Cortez photo 2021
Assistant Professor • Director of The Learning To Transform (LiTT) Video Gaming Lab
Learning Sciences & Human Development

Fleming Building, Room 400E
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

Arturo Cortez is an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he is also a fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science. Broadly, Professor Cortez explores the possibilities of co-designing for consequential learning in intergenerational and trans-disciplinary learning environments that include educators, young people and multiple community members. In particular, he is interested in how young people and educators speculate new possible futures, opening up opportunities for building imaginary and real worlds, using today's most cutting-edge technologies.

His most recent work has been published in the Cognition and Instruction, Journal of Futures Studies, Review of Research in Education, and Mind, Culture, and Activity. Furthermore, his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the George Lucas Educational Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. Professor Cortez’s early commitments to amplifying the everyday practices of youth were jointly-honed and developed while he was a middle school teacher in East Palo Alto and a high school teacher in San Francisco.


PhD Education, University of California, Berkeley
EdM Education Policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education
MA Teaching, University of San Francisco
BA Biological Basis of Behavior, University of Pennsylvania

More recently, Professor Cortez founded The Learning To Transform (LiTT) Video Gaming Lab to help build models for equity-centered educator and student learning through the design of deeper relationships between informal and formal educational environments. In this work, his team collectively builds virtual landscapes and role-play scenarios within the context of sandbox video games. In the lab, the team builds new stories that leverage young people's everyday cultural practices, educators pedagogical expertise, video game designer's insights, and streaming professional knowledge to amplify narratives that involve transforming oppressive practices indexed in video games.

In addition, as a researcher at the NSF National AI Institute for Student-AI Teaming, Professor Cortez is leading an effort to co-design, with educators and young people, curricula that explore the ethical and sociopolitical affordances and constraints of artificial intelligence in our everyday lives.

For prospective PhD students: I seek students who are interested in leveraging young people's valued cultural practices, especially as resources for co-designing intergenerational learning environments with teachers. I am currently involved in two major projects: (1) investigating the role of video game-based play as a site of meaningful and transformative learning and (2) examining the affordances and constraints of leveraging artificial intelligence in formal classroom environments. I seek to prepare students to work across multiple spaces (i.e., the academy, community-based organization, schools, and homes), using theories of learning and design-based methodologies, to facilitate change in how people relate to their worlds, practices, fellow humans, and more than human siblings.

EDUC 3570: Learning With Technology

EDUC 5800: Critical Digital Pedagogies

EDUC 6804: Learning and Development with/in Media: Visual Culture, Public Pedagogy

EDUC 8135: Theories and Methodologies for Examining Teacher Learning

EDUC 8358: Learning & Social Interaction

EDUC 8730: Advanced Qualitative Analysis: Video-based Analysis

EDUC 8804: Critical Cultural Historical Approaches to Teacher Learning

Editor (2021-present), Mind, Culture, and Activity.

Co-Chair (2020-2022), Cultural Historical Research Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association.

Cortez, A., McKoy, A. (*), & Lizárraga, J. R. (2022). The future of young Blacktivism: Aesthetics and practices of speculative activism in video game play. The Journal of Futures Studies, 26(3), 53-70.

Philip, T. M., Pham, J., Scott, M., & Cortez, A. (2022). Intentionally Addressing Nested Systems of Power in Schooling through Teacher Solidarity Co-Design. Cognition and Instruction, 40(1), 55-76.

McKoy, A. (*), & Cortez, A. (2022). Contending with nightmares and dreams: Designing liberatory Black futures through Lovecraft Country’s speculative counterstorytelling. Supernatural Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Art, Media, and Culture, 7(2), 35-57.

Lizárraga, J. R., & Cortez, A. (2020). Cyborg jotería pedagogies: Latinx drag queens leveraging communication ecologies in the age of the digital and social displacement. Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, 14(2), 44-66.

Gutiérrez, K. D., Espinoza, M., Becker, B., Cortes, K., Cortez, A., Lizárraga, J. R., Rivero, E., Villegas, K., & Yin, P. (co-equal authors). (2019). Youth as Historical Actors in the Production of Possible Futures. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 26(4), 291-308.

Cortez, A., & Gutiérrez, K. D. (2019). Socio-spatial repertoires as tools for resistance and expansive literacies. In M. P. Pacheco & P. Z. Morales (Eds.), Transforming schooling for second language learners: Policies, pedagogies, and practices. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.