Tom Hillman


  • Doctoral student, Teaching, Learning & Evaluation
  • Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa

Research Interests

  • The design of objects with pedagogical purpose.
  • Manipulatives in mathematics classrooms.
  • Sociocultural Theory, Complexity Theory, Cultural Historical Activity
  • Theory, Social Semiotics.

Background Information
After completing a bachelors degree in Industrial Design from Carleton University, I began working on the design of a multitude of consumer products ranging from telephones to swimming goggles. A chance contract with the Canada Science and Technology Museum exposed me to designing with pedagogical purpose. From that point forward, I

became fascinated with the idea of helping people make meaning through the things I designed and worked on exhibitions for various museums including, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and the Science Centre of Iowa. Quickly, I found that I had found a specialisation in designing both physical and virtual interactive experiences but wanted to know more about the learning that might occur with one of my designs. To pursue my questions, I enrolled in the Master’s of Arts degree in Education at the University of Ottawa, writing a thesis entitled, The Physical Context of Hands-on Interactive Museum Exhibits: Identification and Categorization of Pedagogically Relevant Concepts. Having completed my Master’s degree, I felt that I still had a curiosity that could be best fueled by undertaking a PhD. Now enrolled as a PhD student at the University of Ottawa, I have chosen to investigate another type of object designed with pedagogical purpose, manipulatives in mathematics classrooms. Under the supervision of Professor Barbara Graves I am now continue to engage my curiosity and pursue my research interests.