Who We Are

EMPLOYEES

Ted Kahn

President, DesignWorlds for Learning and CEO, DesignWorlds for College and Careers

Dr. Ted M. Kahn is the co-founder, President and CEO of DesignWorlds for Learning, Inc. and Chief Learning Officer for DesignWords for College and Careers.  He has been a pioneer and actively involved in developing and marketing innovative uses of interactive digitally mediated technologies for creative lifelong learning for more than 45 years, specializing in collecting and co-curating exemplary free digital and computational multimedia Web  resources through learning collaboratories to support globally distributed learning and knowledge design communities. He has been affiliated with the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley; Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC); Atari, where he was founding Executive Director of the Atari Institute for Educational Action Research; two Silicon Valley high tech startups (Picodyne and Digital F/X), and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning.

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Kahn’s main focus has been with DesignWorlds for College & Careers, where he has coached and advised over 1,100 high school and college students in helping them prepare for and apply to college & graduate school, including helping them successfully explore multiple possible areas of academic study and alternate future career paths. Dr. Kahn is also a member of the National Advisory Council for the Campaign for Free College Tuition.

Ted and his DesignWorlds team applied their joint educational and multimedia backgrounds in creating the key web content and marketing messages for Apple in 2000 to support their launch of iMovie as a breakthrough digital movie making tool for K-12 students and teachers.

He has been the founding director & chief curator of the Bay Area Science Museum Learning Collaboratory, one of the earliest Open Education Resource projects funded initially by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and later, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Family Foundation. This became a dynamic web-based resource and learning community, co-designed and curated by and for middle grade science teachers,  and was used by thousands of students. More recently, he has co-designed and co-curated the Mindseum as a next generation crowd sourced and transdisciplinary learning and discovery resource for exploring how the mind and brain connect to STEAM and emerging new fields, including brain-computer interfaces, neurotechnology. AI, the arts and health.

As a member or advisor for numerous museums, government organizations, and public-private collaborations, Ted is actively engaged with contemporary trends in technology, education, artificial and augmented intelligence, and science, media & computational literacies. His current focus is on convergence education to engage students in transdisciplinary and collaborative learning to address major complex global problems and challenges. He has also been the keynote speaker at national and international conferences on creative education, technology and learning:  In 2003, the  NMC: New Media Consortium named Ted as its first NMC Fellow, its highest individual honor, for his lifelong work in the development and use of digital media and interactive technologies for learning, teaching and creative expression.  He has also been a Senior Fellow at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar with the MediaX Project at Stanford University and is currently a Senior Visiting Scholar with the Center for Digital Curricula at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering. Current projects and interests include a collaborative project in STEAM education and student serious game design with the Two Bit Circus Foundation and ExoDexa and actively combatting  antisemitism, bigotry and hate on college campuses.

Ted received his B.A. in Computer Science (with honors), and his M.A and Ph.D. in Psychology from University of California, Berkeley. He and his wife, Frona, have two beloved adult sons and one grandson.

See Dr. Kahn’s Curriculum Vitae here.

Frona Kahn

President, DesignWorlds for College and Careers

Frona L. Kahn, Vice President and co-founder of DesignWorlds, has helped shape and continuously influence the education technology industry for over 20 years. Her work with top Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations, including major players like Apple, PBS, Compaq and Fisher-Price, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Microsoft, Grolier, and Gateway Learning Corporation, have made technology desirable, fashionable, marketable, and accessible to schools and families across California.

​In 1981, as a co-founder of The Learning Company (TLC), Mrs. Kahn pioneered innovative, award-winning educational computer software products for young children such as Reader Rabbit. Frona developed the strategy for addressing the entire home market segment for TLC. She also pioneered and directed the Educational Sales and Marketing Division, which became a cornerstone of TLC’s business. With her help, The Learning Company was bought by Mattel for $8 billion.

Frona is also an award-winning author and recipient of the Parents Choice Award, for Play Together, Learn Together, one of the first combination book and software products for parents and children. She was a member of the founding Board of Directors of the Silicon Valley-based Children’s Discovery Museum, a major museum which has since won national and international acclaim. Frona was responsible for spearheading the first introduction of software into bookstores with Simon and Schuster.

Frona has now been in the business of college coaching for over 20 years and has served over 1,100 students in helping them accomplish their goals, find their paths, and get them on track to realizing their dreams.

