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Kael Rowan

Kael Rowan

Kael Rowan is a Senior Research Software Design Engineer in Microsoft Research, focusing on the next generation of software development.

His latest updates can be found on his blog at

  • Petr Slovák, Kael Rowan, Christopher Frauenberger, Ran Gilad-Bachrach, Mia Doces, Brian Smith, Rachel Kamb, and Geraldine Fitzpatrick, Scaffolding the scaffolding: Supporting children's social-emotional learning at home, ACM – Association for Computing Machinery, February 2016.

    The development of strong social and emotional skills is central to personal wellbeing. Increasingly, these skills are being taught in schools through well researched curricula. Such social-emotional learning (SEL) curricula are most effective if reinforced by parents, thus transferring the skills into everyday contexts. Traditional SEL programs have however had limited success in engaging parents, and we argue that technology might be able to help bridge this school-home divide. Through interviews with SEL experts we identified central design considerations for technology and SEL content: the reliance on experiential learning and the need to scaffold the parents in scaffolding the interaction for their children. This informed the design of a technology probe comprising a magnet card and online SEL activities, deployed in a school and via Mturk. The results provide a nuanced understanding of how technology-based interventions could bridge the school-home gap in real-world settings and support at-home reinforcement of children's social-emotional skills.

  • Pablo Paredes, Ran Gilad-Bachrach, Asta Roseway, Mary Czerwinski, and Kael Rowan, PopTherapy: Coping with Stress through Pop-Culture, IEEE Pervasive Health, May 2014.

    Stress is considered to be a modern day “global epidemic"; so given the widespread nature of this problem, it would be beneficial if solutions that help people to learn how to cope better with stress were scalable beyond what individual or group therapies can provide today. Therefore, in this work, we study the potential of smart-phones as a pervasive medium to provide "crowd therapy". The work melds two novel contributions: first, a micro-intervention authoring process that focuses on repurposing popular web applications as stress management interventions; and second, a machine-learning based intervention recommender system that learns how to match interventions to individuals and their temporal circumstances over time. After four weeks, participants in our user study reported higher self-awareness of stress, lower depression-related symptoms and having learned new simple ways to deal with stress. Furthermore, participants receiving the machine-learning recommendations without option to select different ones showed a tendency towards using more constructive coping behaviors.

  • Laura Pina, Kael Rowan, Asta Roseway, Paul Johns, Gillian R. Hayes, and Mary Czerwinski, In Situ Cues for ADHD Parenting Strategies Using Mobile Technology, IEEE Pervasive Health, May 2014.

    Parenting is always demanding, but it has especially unique challenges when children experience neurodevelopmental problems, such as ADHD. To address the needs of parents with ADHD children, research in the area of Parental Behavioral Therapy is accelerating. This type of therapy focuses on behavioral strategies that, if practiced regularly, can have a positive impact on the child’s long-term behavior, as well as a reduction in parental stress. While these strategies are simple, there are hurdles to putting them into practice. First, parents may be struggling with their own neurodevelopmental issues. Second, due to the needs of their children, parents are under a lot of stress—this is in addition to regular, daily life stresses. Our work explores how to monitor parents’ stress and offers in situ support to remind parents of behavioral strategies to practice in moments of duress. We gained insight into how to design for the dynamics of families with ADHD children by using a prototype of our system as a probe. Our goal was to bring to the forefront simple strategies that can positively impact family ties and enhance the wellbeing of the child. We will present results that suggest that when interventions are cued during moments of duress, technology might prove very useful in support of behavioral therapy.

  • Kael Rowan, Robert DeLine, Andrew Bragdon, and Jens Jacobsen, Debugger Canvas: Industrial Experience with the Code Bubbles Paradigm, International Conference on Software Engineering, 2 June 2012.

    At ICSE 2010, the Code Bubbles team from Brown University and the Code Canvas team from Microsoft Research presented similar ideas for new user experiences for an integrated development environment. Since then, the two teams formed a collaboration, along with the Microsoft Visual Studio team, to release Debugger Canvas, an industrial version of the Code Bubbles paradigm. With Debugger Canvas, a programmer debugs her code as a collection of code bubbles, annotated with call paths and variable values, on a twodimensional pan-and-zoom surface. In this experience report, we describe new user interface ideas, describe the rationale behind our design choices, evaluate the performance overhead of the new design, and provide user feedback based on lab participants, post-release usage data, and a user survey and interviews. We conclude that the code bubbles paradigm does scale to existing customer code bases, is best implemented as a mode in the existing user experience rather than a replacement, and is most useful when the user has a long or complex call paths, a large or unfamiliar code base, or complex control patterns, like factories or dynamic linking.

  • Robert DeLine, Gina Venolia, and Kael Rowan, Software Development with Code Maps, in Communications of the ACM, vol. 53, no. 8, pp. 48-54, Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., 4 July 2010.

    Could those ubiquitous hand-drawn code diagrams become a thing of the past? (NOTE: Also appears in ACM Queue 8:7, Aug 2010.)

  • Robert DeLine and Kael Rowan, Code Canvas: Zooming towards Better Development Environments, in Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering (New Ideas and Emerging Results), Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., 2 May 2010.

    The user interfaces of today’s development environments have a “bento box” design that partitions information into separate areas. This design makes it difficult to stay oriented in the open documents and to synthesize information shown in different areas. Code Canvas takes a new approach by providing an infinite zoomable surface for software develop-ment. A canvas both houses editable forms of all of a project’s documents and allows multiple layers of visualization over those documents. By uniting the content of a project and in-formation about it onto a single surface, Code Canvas is de-signed to leverage spatial memory to keep developers orient-ed and to make it easy to synthesize information.

  • Kael Rowan, Code Canvas, in Kael Rowan's Blog, 26 March 2009.

    Code Canvas is an experimental research platform for building a spatial development environment. It lets us explore design alternatives when dealing with source code on an infinitely scalable two-dimensional surface.