curriculum at a summer camp in Texas, USA. When not digging into the latest dataset or theorizing about the social underpinnings of cognition, Josh can be found gardening, hiking, or camping around the Tri-State Area.

Xinyu Pan

Xinyu Pan started her education career teaching high school Special Education in the Bronx. She is currently a PhD Candidate in Cognitive Science in Education here at Teachers College and a part-time instructional coach for New York City Public Schools. Prior to her PhD studies, Xinyu was a program director and instructional coach at NYC Department of Education focused on building instructional  capacity of teachers & school leaders and curriculum development & implementation in the areas of teaching & assessing 21st century skills. Xinyu received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History and International Studies from Boston College, her Master of Education in Secondary Special Education from Hunter College.

Research Interests: teacher beliefs and their influence on instructional behaviors, 21st century skills development and school-based interventions, longitudinal prediction of skills and school-based interventions.

Jullia Lim

Jullia is a 4th year PhD student in Cognitive Science in Education, currently studying the effects of AI-generated educational videos with pedagogical agents (virtual instructors) on cognition and learning. She is particularly interested in studying human-AI interaction in the context of education.

She is an interdisciplinary researcher, with a diverse sociotechnical background. Jullia has a breadth of experiences that allow her to take on diverse perspectives when tackling problems. In the past, she ran an edtech start, was an education app PM, and was also a classroom teacher.  

At large, Jullia’s work focuses on the interaction between people and technology. In previous years, she designed immersive technology experiences, including an augmented reality (AR) simulation game for social skills and a virtual reality (VR) speech therapy for stuttering patients. She aspires to create more equitable and inclusive learning environments with the help of technology.

Berj Akian

Berj is pursuing a PhD in Cognitive Science in Education and his research and areas of interest include a variety of aspects of learning. Some favorites include: 

  • Exploring the relationships between focal attention, cognitive engagement, and learning outcomes
  • Advances in instructional design
  • Nearly all things learning analytics and data visualization
  • Applications of artificial intelligence to instruction
  • Immersive and mixed reality learning experiences
  • Neuroscience and advances in medicines and therapies
  • Frameworks and implementations of social and emotional learning

Berj is active in the edtech industry through partnership with various education industry organizations and as founder and CEO of ClassLink.

Ishaq Chowdhury

I am a current PhD candidate in the Cognitive Science in Education program. My overarching goal is to explore how educational technology can be better implemented to facilitate learning. I’d like to find ways for digital tools to be more effective in supporting classroom environments. My immediate focus is investigating how different types of feedback in formative assessments can influence student performance and understanding of learned material. Currently, I am conducting studies comparing different levels of interactive feedback to examine how they play a role in cognitive load, student engagement, and student reception towards feedback. 

Past Graduate Researchers

Ilya Lyashevsky

Zhulin Yu

Lauren Young

Spreeha Debchaudhury

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