Student Profile: Francesca Socolick | Teachers College Columbia University

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Student Profile: Francesca Socolick

MA ‘11

When Francesca Socolick moved to London in 2008 to take an education job at the Girl Scouts Global headquarters there, she had never lived anywhere but Staten Island.

“I had no idea what I was walking into,” says Socolick, now a second year Master’s student in TC’s Instructional Media and Technology program.

That wasn’t entirely true—in fact, Socolick had been a Girl Scout herself since age 5, receiving a Gold Award, the Scouts’ highest honor. Perhaps as a result, London ended up “feeling like home.” More importantly, the move ended up being genuinely life changing in two ways. First, it got her involved with new media, which she used to engage girls from across the globe in matters of health and nutrition. And second, it gave her the confidence, upon returning stateside, to take another chance—this time on pursuing an interest in middle school mathematics education, the program at TC.

Here, too, Socolick had some going-in familiarity that helped. “Ever since I was 17 and visited Columbia on a trip with my school newspaper, I said I wanted to go there,” she says. “I didn’t know how I’d get there, but somehow it ended up working out.” And here, too, the results have taken her in an unexpected direction.

As graduation approaches, Socolick is immersed in her thesis, an examination of the usage of mobile devices in museum education. The project began last summer, during Socolik’s internship at the Museum of Natural History, where she stood with an iPad in the corner of the Silk Road exhibit, recording observations of visitors’ interaction with media. After tracking what people were bypassing, Socolick started thinking about how to give museum-goers a more participatory experience.

“I noticed people were bombarded by information,” she says. “So I started thinking about ways to involve the mobile device user more directly, where they are dictating the content.”

As a result, Socolick is conceptualizing a mobile device application that enables users to give input, in a Web 2.0 format, on which parts of the exhibit they find interesting. “It’s a social network for objects,”  she says of the application.

Unlike other technologies that try to do some of the same things, Socolick’s app is not museum-specific. That decision reflects a good sense of the market, which she has gained, in part, from an internship she currently holds at Toura, a tech company specializing in mobile application development for the travel and tourism industries.

When she’s not interning or working on her thesis, Socolick is employed as a graduate assistant in TC’s Office of the Web, where she’s working on the Office’s redesign of the College’s Web site. Recently, she led a focus group of 20 staff and students, querying them on the reasons they use the site.

Despite her lengthy commute from her home in Staten Island, Socolick still devotes time to the Girl Scouts. As a volunteer at a residential camp, she teaches an outdoor cooking class, showing campers how to bake cookies in a cardboard box wrapped in tin foil.

“Really, anything is possible,” she tells them.

Published Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011


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