Projects and Research


Broadly, I'm interested in studying how children talk and learn with their peers (both human and virtual).


My main project right now works with children who speak in non-standard dialects of English, such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). We're addressing questions like:

  • Do students learn differently with a virtual peer who speaks like they do?
  • How can we design educational technologies to be more culturally congruent?
  • What other cultural factors might affect how students talk to and learn with virtual peers?
I'm also working on a project to study how older kids work together in a peer tutoring task. We're asking:

  • How do students' roles in a peer tutoring task affect their social behavior?
  • In turn, how does their social behavior influence their tutoring style?
  • How does rapport build between strangers learning together over time?
  • How should we design the social behavior of a virtual peer to optimize for rapport-building?
Really, I'd be happy to have a long conversation with you (academic or otherwise) about any subset of the following: culture, play, collaborative learning, educational games, language varieties, rapport, the confidence gap between girls and boys in STEM fields, the achievement gap between Euro-American and African American students, the role of technology for children with autism and related disorders, and the future of the relationship between technology and learning.


Selected Publications


Finkelstein, S., Scherer, S., Ogan, A., Morency, L. P., & Cassell, J. (2012, September). Investigating the influence of virtual peers as dialect models on students' prosodic inventory. In Workshop on Child, Computer and Interaction (WOCCI'12). ISCA, Oregon.

Ogan, A., Finkelstein, S., Mayfield, E., D'Adamo, C., Matsuda, N., & Cassell, J. (2012, May). "Oh dear stacy!": social interaction, elaboration, and learning with teachable agents. In Proceedings of the 2012 ACM annual conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 39-48). ACM.

Ogan, A., Finkelstein, S., Walker, E., Carlson, R., & Cassell, J. (2012). Rudeness and rapport: Insults and learning gains in peer tutoring. In Intelligent Tutoring Systems (pp. 11-21). Springer Berlin/Heidelberg.

Finkelstein, S., Ogan, A., Cassell, J. (2012). Real Collaboration with a Virtual Peer: Results from Co-design in an Early Elementary Context. In Proceedings of the workshop on Intelligent Support in Exploratory Environments.

Wang, W. Y., Finkelstein, S., Ogan, A., Black, A. W., & Cassell, J. "Love ya, jerkface": using Sparse Log-Linear Models to Build Positive (and Impolite) Relationships with Teens.

Finkelstein, S., Powell, E., Hicks, A., Doran, K., Charugulla, S. R., & Barnes, T. (2010, June). SNAG: using social networking games to increase student retention in computer science. In Proceedings of the fifteenth annual conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education (pp. 142-146). ACM.

Doran, K., Boyce, A., Finkelstein, S., & Barnes, T. (2012, July). Outreach for improved student performance: a game design and development curriculum. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM annual conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education (pp. 209-214). ACM.

Finkelstein, S., Nickel, A., Lipps, Z., Barnes, T., Wartell, Z., & Suma, E. A. (2011). Astrojumper: Motivating exercise with an immersive virtual reality exergame. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 20(1), 78-92.