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

I earned my PhD in the Learning, Design, and Technology from 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. Currently, I teach design & research at California College of the Arts in San Francisco (Interaction Design MDes, Game Design BFA programs) and Penn State World Campus (Learning, Design and Technology MA/PhD programs). I also volunteer as a Play Ambassador for the Genius of Play (American Toy Association). 

I've lived across multiple cities in India & the US. 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! San Francisco Bay Area is my home-base for now :) 

Research Interests

As a learning scientist, I study how children engage with educational content, through the research lenses of Learning Sciences, Early Childhood Education, and Human-Computer Interaction. 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 resources for the future.

Some key areas of my research are: 

 - Learning Experience Design (LXD) for children's educational products such as educational toys and games, websites, mobile apps, interactive narrative media, and LMS 

 - Transmedia Making for children, 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, infographics, AR experiences if/when there's a need.

My current research explores best practices for the design of kid-friendly virtual influencers. I am now applying the insights from this research to create world's first kid-friendly VI designed for education.

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. 

Who am I outside work?

In my free time I love sketching, exploring museums and craft fairs, reading flash fiction and comedian memoirs, and comedy writing. I'm a mom to a tween, a Cavapoo puppy, and a bunch of cacti. I'm known to bring up references from 30 Rock, The Simpsons, Conan O'Brien's show and podcast, and SNL. This is because many years ago my goal in film/animation school was to be a comedy writer. While it didn't pan out professionally, I embrace humor in my everyday life and have been taking humor writing courses as a stress-buster hobby!

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!