Lipari, Italy, the island where my father was born, from our family trip in June, 2006.

Andrea Tartaro

Assistant Professor
Computer Science Department
Furman University


CSC-347: Human-Computer Interaction, Fall 2014, Spring 2013
CSC-122: Data Structures and Algorithms, Fall 2014
MXP-145: e-Arts & Crafts, May 2014
CSC-105: Introduction to Computer Science through Bioinformatics, Fall 2013
CSC-121: Introduction to Computer Programming I, Spring 2014, Fall 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2012, Spring 2012
CSC-105: Introduction to Computer Science: Creativity, Entertainment & Computers, Fall 2012
CSC-111: Introduction to Information Technology, Spring 2012
FYW-1217: Autism and Technology, Fall 2011


My research focuses on two main areas: (1) How we can increase students’ interest in studying computer science; and (2) How interactive technology can influence positive behavior change.


Increasing Participation in Computer Science

This research is investigating different approaches to addressing gender imbalance in Computer Science classes (Computer Scienceclasses are overwhelmingly men, with a recent trend of decreasing participation of women) and increasing participation of all students in Computer Science. In 2012-2013, the Furman Computer Science department launched a new course that is a survey of computer science as it relates to a specific problem (CSC-105). This problem-based, survey approach is motivated by recent research demonstrating the need to contextualize computing. My research is evaluating this course, as well as a specific implementation of the course, Introduction to Computer Science through Bioinformatics, that I co-teach with Dr. Renee Chosed in the Furman University Biology Department. See:

Tartaro, A. & Cottingham, H. (in press). A  Problem-based, Survey Introduction to Computer Science for Majors and Non-majors. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges.

Tartaro, A. (2014). Alternate Endings in the Classroom. Paper presented at the Workshop on Alternate Endings: Using Fiction to Explore Design Futures. Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI2014) Extended Abstracts.

Self-Monitoring Innovations

This project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kerstin Blomquist and the HABITUS lab in the Furman University Pyschology Department. We are interested in developing technologies that leverage cognitive-behavior therapy and social psychology to support individuals with eating and weight disorders. We are developing and comparing web-based self-monitoring tools, where people record their food intake. We are comparing traditional self-monitoring, where food is recorded in measurement units such as ounces, servings, calories or Weight Watchers “points,” to new plate-based monitoring (2 different versions) we designed based on the USDA plate-based diet, where food is recorded as portions of a plate (e.g., half vegetables, a quarter protein, etc.). See:

Tartaro, A. & Blomquist K. (2012). The Role of Social Technology in Addressing Disordered Eating and Obesity. Paper presented at the Food and Interaction Design Workshop. Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI2012) Extended Abstracts.

Fostering Conditions for Flourishing of Big Science

This study is a collaboration with Dr. George Khushf, a Philosopher at the University of South Carolina. Our goal is to identify challenges in conducting large, multi-institional, multi-disciplinary research projects, using as a case study the SC Project for Organ Biofabrication, and design and evaluate interventions that use interactive technologies to facilitate collaboration and progress towards project goals. This project is supported by the National Science Foundation-EPSCoR program under Grant Number EPS-0903795. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the South Carolina EPSCoR/IDeA Program and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See:

Hill, S.K., Brown, K.A., Cirstea, A.I., Morgan, A.R., Mustafa, A. & Tartaro, A. (in press). BIG Science: A Collaborative Framework for Large Scale Research. Poster to be presented at GROUP 2014.

Developing Interview Skills with Video Self-Monitoring

This research extends my work on authorable virtual peers for children with autism spectrum disorders (below) to supporting adolescents with autism as they transition to independent living by helping them develop interview skills (i.e., for college or a job). As a first step towards this project, my students and I are investigating how technology affects social behavior in mock interview situations. See:

Tartaro, A. & Binz, A. (2014). Transitioning to Independent Living with Complex Communication Needs. Paper presented at the Workshop on Supporting Children with Complex Communication Needs. Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI2014) Extended Abstracts.

Authorable Virtual Peers for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Children with autism, and related pervasive developmental disorders, can lack the appropriate communication and social skills for peer social interaction that form a foundation for learning. My dissertation addresses the difficulty these children have accessing social and learning opportunities by introducing an Authorable Virtual Peer (AVP). The AVP combines two main features: First, it implements a collaborative storytelling task where the child and the virtual peer work together to tell a story. Second, it introduces tools based on the constructionist theory of learning through building artifacts that enable children to build and control the interactive behaviors of the virtual peer while it interacts with another person. My thesis describes the design and implementation of virtual peers, increases our understanding of specific social behaviors affecting peer social interaction, and implements and evaluates the AVP in a comprehensive group social skills program. This research was generously funded by Autism Speaks and the Northwestern University Alumnae Association. See:

Tartaro, A. & Ratz, C. (2014). Incorporating Technology into Peer Social Group Programs. In Boser, K., Goodwin, M. & Wayland, S., Learning Technologies for People with Autism and Related Disorders: A research-based guide for parents, teachers and clinicians.

Tartaro, A. & Cassell, J. (2008). Playing with Virtual Peers: Bootstrapping Contingent Discourse in Children with Autism. International Conference of the Learning Science. Utrecht, the Netherlands. ACM Press

Merryman, J., Tartaro, A., Arie, M. & Cassell, J. (2008). Designing Virtual Peers for Assessment and Intervention for Children with Autism. Workshop on Designing for Children with Special Needs at the Conference on Interaction Design and Children. Evanston, IL. ACM Press.

Cassell, J., & Tartaro, A. (2007). Intersubjectivity in Human-Agent Interaction. Interaction Studies 8 (3): 391-410.

Tartaro, A. (2007). Authorable Virtual Peers for Children with Autism. Doctoral Consortium Presentation at Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI2007), Extended Abstracts. 16% acceptance rate

Tartaro, A. & Cassell, J. (2007). Using Virtual Peer Technology as an Intervention for Children with Autism. In J. Lazar (Ed.), Towards Universal Usability: Designing Computer Interfaces for Diverse User Populations. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

Cassell, J., Tartaro, A., Rankin, Y. & Oza, V., & Tse, C. (2007). Virtual Peers for Literacy Learning. Educational Technology, Special Issue on Pedagogical Agents, XLVII, 39-43.

Tartaro, A. & Cassell, J. (2006). Authorable Virtual Peers for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Paper presented at the Combined Workshop on Language-Enabled Educational Technology and Development and Evaluation of Robust Spoken Dialogue Systems at the 17th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ECAI06), Riva del Garda, Italy.

Tartaro, A. (2005). Storytelling with a Virtual Peer as an Intervention for Children with Autism: Assets Doctoral Consortium. Paper presented at Assets: The Seventh International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, Baltimore, MD. Best Doctoral Candidate Award.


Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, Ph.D. in Technology and Social Behavior (joint Ph.D. in Computer Science and Communication Studies), June 2011.
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, M.S. in Computer Science, June 2005
Columbia University, Teachers College, New York, NY, M.A. in Instructional Technology, May 2003
Brown University, Providence, RI, B.A. in Computer Science, May 1999

andrea.tartaro at furman dot edu
Furman University * Computer Science Department * Greenville, SC

Last modified: September 18, 2014.