LTEC Staff Profile: Maya Israel

Name: Maya Israel

LTEC Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Professional Background: I am an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. I am also the research director of the Creative Technology Research Lab (CTRL). I started my career as a special education teacher, and I consistently noticed that when we provide students with disabilities with instruction that is accessible and engaging, they can succeed academically and socially. This work led to my research focus on developing and studying instructional strategies, pedagogies, and technologies that promote active and meaningful engagement and learning for a broad range of learners, including those with disabilities. My research interests include pedagogical approaches to support students with disabilities and other struggling learners in K-12 computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) instruction.

Why is LTEC my jam? I feel privileged to work on the LTEC project for several reasons. First, LTEC allows me to think about how students can learn CS and CT within the context of elementary mathematics instruction. I love the idea of investigating how we might integrate computing into math instruction. My hypothesis is that the integration of CS and CT into math instruction may provide students with multiple ways approaching their math learning. This approach is consistent with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. For example, can we teach applied mathematics through computing? And can we provide students with creative ways of engaging in mathematics learning by having them illustrate their mathematical understanding by programming story problems in Scratch?

My work: I coordinate the classroom-based research for the LTEC project. This work involves working with teachers on content development, observing classroom instruction, and interviewing teachers about their approaches to integrating CS and CT into their math instruction. In addition to this work, I have another project called TACTIC (Teaching All Computational Thinking through Inclusion and Collaboration). This project focuses on supporting struggling learners in CS and CT instruction. Lastly, similar to others on our LTEC team, I also participated in writing the K-12 Computer Science Framework.

What I do with my spare time: When not working, I am usually geeking out with my 15 year old daughter, Kayla, and my husband, Loren. We love to play board games such as Munchkin, Wise and Otherwise, and Ascension. We also love working on puzzles. The last puzzle had a Broadway musicals theme.

Fun facts

  • I was born in Haifa Israel and immigrated to the United States as a child. This experience of being part of an ESL program provided me with a unique perspective on schooling.
  • Before majoring in education in college, I spent a lot of time being undecided about my future career. I went from majoring in chemistry, environmental science, and geology before finally finding my direction. This exploration of a broad range of science and math courses allowed me to combine knowledge across multiple disciplines in my current work.
  • I think that “bed time reading” should not stop when kids grow up. We are currently reading a book called “Rejected Princesses” together.

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