Strage Prize 2017 with Nathan Holbert

| December 1, 2017

The Strage Junior Faculty Prize committee honors Nathan Holbert as the 2017 Strage Prize recipient. Dr. Hobert is the Assistant Professor of Communication, Media and Learning Technologies Design in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University.

In 2014, shortly after arriving at TC, Holbert founded The Snow Day Learning Lab—a research group and design laboratory dedicated to understanding how children make sense of their world through play. His work is based on constructionist traditions and involves the study and making of games, toys, and technologies to further this research. Dr. Holbert aims at broadening participation in the emerging maker movement—a domain dominated by a community that is white, wealthy, and male.

The “Bots-for-Tots” project was designed in response to this gender imbalance and lack of diversity amongst makers, and was a series of workshops where elementary school students designed and built dream toys for younger students at their school. In doing so, the project attempted to tap into the mindset of a demographic that may be less interested in typical maker projects like robots, racecars, and rocketships. Bots-for-Tots instead motivated young participants by helping them connect with a community through making. Dr. Holbert summarizes the project as follows:

“Our goal is to better understand how building for others impacts learners’ perceptions of the value and use of making and how these maker activities are taken up and practiced in very different making contexts as well as by makers from different backgrounds, communities, and nationalities.”

In the paper that followed, “Leveraging Cultural Values and ‘Ways of Knowing’ to Increase Diversity in Maker Activities,” Dr. Holbert discusses the simple idea of “building for others” through his learnings from the project. The paper highlights the value of designing maker activities as a way of building connections with others as a means of engaging young girls in practices and activities historically viewed as masculine.

The video was produced by EdLab at Teachers College. Support for the production and publication of this video is made possible by the Strage Junior Faculty Prize, established in 2009 by Teachers College alumna Alberta Strage and her husband Henry to recognize junior faculty achievement. Alberta also serves on both the President’s Advisory Council and the International Advisory Council for Teachers College. We appreciate both their generosity to Teachers College and support for the work of our junior faculty.

Watch and discuss past Strage Prize videos on

Tweet to @LibraryTC

This blog post was co-authored by Sushmita Saha and Jackie Heltz