In 2022, coding and computational thinking are increasingly important tools that allow kids to engage with a high-tech society and each other, and to realize their own potential. Marina Umaschi Bers, the Lynch School of Education and Human Development’s new Augustus Long Professor, goes as far as to call coding “the new literacy”—a skill that, when taught alongside human values, can create a more connected world, one with a common language and mores.

Marina Bers

Marina Umaschi Bers

“Through learning the universal language of programming,” says Bers, “it is possible for diverse cultural and religious groups to find points of connection, put assumptions and stereotypes behind them, and work together toward a common goal by engaging in a shared creative activity.”

After 21 years at Tufts University, where she was chair of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Bers brings her groundbreaking Developmental Technologies (DevTech) research group to Boston College, where it will continue investigating the impact of technologies that incorporate coding and robotics on early child development. Given the expansive nature of her research, it’s no surprise that Bers cites both the Lynch School’s vision for interdisciplinary collaboration and its global reach as reasons for her transition to BC. She earned a Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab’s Epistemology and Learning Group, where she studied the use of technology to promote human values. Today, her research interests span robotics, brain development, global education, coding as language, and technology’s role in building identity.

The Lynch School has built a state-of-the-art campus laboratory to house DevTech—a place for hands-on learning—for students, faculty, and the broader Boston College community. Bers’s aim is for everyone to have the opportunity to attend workshops that center coding as a “playground,” regardless of whether they have a tech background. The lab has a tiered mentoring system to support research from the undergraduate to postdoctoral level.

Through learning the universal language of programming, it is possible for diverse cultural and religious groups to find points of connection, put assumptions and stereotypes behind them, and work together toward a common goal by engaging in a shared creative activity.
Marina Umaschi Bers , Augustus Long Professor of Education

This year, Bers was named a 2022 AERA Fellow by the American Educational Research Association, and she published her new book Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming. DevTech also entered a new phase of its partnership with the Scratch Foundation, which supports the world’s largest coding platform for children. In 2014, Bers and DevTech helped create ScratchJr, a National Science Foundation-funded programming language for 5–7-year-olds. Her framework for teaching coding stands out in part because it mirrors elements of a liberal arts education: it encourages the use of narrative to explore identity and values, the development of logical thinking to solve technical and ethical problems, and community-based service. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, coding equips children with a new language to find creative answers to problems society cannot yet anticipate.

This philosophy also aligns with Boston College’s commitment to the Jesuit-rooted tradition of formative education—a holistic approach to education that nurtures and integrates students’ intellectual, spiritual, ethical, and social development. While Bers brings invaluable ideas and resources to BC, she is also eager to draw on the experience of her colleagues as part of the Lynch School’s new, interdisciplinary Department of Formative Education.

“I am excited to collaborate with colleagues who think about formative education from all different perspectives,” she says. “From philosophical, historical, and religious perspectives to the perspectives of linguists, anthropologists, and people who have experience working internationally, the Lynch School has a lot to offer.”




Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Media Laboratory
M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Media Laboratory
M.Ed., Boston University
B.A., University of Buenos Aires


Cognitive and social development
Curriculum and instruction
Design of learning experiences and technologies
Formative and whole person education
Language learning and literacy
STEM teaching and learning


Bers, M. U. (2022). 

Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming

MIT Press: Cambridge, MA


Co-founder and Chief Scientist
KinderLab Robotics, Inc.

Content Director for forthcoming PBS animation series
Work It Out Wombats!
GBH Kids and Pipeline Studios