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Post-doc at McGill

I spent the year of 2017 as a post-doctoral researcher in Montreal, Canada, at McGill University, more specifically at the Accessible Computing Technologies – ACT Lab, directed by Prof. Karyn Moffatt, at the School of Information Studies.

I worked in the project CONNECT-CREATE: Promoting Social Connectedness Through Collaborating on Digital Storytelling and Knowledge Creation and Sharing, from AGE-WELL – Canada’s technology and aging network. The goal of this project was to find technological solutions to improve older adults’ communication,  and thus reduce their social isolation. Design workshops were run with older adults, and I worked primarily on the analysis of the data and the method for designing with this population.

I had the opportunity to share some of my work at the AGE-WELL 2017 conference in Winnipeg, and at the 30th ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium – UIST, in Quebec city.

Getting to know and live in Canada was interesting but challenging! I learned a lot, and this includes how to survive in the snow!

Pernambucoders

Some moments become unforgettable in our career. It was quite unexpected that I ended up standing in front of the state governor, the secretary of Education, the secretary of Science and Technology, some former professors of mine like Geber Ramalho, André Santos and Silvio Meira – the latter quite a local celebrity, my students, and colleagues,  in a room full of other people, photographers and the press.
I was there because I helped planning and starting the project Pernambucoders, Silvio Meira’s idea to spread programming clubs in public schools of our state of Pernambuco, aligned with a worldwide tendency. Silvio Meira has already done a lot for the development of the state, particulary in IT, and he has always been a visionary. I was proud to be invited to contribute to make this real, with the expertise we have from the course that prepares teachers of Computer Science for basic education (in Portuguese, Licenciatura em Computação). A course that is many times neglected, but which is growing in importance over the years, given the campaign for introducing computational thinking in schools.
I was also very proud to see our students as mediators of these programming clubs: the progress they’ve made and the challenge they’ve accepted.
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So I went there, trembling from head to toe, and I spoke from my heart. In my wildest dreams, I had not foreseen such a moment, such an opportunity to show the local society that we’re here, at UFRPE, we’re good, we’re willing, and we can make a difference.
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News in the local media (in Portuguese):

UDESC

I was invited by Prof. Aleksander Paterno, who knew me through Bragfost, to give a talk on how tangible technologies can contribute to children’s learning, at the State University of Santa Catarina (UDESC), campus Joinville, in the south of Brazil. The talk was part of an event to celebrate Teachers’ Day (15th of October). It was a great pleasure to visit UDESC – everyone was very kind and welcoming. I took the chance to visit Prof. Marcelo Hounsell’s lab (LARVA), where a number of games for education and rehabilitation are developed. It was an exciting afternoon!

IHC 2016

IHC 2016 took place in São Paulo, at IBM Brasil, 4th-7th of October. I had the pleasure and honour of presenting and discussing the theme of “Education in HCI and the new interaction technologies” with Prof. Cecilia Baranauskas (UNICAMP) and Prof. Milene Silveira (PUC-RS), as part of the WEIHC (Workshop on HCI Education). I was invited by the workshop organisers, Prof. Clodis Boscarioli (UNIOESTE) and Prof. Luciana Zaina (UFSCAR).

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I also organised the Thesis and Dissertations Workshop with Prof. Simone Barbosa (PUC-RJ), where we discussed the work of six students who are doing their research in varied themes within the are of Human-Computer Interaction.

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Hard work, but fantastic time with this very nice and high-quality Brazilian HCI community.

CONNECT PROGRAM

Following the BRAGFOST meeting, I was given the opportunity to apply for the Alexander von Humboldt foundation CONNECT program, to spend a month in a research visit, hosted by a German participant of BRAGFOST.

I was very fortunate to be granted the fund, and spent a month visiting professor Korbinian Moeller and his team at the Knowledge Media Research Center of the Leibniz Institut für Wissensmedien, at the lovely and charming “university-city” of Tübingen.

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During my research visit, we worked on developing scenarios for an interactive surface which also recognises tagged physical objects. The scenarios developed target the learning of the concept of partner numbers (adding up to 10) by young children, and use LEGO-like interaction devices. It was an opportunity to do work related to my job at the London Knowledge Lab, dealing with tangibles and science learning.

We also attended the 34th European Workshop on Cognitive Neuropsychology, in Bressanone, Italy. It was an excellent opportunity for networking and learning about a very different area, but with potentially related applications. In particular, I participated in the sessions on Numerical Cognition, a theme of common interest, where Dr. Moeller and partners presented their work. Learning about the neuropsychological aspects of mathematics learning was a fascinating and extremely enriching experience. Bressanone – or Brixen, in German – is an Italian town just by the Plose mountain in the Alps, where you will feel more in Germany than in Italy (although there is great Italian food 🙂 )

Apart from struggling with German language in the everyday routine of moving around and eating, I had a fantastic time!

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(Neckar river in Tübingen)

BRAGFOST

I was invited by Prof. Fernando Buarque (UPE) to participate in the Brazilian-German Frontiers of Science and Technology (BRAGFOST), in September 2015, co-organised by Brazilian funding agency CAPES and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The event took place in Aachen and Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, in Germany. We were first brilliantly received by Prof. Bernd Markert for the Pre-BRAGFOST Workshop in Aachen, where we visited Aachen University and had a full agenda.

Then off to Bad-Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, where Brazilian and German researchers from four themes presented their work and exchanged ideas: “Adaptive techniques for individualized learning”, “Effective chemical sequestration methods aiming at protecting the environment”, “Functional brain mapping for understanding and treating the CNS”, and “New engineering technologies for future medicines”.  I was chosen as a presenter for the first track, and for the rest of the time did my best to understand the other talks and ask questions, as we are very encouraged to do.

BRAGFOST was an amazing experience. I am still not sure how I ended up there, but it was an excellent opportunity for networking with Brazilian colleagues Seiji Isotani, Ig Bittencourt, Sean Siqueira, Thaís Castro and Ellen Francine, besides meeting German colleagues. The event was a perfect balance of science and leisure!

I was extremely impressed by the German organisation, as the whole event was perfectly ran, everything on time and all as expected. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation accommodated us in a luxury hotel in this lovely village of Bad-Neuenahr, where we also visited to European Academy of Technology and Innovation. In every place we visited, people took time to receive us with kindness and attention, always offering tea, coffee and food (oh, and food was delicious).

I am very thankful to CAPES and Prof. Fernando Buarque, and whoever pointed him my name, still unkown to me. Well, if you ever read this, thank you!  😉

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