Liz Tadman

Coach and Project Manager

Liz Tadman, Designworlds’ Project Manager, works diligently to ensure our numerous programs are running smoothly. She loves working with our students and parents as well as our coaches. She believes deeply in all of the students and is often amazed at their many talents. She particularly enjoys uncovering their passions and talents by meeting with them and listening closely to their stories.Liz was active as a parent volunteer when her children were school age, and served as President of the Parents Teachers, and Students Association. She has also been a member with the Quota International Mountain View/Los Altos club, which raises fund to assist underserved children and women in our community. Born in Taiwan, Liz moved to California at the beginning of her High School years. She holds a BA in Computer Science and a BS in Mathematics from University of California in Irvine. She has worked as a Software Engineer, Release Manager, Project Manager, and Marketing Consultant.​​

ADVISORS & CONSULTANTS

Sherman Rosenfeld

Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld is a biologist and science educator who has designed, implemented and evaluated innovative science and technology educational programs, both inside and outside schools. Since 1982, shortly after he received his Ph.D. from the SESAME Program at UC Berkeley, he has worked as a science educator at the Weizmann Institute of Science, throughout Israel and internationally. His work focuses on promoting constructive change with students, teachers, schools and learning communities. He directed an interactive science museum in California, designed award-winning educational software, developed curricula for pre-college students and prepared hundreds of Israeli middle school science teachers to guide their students to engage in research and development projects. Rosenfeld is involved in a national effort to integrate PBL into the Israeli educational system – across all grade levels and across all disciplines – by developing PBL curricula, implementing a long-term professional development model, conducting educational research and chairing a national committee (set up by the Pedagogical Secretariat) to write a manual for the Israeli educational system on “developing cultures of inquiry in schools.” He was a key member of the DesignWorlds for Learning team who co-designed the early OER Bay Area Science Museum Learning Collaboratory, a lead researcher on multiple STEAM education projects of the EU and is the co-author and editor (with Dr. Judy Diamond) of the new book, Amplifying Informal Science Learning: Re-thinking Research, Design and Engagement (Routledge, 2023—a collection which “explores the broad landscape of current and future out-of-school science learning environments. Written by leading experts and innovators in informal science learning, these thoughtful and critical essays examine the changing nature of informal institutions such as science museums, zoos, nature centers, planetariums, aquaria, and botanical gardens and their impact on science education.

Rick Berg

Rick Berg has a prolific background in educational technology and curriculum development, participating in the design of innovative educational materials and software that have reached over 50,000 students. With roles ranging from Digital Media Developer at the Children’s Discovery Museum to a research scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning, Rick’s career has been marked by his commitment to enhancing educational experiences. After completing a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, he continued his graduate studies in Psychological Studies in Education with a Psychology minor at Stanford University, with a focus on creativity in education. He has experience in development and maintenance of numerous websites (including DesignWorlds’ Bay Area Science Museum Learning Collaboratory) and digital learning experiences using a variety of programming languages and tools. Currently he is developing a suite of eleven courses guiding team-based reflection on DEAI practices and published on a popular Learning Management System (LMS). Rick has also made contributions to the field through his research on user interaction and the development of quantitative, social, and spatial thought in young children, presenting his findings at prestigious conferences. Furthermore, he has been instrumental in teacher professional development, leading workshops, and co-designing curricula to support interactive, project-based learning.

Wedge Martin

Wedge Martin is a pioneer in gamification, augmented reality and AI. He developed Grinder and some other cool apps. Right now, he’s creating something super unique – a game-changing social app that’s set to shake things up in a big way. Wedge is also a seasoned serial entrepreneur and esteemed Amazon AWS consultant with over 25 years of experience in building cutting-edge SaaS platforms, VoIP systems, and networks. From the outset of his career, he foresaw the transformative power of the internet, propelling him to the forefront of innovation in the tech industry. As the co-founder of Badgeville, Wedge played a pivotal role in catapulting the startup to success, raising an impressive $40 million in its first two years. Badgeville quickly became renowned as a trailblazer in gamification, setting a new standard for Silicon Valley startups. In 2018, the company was acquired by SAP, marking a significant milestone in Wedge’s entrepreneurial journey. Wedge’s entrepreneurial spirit also extends beyond Badgeville, as he has founded several startups in the realms of Data Analytics, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. His visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to innovation have solidified his reputation as a leader in the tech community. In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Wedge is deeply engaged in mentoring and supporting emerging technology companies in Silicon Valley. Leveraging his extensive expertise, he also provides invaluable consultancy services in critical areas for Amazon AWS, driving forward the digital transformation of businesses worldwide.

