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I'm Dr. Sonia Tiwari. I design learning experiences informed by research. 

I earned my PhD in the Learning, Design, and Technology at Penn State University. I've previously worked as a Game Designer and UX Designer in CA, and taught Toy and Game Design at National Institute of Design, India.

I've lived a somewhat gypsy life in India (Indore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad) and US (San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and now State College - also known as 'Happy Valley'). The question "Where are you from?" often confuses me, because I've felt a great sense of belonging to every place I've lived in. 

What does "Soniastic" mean?

I often sign/watermark my art with the name 'soniastic' - it came about in art school where I was in awe of all the amazing talent around me. I always thought I might never be as fantastic, but I can try to be 'soniastic!' Few mentors who immensely helped me value my individuality as an artist (and my evolution into a researcher) are Tom Bertino, Bob Steele, and Sherrie Sinclair from Academy of Art, San Francisco and Dr Susan Land from Penn State University.

The challenge that makes me stronger at design

Growing up Dyslexic, Design Industry has been a great place to express my thoughts and ideas visually! Dyslexia also helped me develop the habit of over-preparing, organizing and simplifying complex information in order to learn smoothly - which comes in handy as a researcher. 

Research Interests

As a learning scientist, I study how children learn through the domains of Learning Sciences, Early Childhood Education, and Human-Computer Interaction. Through my research I try to understand how children learn in informal environments using educational media and maker activities. I use these insights to inform design of creative learning environments for the future. Ultimately, within these environments my goal is to design delightful learning experiences using elements such as toys, games, websites, mobile applications, narrative media, and maker activities.

Some key areas of my research are: 

 - UX design for educational products such as educational toys and games, websites, mobile apps, interactive narrative media, and LMS 

 - Transmedia Making, or using educational media as an inspiration for follow-up maker activities to extend children’s online learning offline 

 - Increasing learner engagement through design of illustrated books, tangible and digital toys and games, educational videos, and Infographics   

Who am I outside work?

Outside of work I'm generally busy doing creative activities with/for my son like painting, crafting, and sewing. I sometimes write songs and play Ukulele. 

I'm known to bring up '30 Rock' references in my everyday conversations, which I think is one of the best shows ever! I'm Liz Lemon's Indian sister. Sitcoms have helped me laugh my way through many difficult times - perhaps this is why I embrace humor in my everyday life!

Keep in touch, maybe?

I'm active on Linkedin: I write articles, share actionable ideas, and offer consultations related to design and research for children's educational products. Let's connect!


2021 | Podcast | Learning Experience Design for Instructional Designers | Dr Luke Hobson  Listen >>

2020 | Podcast | Bringing Creative Design to Early Childhood Education | Impact Learning with Maria Xanidou  Listen >>

2020 | Podcast | Educational Game Design | Steven Maggi  Listen >>

2019 | Interview | Creative Gaga magazine  Read >>