Faculty Experiences - Dario Nardi

Dario Nardi - photo interviewDARIO NARDI


Interview Topics

What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?


Analyze complex systems

Cognitive concepts

Different learning styles

Student creativity




Class web site


Fostering Personal Innovation & Creativity

I've found that what students will remember more in your class are things that are experiential and interactive. The more engaged you get students the less you will have to teach or spoon feed them. They will have ownership if you make assignments personal. I try to create every homework assignment to allow for personal innovation and creativity.

Programming brings a certain mindset to learning that they may not be used to. Students can begin to become comfortable with technology whether it's changing a data file or writing a small program, but it's more about what they can relate to--people, groups, objects, social issues, and so on.

I do a combination of teaching in computing and social science. I'm moving into a new area at UCLA called Human Complex Systems which marries social sciences and computing in a rigorous way so that students can learn programming skills while learning political science, economics, and other core subjects. I'm very excited about doing this full time. Computational tools broaden how students do social science, showing them how to model, simulate and explore complex human activities such as how traffic flows or how universities function. These combination subjects also provide the opportunity for students to learn meta-cognitively--how do you think, how do you perceive, why do you do what you do, why do others do what they do?

The newest technique I'm using is a robot in the classroom. This adds a whole new dimension because whereas a computer is something that just merely sits on a desk, a robot rather is actually moving and is a tool that the students can see, touch, and feel. The technology is available for people to use. Usually the activity I have students do is write social behaviors and try them out by talking into a microphone for the robot to respond. It really creates an exciting learning environment especially for some students who may feel that computers are not for them.

The feedback I've gotten from students has been generally positive. There is usually a bit of trepidation at first with students, but they get used to it. Testing and experimentation is the process that helps students get more comfortable with the technology.

I use the class web site in the classroom for several functions: 1) The web site is very useful because it's very easy to download software and share with students. 2) My web site is also used for students to test their work online at home or on campus if they are not in the direct presence of the robot. 3) I use e-mail communication to know what and how my students are feeling and reacting to the material. Further, for me not to worry about the logistics of collecting assignments, for example, frees me up from not having to pop in 60 student diskettes and gives me more quality time to have more one-on- one interactions with the students.

I have personally seen where the use of technology in the classroom has added new ways for me to get across to students and accommodate their different learning styles. I really hope that technology will in the future expand the palette of opportunities for teachers to reach their students. There is an impression that technology will give teachers more to do. I've actually discovered that I can cut down unnecessary material and avoid cramming more information at the end of the class.

Oral Interview, April 23, 2003