Born in Germany, Yasmin Kafai undertook her studies on learning theories and technologies in France, Germany and the United States. She received her doctorate from Harvard University in 1993 while working with Seymour Papert and Idit Harel at the MIT Media Laboratory.
She has been one of the first researchers to establish the field of game studies with her work on children’s learning as designers and players of educational software and games. Her research has been published in Minds in Play: Computer Game Design as a Context for Children’s Learning (Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, 1995) and in Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking and Learning in a Digital World which she co-edited with Mitchel Resnick (Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, 1996).Her research has been and is being supported by the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation. In 1996, she was one of two educators to receive an Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation and in 1997 she was among the thirty postdoctoral fellows of the National Academy of Education.
During the past decade, she has been active in several national policy efforts. She directed the research for the report Under the Microscope: A Decade of Gender Equity Interventions in the Sciences (2004) and participated in the National Commission on Gender, Technology and Teaching that Tech-Savvy Girls: Educating Girls in the Computer Age (American Association of University Women, 2000). She briefed the Telecommunication and Computer Science Board for the report Being Fluent with Information Technology (National Academy of Sciences, 1999) and has helped define national research agendas for research about children’s media with the Center for Media Education (1998) and a related effort from the Markle Foundation.
She is the president-elect of the International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) and an Associate Editor of the Journal of the Learning Sciences. She organized and co-chaired the Sixth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) in 2004 at UCLA. She also participates in and presents at numerous other national and international venues such as Interaction Design for Children (IDC), American Educational Research Association (AERA), Computer Supported for Collaborative Learning (CSCL), Siggraph, DIGRA and others.