Susanne Commisso

Susanne Commisso received her B.S. in Computer Science from NYIT where she did a special program with Los Alamos National Laboratory working on speech recognition software. She soon shifted gears after taking a tour of a special needs school where she felt they were underestimating what the students could learn. At this point, she dreamed of creating software to help teachers teach topics differently so their students could learn more. She then decided to go back to school and pursue an M.S. in Computer Science at the University of Colorado with a thesis concentrating on science simulation software (for middle school/high school students) and a certificate in Cognitive Science. Upon graduation she went back into the C.S. industry, working for MIT Lincoln Labs, KPMG, Moai Technologies, and finally Macromedia, where she was hired to do usability engineering. Susanne then earned a teaching credential and M.A. in Education from Notre Dame de Namur University, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction. While her child was growing up with special needs of their own, Susanne became a consultant with DesignWorlds as part of its early open education Bay Area Science Museum Learning Collaboratory. She performed usability walkthroughs of other services in the space to help with the design of the Collaboratory, and supported participating teachers viz. professional in-service development online. She also student-taught and volunteered at her child’s schools, teaching science with Legos, about wind energy, and the Boston Museum of Science’s Engineering is Elementary units in after school programs. More recently, she has been a curriculum consultant with AgentSheets.com, one of the early visual programming systems supported by the NSF for young students, which has done pioneering curriculum and research work in scalable game design for students and teachers.

James Kaufman

James Kaufman, Ph.D. is Professor of Educational Psychology in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. He is the author/editor of more than 45 books, including Creativity 101 (2nd Edition, 2016) and the Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (2nd Edition, with Robert Sternberg; 2019). Kaufman has also published books with his wife, Allison, on animal creativity and pseudoscience and a book about terrible baseball pitchers with his father, Alan. He has published more than 400 papers, including the Four-C Model of Creativity (with Ron Beghetto) and the study that spawned the “Sylvia Plath Effect.” He is a past president of Division 10 (Society for Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, & the Arts) of the American Psychological Association (APA). James has won many awards, including MENSA’s research award, the Torrance Award from the National Association for Gifted Children, and APA’s Berlyne, Arnheim, and Farnsworth awards. He co-founded two major journals (Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts and Psychology of Popular Media Culture). Kaufman has tested Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s creativity on CNN, appeared in the hit Australia show Redesign Your Brain, and narrated the comic book documentary Independents. His musical Discovering Magenta played NYC and its cast album is available on CD and most streaming services. Kaufman has blended his theatre and creativity interests in a forthcoming book with composer Dana Rowe, Creating Your Spotlight: Lessons from Harold Hill, Evita, and Hamilton.

Mary Fay-Zenk

Mary’s journey in teaching mathematics began with a personal experience with two remarkable math teachers in high school. These two women changed the way she thought about mathematics and learning in general, encouraging her to think and understand, not just do what the teacher said. Within the first couple of years of teaching, she hosted a Math Challenge event at the local junior college at which one of her students, a girl, took first place! The next few years were focused on having and raising her daughter, Jessica, during which Mary completed her Masters in Mathematics at Santa Clara University. Mary then began to teach math at a local parochial school and to middle school students, where she undertook her first opportunity to host a Mathcounts competition. A few years later, Mary taught at Miller Middle School in the Cupertino Union School District, hosting various competitions and building a robust program with a math elective class. Her students built polyhedra, explored Fibonacci numbers, tackled Gauss’ challenges with the sum of counting numbers, and many other critical thinking activities involving symmetries, patterns, and much more. Within the first three years, Mary’s students advanced to state and national competitions, winning a variety of high-ranking placements. Many of her students are still in contact with one another – as are the coaches. Fifteen years ago, Mary retired to Cambria, CA and has been working with Mathcounts students since. Over the years, they regularly interact with other San Luis Obispo County teams and participate in preparation and contest activities at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which serves as a host and key partner in her work.

