Arturo Cortez photo 2023
Assistant Professor • Director of The Learning To Transform (LiTT) Video Gaming Lab
Learning Sciences & Human Development

Miramontes Baca Education 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. As a learning scientist, Professor Cortez is concerned with designing and studying learning ecologies in which educators and youth engage in collaborative inquiry, develop agentic practices that support meaningful learning, and employ, redesign and repurpose tools, particularly digital tools, toward transformative ends.

Accordingly, Professor Cortez’s research agenda focuses on the following three related domains: (1) young people’s everyday cultural practices with technology; (2) intergenerational learning; and (3) educators’ development of robust, generative, and equitable pedagogies. Broadly speaking, Professor Cortez’s research explores how adult and young learners strategically engage with the sociopolitical and ethical dimensions of learning and co-design new social futures, especially with the use of everyday technologies. Professor Cortez uses sociocultural theories of learning to understand and design future-oriented, or speculative, pedagogies for intergenerational communities of learners.

Professor Cortez’s most recent work has been published in Cognition and Instruction, Journal of Futures Studies, Review of Research in Education, and Mind, Culture, and Activity. Moreover, 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 as 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

**Prospective PhD students: please read my research statement to learn more about opportunities.

As a design-based researcher, Professor Cortez draws on speculative approaches in order to bring social analysis to extant and everyday practices, to reimagine possibilities for how adults and young people learn, and to design for more expansive, just, and creative learning ecologies (across schooling, home, and community environments). Speculative approaches in Professor Cortez’s work and the field more broadly are defined as practices that are organized toward creating new worlds, in response to present-day conditions. Professor Cortez employs ethnographic approaches to inquiry to document the everyday practices of youth and educators, and how they learn together. In this context, Professor Cortez’s research includes three interrelated strands of inquiry, which are animated by the following questions: (a) How do young people, specifically non-dominant youth, use everyday technologies to creatively prototype agentic identities, equitable forms of participation, and new spatial architectures towards just worlds? (b) How can game-based learning ecologies be designed to foster intergenerational learning that promotes equity and justice? (c) How can educators learn to co-design and enact speculative or future-oriented pedagogies?

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, the LiTT Lab collectively builds virtual landscapes and role-play scenarios, simultaneously leveraging young people's everyday cultural practices, educator’s pedagogical expertise, video game designer's insights, and streamer’s 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 8804: Critical Cultural Historical Approaches to Teacher Learning (Doctoral Seminar)
From CHAT to Critical CHAT (Doctoral Seminar)
EDUC 8730: Advanced Qualitative Analysis: Video-based Analysis (Doctoral Seminar)
EDUC 8358: Learning & Social Interaction: Using Video as Data in the Learning Sciences (Doctoral Seminar)
EDUC 8135: Theories and Methodologies for Examining Teacher Learning (Doctoral Seminar)
EDUC 5800: Critical Digital Pedagogies: Teaching, Learning & Technologies of the Everyday (In-service Teacher Education)
EDUC 3570: Learning with Technology In and Out of School (Undergraduate)
EDUC 4435: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (Pre-service Teacher Education)
EDUC 2050: Step Up to Social Justice (Pre-service Teacher Education)

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

Editor (Appointed, 2021-present), Cultural Praxis.

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

Mawasi, A., Penuel, W., Cortez, A., & McKoy, A. (2023). “They were learning from us as we were learning from them”: Perceived experiences in co-design process. Mind, Culture, and Activity.

Cortez, A., & Lizárraga, J. R., & Castro, A. (2023). Interrogating the notion of giving voice: Designing for polyphony across game-based learning ecologies. Mind, Culture, and Activity

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.

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. 

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., Becker, B., Espinoza, M., Cortes, K., Cortez, A., Lizárraga, J. R., Rivero, E., Villegas, K., & Yin, P. (2019). Youth as historical actors in the production of possible futures. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 26(4), 291-308. 

Gutierrez, K. D., Cortes, K., Cortez, A., DiGiacomo, D., Higgs, J., Johnson, P., Lizarraga, J. R., Mendoza, E., Tien, J., & Vakil, S. (2017). Replacing representation with imagination: Finding ingenuity in everyday practices. Review of Research in Education, 41(1), 30-60.

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.