Interview with a community member Daria Dudenkova

1. What do you do professionally?

I run a consultancy called Edusign (stands for Education Design) that does two things. First, we create e-learning courses for various organizations, mostly non-profits and United Nations departments. The second thing we do is help EdtEch startups figure out a way to improve the learning design of their products using learning theories, approaches, methods, UI/UX components pertaining to comprehension.

2. What are your fields of expertise?

Instructional design, human-computer interaction, cognitive sciences.

3. How did your adventure in creating educational solutions begin?

I sincerely planned to build my future around learning and teaching languages. Once upon a time I got to tutor a student who really didn’t have a knack for Mandarin Chinese that I was teaching him. But he was really great at structuring and mind mapping. So what we ended up doing is building a language map so to speak that he could create 100% correct sentences by “stringing” words together according to the unique pattern of the language (based on their function in the sentence). We then went ahead and ran a startup together making those maps (

Anyways, this whole experience taught me that teaching should be viewed as a more student-centered process and creating solutions like that is what I’m passionate about.

4. What projects are you currently involved in?

Right now, I’m creating a gamified course on Childhood Online Protection with the United Nations International Telecommunication Union. In the past 20 years, the Internet has evolved beyond all recognition. It has become an infinitely richer resource for children, offering educational games, fun activities, and many different ways to share, to learn, and to connect meaningfully to friends, family and the outside world. But at the same time, it has become a much more dangerous place for children to venture unaccompanied. From issues of privacy, fake news, and deep fakes, to violent and inappropriate content, Internet scammers, and the specter of online grooming and sexual abuse and exploitation, children – and their guardians – face many risks and challenges. In addition, the COVID-19 global pandemic saw a surge in the number of children joining the online world for the first time, to support their studies and maintain social interaction. The constraints imposed by the virus not only meant that many younger children began interacting online much earlier than their parents might have planned, but the need to juggle work commitments left many parents unable to supervise their children, leaving young people at risk of accessing inappropriate content or being targeted by criminals in the production of child sexual abuse material. This project’s aim is to raise awareness of the scope of the challenge and to provide users with resources that will help them effectively support young people’s interaction with the online world.

On a personal level, I donate as much as I can to organizations supporting Ukraine, run a podcast about cultural identity in immigration, try to survive New York's unbearably hot summer, grow out an unflattering haircut, and adopt a dog

5. What kind of help can community members count on from you as a mentor? In what area can they turn to you for a consultation?

You can view me as someone who protects you from the “curse of knowledge”. It is a cognitive bias where we incorrectly assume that everyone knows as much as we do on a given topic. When we know something, it can be hard to imagine what it would be like not knowing that piece of information. In turn, this makes it difficult to share our knowledge, because we struggle to understand the other party’s state of mind. It happens in education all the time. While instructors have extensive expertise in their fields, there tends to be a disconnect between what they understand and what their students understand. While expertise in a field can increase instructors’ confidence in their ability to teach, they struggle to deliver the material in a way that fits what their students know.

I’m trained to make sure, that the skills, content, and environment really matches the proposed audience.

6. Maybe you'd like to share something you've been interested in recently related to the world of edtech? It could be some interesting concept, article, book, podcast etc. Any links are welcome!

Certainly! I recently came across an amazing book called Visible Learning by John Hattie. The author located a total of about 800 meta-analyses, which encompassed 52,637 studies based on about 236 million students in total. He then analyzed whether different factors - contributions from students, home, school, curricula, and teaching approaches - actually work in schools to improve learning. I found some of them to be really unexpected. For example, here are some factors that - as it turns out - don’t really influence learning:

Subject matter knowledge: subject matter knowledge influences teaching effectiveness up to some level of base competence, but less so thereafter.

Mentoring had a close to zero effect on performance outcomes (d = 0.08), althoughta were higher effects on attitudes (satisfaction d = 0.6, school attitudes d = 0.19), and motivation and involvement (d = 0.11)

Parents' divorce: There were no differences study-wise between children living in divorced single-parent families and children living in continuously intact families. Although children who had experienced divorce had less positive interpersonal relationships with their mother and father, but more positive sibling relationships.

TV: There was a curvilinear relation between television viewing and reading skills: children who watched a moderate amount of television (two to three hours daily) scored slightly higher, but those who watched more per day had a slightly lower effect size: But those viewing more than four hours a day had much lower achievement. These differences though are more reflective of parental characteristics. Parents of children who allowed unrestricted and unsupervised viewing tended to have fewer expectations and lower educational aspirations for their children than those who assumed greater control over television viewing.

About Daria:

After receiving her master's degree at Columbia University in Instructional Design and Technology, Daria Dudenkova has been working as a professional e-learning consultant. She is passionate about creating educational solutions by using instructional design theories and cognitive science findings to improve learning results for social impact projects. She has worked with UNICEF, UNITAR, UNOCT, UNFAO, UNIDO, National Association of Transportation, International Rescue Committee, the New York City government, and Girls Who Code.

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