Mattanjah de Vries

Mattanjah de Vries, Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and currently Department Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and is a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He was previously at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, IBM Research (where he won several outstanding technical and innovation awards), and the University of Maryland. He holds a B,Sc from the University of Amsterdam (1971), a M.Sc. from Hebrew University (1975) and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics (1980). Dr. de Vries has focused his career on discovering a photochemical motivation for the selection of the canonical nucleobases in an early earth. He led the early years of the field by being one of the first people to see many of the canonical nucleobases in the gas phase when many others thought it an impossible task. He has continued to publish impactful papers in the field of origin of life expanding on this theory and elucidating the photochemical differences between the canonical and alternative nucleobases. Mattanjah has strong interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary interests, is an outstanding creative STEAM educator, and is the designer of the highly acclaimed “Happy Cows” simulation game in environmental chemistry. He was also an advisor on DesignWorlds’ Bay Area Science Museum Learning Collaboratory.

Jack Park

Jack Park, co-founder of the TopicQuests Foundation and SenseCraft. Jack is a computer scientist working in the fields of artificial and collective intelligence. He created, edited, and co-authored the book XML Topic Maps: Creating and Using Topic Maps for the Web, was a Ph.D. student researching the topic of knowledge federation applied to hypermedia discourse, and designs and builds software platforms for knowledge gardening. He was a research scientist at SRI International working on their Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes (CALO) project, and authored and co-authored several conference papers on the subjects of topic mapping and semantic desktop applications for collective intelligence. He is an avid player of Jane McGonigal’s IBIS card games, on the ForesightEngine and MMOWGLI platforms, Jack was a key member of the DesignWorlds team for the design of the Bay Area Science Museum Collaboratory, where he designed one of the first web-based educational topic maps.

Peter Bishop

Peter Bishop. Ph.D. is the Founder and Executive Director of Teach the Future, an organization whose mission is to encourage and support educators who want to include futures thinking in their classes and schools at all levels around the world. In 2013, Dr. Bishop retired as a Professor Emeritus of Strategic Foresight and Director of the graduate program in Foresight at the University of Houston. He has published two books on Strategic Foresight: Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight (2007) and Teaching about the Future: The Basics of Foresight Education (2012), both with co-author Andy Hines, as well as the more recent Futures Thinking Playbook. Dr. Bishop is a founding Board member and Chair of the Membership Committee for the Association of Professional Futurists and a longtime member of the global Millennium Project community and has been the lead organizer of the annual global World Futures Day for Young Voices. Dr. Bishop came to the University of Houston in 2005, having taught futures studies at the Clear Lake campus since 1982. Dr. Bishop started teaching at Georgia Southern College in 1973 where he specialized in social problems and political sociology. He received his doctoral degree in sociology from Michigan State University in 1974 and his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Louis University where he also studied mathematics and physics.

Aaron Kahn

Aaron Kahn, a resident of Portland, Oregon, is a professional writer, technology researcher, musician, entrepreneur, and educator, and has additional political aspirations within the realm of international relations and communications. He pursued two years of a double degree program at McGill University in Cognitive Psychology and Music Performance, graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a B.F.A. in Music Performance, and received a Master’s Degree in Music Performance from the University of Oregon, where he was a salaried Graduate Teaching Fellow from 2015-2017. Aaron has worked as a professional writer across various industries for four different companies, including DesignWorlds for Learning and DesignWorlds for College and Careers. Aaron has also worked in marketing and public relations, helping usher a Bay Area Jewish community into the 21st century. His work in technology currently focuses on human-AI interfacing and interaction. Aaron uses his communications skills to form complex dialogues and ideas with generative AI platforms like ChatGPT and Gemini. Topics and ideas he covers in his investigations range from developing extensive business and marketing plans to creating web content and innovative thinking for societal betterment. Over the course of his multiple careers, he has been a huge proponent of STEAM education, having given a TEDx talk at the McGill University (one of the global epicenters of music cognition research) inaugural TEDx event connecting social psychology, cognitive science, and music, among many other projects. He is also a substitute teacher in public schools around Portland, and is an actively performing trumpet player generating creative projects for himself and others to explore boundary crossing outside the typical conventions of the classical music field. He has been featured as a trumpet soloist across the West Coast and in New York City at one of its most prominent concert halls, Merkin Hall. Aaron’s overarching mission in his work is to help create a more just, peaceful, and prosperous future for humanity.