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Michael A. Evans

Associate Professor, Digital Learning and Teaching

Friday Institute

Friday Institute, 202B



Michael A. Evans joined North Carolina State University in August 2014 as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in the Digital Transformation of Education. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences specializing in Digital Learning and Teaching. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. His main research area focuses on the role of digital technologies, particularly games, simulations, and social media, to enhance engagement and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Recently, his work has examined how middle school youth from rural communities leverage and appropriate digital technologies to stay motivated when challenged with ill-structured problems in an inquiry-driven setting. To investigate these effects, Dr. Evans organizes multi-disciplinary teams (including collaborators from psychology, STEM content areas, and computer science) to conduct mixed-method research to explain the mechanisms that could lead to enhanced engagement and learning, particularly among underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. Outcomes from this work also contribute to design specifications that could enhance computer-mediated learning whether it be digital games to promote mathematics fluency or social network forums to enhance scientific and design thinking. These efforts represent a dedicated effort to work in out-of-school and classroom settings with a goal of blurring boundaries between what is conventionally referred to as informal and formal learning settings. Prior to joining NC State, Dr. was an Associate Professor in the Instructional Design and Technology Program, Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies, at Virginia Tech. His research, teaching, and service focus on the development and research of engaging integrative STEM curricula and programs for underserved, underperforming middle school youth. In support of this work, he is Principal Investigator on two current NSF-sponsored projects. The GAMES Project (DRL 1118571) develops learning games for tablets and other mobile devices, focusing on pre-algebra readiness, proficiency, and engagement states. Studio STEM (DRL 1029756) is an informal engineering design-based science-learning program that leverages social media to enhance inquiry. Dr. Evans teaches graduate courses in the learning sciences and interactive media design and development. He is a co-founder of the Human-Centered Design Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program, Fellow at the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology, and Affiliate Faculty in the Center for Human-Computer Interaction. Dr. Evans has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, conference proceedings, and book chapters.

Research Description

Studio STEM. Studio STEM was designed as an after school program that used diverse social media and digital tools to engage 11-15 year-old students in design-based science inquiry within a studio environment. In the implemented curriculum, Save the Penguins, students were asked to perform scientific experiments through engineering processes to inform the design of an enclosure to protect penguin-shaped ice cubes from rising temperatures. The science concepts being treated were thermodynamics and heat transfer. The goal was to empirically examine the effects of social media on students’ demonstrations of academic effort in out-of-school settings. To that end, investigators tracked participant and facilitator interactions through the social networking site, Edmodo, via chat logs. Facilitators were undergraduate students in STEM fields recruited from the nearby university. A discursive psychology approach was used to analyze these text-based interactions within the Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out framework of interest-driven learning proposed by Ito et al. (2010). Results showed that students’ understanding of science concepts were enhanced through participation in Studio STEM as evidenced through their articulation of the science of energy concepts and engineering processes through Edmodo. Articulation of concepts and processes that indicated academic talk remained dependent on the amount of prompting facilitators used within the Edmodo site and the availability of technology in the after school setting and home. Future work will investigate ways in which informal STEM learning environments could leverage social media to enhance youth interactions to increase likelihood of geeking out on STEM. The GAMES Project. A newly developed app, the Candy Factory, was used to understand the effects of learning games on engagement and proficiency. For the reported effort, investigators recruited 306 students, Grades 6-8, from two schools in rural southwest Virginia. Over a nine-week period the Candy Factory was deployed as an intervention for learning about fractions, focusing on partitioning and iterating. Students were assigned to game intervention treatment and paper and pencil control conditions. For the game intervention condition, students encountered fraction concepts by playing the Candy Factory for set intervals (20 minutes twice a week) in the classroom. Results indicated that students in the game intervention group showed higher mathematics proficiency, relative to baseline proficiency, than those in the paper and pencil group. Particularly, the significantly higher performance of intervention groups were noted among 7th graders and inclusion groups in grades 6-8. These findings have ramifications for further investigations of the relationships between engagement, proficiency, and personalized learning.


Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University, Bloomington

Curriculum Vitae


Selected Scholarly Publications

  • Deater-Deckard, K., El Mallah, S.*, Chang, M., Evans, M. A., & Norton, A. (2014). Student behavioral engagement during mathematics educational video game instruction with 11-14 year olds. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijcci.2014.08.001
  • Evans, M.A., Walker, M.H.,* Abel, T.D., McGlynn, M.*, & Norton, A. (accepted, 2014 publication date). Evaluating design patterns for intentional learning in educational video games: Identifying a common language for interdisciplinary collaborations. To be published in the Journal of Applied Instructional Design.
  • Schnittka, C., Evans, M.A., Won, S.G.L.*, & Drape, T. (accepted, 2014 publication date). Studio STEM: Looking for learning in all the right places in after-school spaces. To appear in Research in Science Education.
  • Evans, M.A., Lopez, M.*, Maddox, D.*, Drape, T., & Duke, R.* (2014). Interest-driven learning among middle school youth in an out-of-school STEM studio. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 23(5), 624-640.
  • Abel, T.D., & Evans, M.A., (2014). Cross-disciplinary participatory & contextual design research: Creating a teacher dashboard application. To appear in Interaction Design and Architecture(s) Journal, 19, 63 - 76.
  • Evans, M.A., Pruett, J.*, Chang, M., & Nino, M.* (2014). Designing personalized learning products for middle school mathematics: The case for networked learning games. To appear in the Journal for Educational Technology Systems, 42(3), 235-254.
  • Evans, M.A., Won, S.*, & Drape, T. (2014). Interest-driven learning of STEM concepts among youth interacting through social media. International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, 2(1), 3-20.
  • Norton, A., Wilkins, J. L. M., Evans, M. A., Deater-Deckard, K., Balci, O., Chang, M. (2014). Transcending part-whole conceptions of fractions. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 19(6), 352.
  • Evans, M. A., Norton, A., Chang, M., Deater-Deckard, K., & Balci, O. (2013). Youth and video games. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 221(2), 98-106.
  • Perrotta, C., & Evans, M.A. (2013). Orchestration, power, and educational technology: A response to Dillenbourg. Computers & Education, 69, 520-522.
  • Deater-Deckard, K., Chang, M., & Evans, M.A. (2013). Engagement states and learning from educational games. New Directions in Child and Adolescent Development, 139, 21-30. DOI: 10.1002/cad.20028.
  • Perrotta, C., & Evans, M. A. (2013). Instructional design or school politics? A discussion of ‘orchestration 'in TEL research. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(3), 260-269.
  • Evans, M.A., & Biedler, J. (2012). Playing, designing, and developing video games for informal science learning: Mission: Evolution as a working example. International Journal of Learning and Media, 3(4). doi: 10.1162/IJLM_a_00083.
  • Schnittka, C.G., & Brandt, C., Jones, B., Evans, M.A. (2012). Informal engineering education after school: A studio model for middle school girls and boys. Advances in Engineering Education, 3(2), 1-31.
  • Samur, Y.* & Evans, M. A. (2011), Learning science through computer games and simulations – Edited by Margaret A Honey & Margaret Hilton. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42: E171–E172. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01247_6.x
  • Dillenbourg, P., & Evans, M.A. (2011). Interactive tabletops in education. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 6(4), 491-514.
  • Evans, M.A. (2011). Procedural ethos: Confirming the persuasive in serious games. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations,3(4), 70-80. DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2011100105.
  • Evans, M.A., (2011). A critical-realist response to the postmodern agenda in instructional design and technology: A way forward. Educational Technology Research & Development. 59(6), 799-815.
  • Evans, M.A., Feenstra, E.*, Ryon, E.*, & McNeill, D. (2011). A multimodal approach to coding discourse: Collaboration, distributed cognition, and geometric reasoning. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 6(2), 253-278.
  • Moorefield-Lang, H.M. & Evans, M.A. (2011). Rhythmatical: A game to combine music and mathematics for mobile devices. Music Reference Services Quarterly, 14(1-2), 46-51.
  • Evans, M.A., & Wilkins, J.L.M. (2011). Social interactions and instructional artifacts: Emergent socio-technical affordances and constraints for children’s geometric thinking. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 44(2), 141-171.
  • Evans, M.A., & Dannenberg, D.* (2009). Introducing games and virtual worlds into the classroom: Opportunities for teaching, learning, and professional development. The Teachers’ Educators Journal. 1-6. Retrieved April 1, 2010
  • Evans, M.A., & Gracanin, D. (2009). Learning Without Boundaries: Developing mobile learning scenarios for elementary and middle school language arts & mathematics. Journal of Educational Technology, 5(4), 38-44.
  • Evans, M.A., & Wang, F-H.* (2008). The overlapping worlds view: Analyzing identity transformation in real and virtual worlds and the effects on learning. Journal of Educational Technology, 5(2), 55-63.
  • Evans, M.A., & Johri, A. (2008). Facilitating guided participation through mobile technologies: Designing creative learning environments for self and others. Journal of Computing for Higher Education, 20(2), 92-105.
  • Evans, M.A., & Combs, L.M.* (2008). When dealing with human subjects: Balancing ethical and practical matters in the field. TechTrends, 52(6), 30-35.
  • Schneider, S.B.*, & Evans, M.A. (2008, October/November). Transforming e-learning into ee-learning: The centrality of sociocultural participation. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 5(1). Retrieved October 30, 2008 >
  • Ravert, R.D., & Evans, M.A. (2007). College student preferences for absolute knowledge and perspective in instruction: Implications for traditional and online learning environments. Quarterly Review of Distance Education 8(4), 321-328.
  • Evans, M.A., & Powell, A.* (2007). Conceptual and practical issues related to the design for and sustainability of Communities of Practice: The case of e-portfolio use in preservice teacher training. Technology, Pedagogy, & Education, 16(2), 199-214.
  • Evans, M.A. & Schwen, T.M. (2006). Chasing a fault across ship and shore: Explaining the context of troubleshooting in the U.S. Navy. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 19(2), 211-229.
  • Schwen, T.M., Kalman, H.K., & Evans, M.A. (2006). A framework for new scholarship in human performance technology, Performance Improvement Quarterly, 19(2), 5-26.
  • Evans, M.A. (2004). A case of supporting distributed knowledge and work in the U.S. Navy: The challenges of knowledge management to HPT. TechTrends, 48(2), 48-53.

Courses Taught

  • ECI 517 Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Learning Environments

Research Areas