Seiji Isotani
Professor of Computer Science and Learning Technology
University of Sao Paulo
  • Email:
  • Office:
    ICMC 4-135
  • Tel:
    +55 16 3373-6720
Gamification in Education
AI in Education
Evidence-based Policy in Brazil
Ontology Engineering

Seiji Isotani

Transforming research findings into social impact!

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Years of Research Experience
Completed Projects
 Scientific Publications
Honors and Awards

Public Policy Activities

In recognition of my work on educational technology, I have been appointed as a scientific advisor to local and federal governments. Since 2012, I have been involved in several projects and initiatives to support k-12 education in Brazil, particularly when careful considerations about technologies, lack of information, or large amounts of data (i.e., evidence) need to be highlighted to make evidence-based policy decisions.
From 2012 to 2016, I was deeply involved with the Sao Carlos City Council of Education specifically during the implementation of the 2014 – 2024 National Education Plan ( Focusing on early education (K-1 to K-6), I helped to gather evidence on the most effective strategies and policies from around the world — particularly those related to mathematics education — to improve the quality of early education in Sao Carlos and fulfill the goals of the National Education Plan. As an advisor, I was not responsible for any of the final decisions, but the information I presented to the council and city representatives has always been considered when making policy decisions. For example, some recommendations I presented were:
  • acquiring materials that foster metacognition and self-regulation rather than only teaching/learning procedures. Link to evidences
  • Increasing the number of full-time schools and reducing the length of lecture-based classes to increase teachers’ opportunities for feedback related to student tasks and to encourage learning by engaging and interacting with peers. Link to evidences
  • and proposing incentives for teachers who participate in capacity-building programs, with a particular interest in fostering practices such as collaborative learning (e.g. peer tutoring), learning by doing as well as other evidence-based teaching practices. Link to evidences
Those recommendations were adopted as the result of my work, and have since become official policies. Unfortunately, specific experimental designs (e.g., RCT - Randomized Control Trials) were not implemented to determine whether these policies would have a positive impact on the city's public education system, in which more than 11,000 K– 1 through K– 6 students are enrolled. Nevertheless, according to the education data collected by the federal government, observed trends demonstrate that early education in São Carlos has improved over the years I was involved as an advisor, particularly in the area of mathematics; to date, early education in São Carlos is considered to be higher quality than the national and state averages. An interesting website that collects and visually presents these trends is (Note to readers: possible future work would be to check this trend using the difference-in-differences study design).
As a scientific and technical advisor in the federal government, I helped to design educational policies and created technologies to manage policy implementation in order to address the challenge of democratizing nationwide access to high-quality education. By co-leading and engaging a team of researchers, educators, policymakers, and software engineers, I assisted in the design and implementation of several policies, including:
  • o Evidence-based policies to facilitate the assessment, acquisition, and adoption of educational technologies based on empirical evidence of learning benefits. Learn more (in portuguese)
  • o A policy for online professional development programs that empowered practitioners to utilize and evaluate educational technology. Learn more (in portuguese)
  • o A policy to evaluate and select K- 12 educational books using online interactive tools . Learn more (in portuguese)
  • A policy to create an infrastructure that uses linked open data and semantic technology to support decision-making. Learn more (in portuguese)
  • A policy to improve literacy and equity by applying personalized learning at scale. Learn more (in portuguese)
  • and many others.
According to an initial internal evaluation, these policies have yielded several benefits. For example, the evidence-based policies for evaluation have been instrumental in establishing national standards for assessing educational technologies, for increased transparency of the evaluation processes, and for the creation of incentives for companies to conduct experimental studies with the aim of designing improved and more effective educational products.
More recently, I have been helping ambitious projects funded directly by the Brazilian Ministry of Education. In these projects, we are creating the foundations for large scale usage of AIED (Artificial Intelligence in Education) as well as conceiving the Brazilian Blended Learning Network that will be responsible for implementing the concept of meaningful connectivity throughout the country. The goal of this organization is to build dozens of technological innovation hubs across Brazil to improve access to high-quality learning materials, develop educational resources, and offer professional training to local teachers. Furthermore, we are also researching personalized learning strategies that can be employed with or without technology, and designing a scalable computational infrastructure to equip researchers, educators, and other stakeholders with the necessary tools to conduct interventions, gather data, and share analyses and/or methods at scale to jointly and quickly evaluate hypotheses and claims.
We plan to collect large amounts of educational data to provide a comprehensive explanation of why, how, and when learning occurs in individual and social situations and thereby develop adaptive technologies to augment and/or amplify the abilities of teachers and students and help them to be more effective, productive, and assertive; I strongly believe that the advent of this sort of technology will greatly benefit students living in vulnerable conditions. Using the created infrastructure, our final aim is to discover new knowledge that will allow policymakers to design ever-improving education policies.
My personal goal is that, with the success of these projects, we can expand our work and spread our most successful experiences to other Latin American and Global South countries suffering from the same educational challenges that are currently faced in Brazil. It is my hope that by contributing to the widespread adoption of evidence-based educational policies, I can accomplish my mission of translating research findings into socially impactful actions!

Seiji Isotani