Lab Members


Nigel Newbutt


Originally from the U.K. I am now a EduGator and Assistant Professor in the College of Education. I bring with me many years’ experience of developing technologies with autistic, and underserved groups, which started in my undergraduate work exploring multimedia programs for a deaf community in the U.K. I am currently interested in examining and developing the role that VR HMDs can play in supporting young people with autism in their daily lives; informed through their input.  The aim of this work is to co-design the future of this field (VR and autism) with autistic communities and other important stakeholders.  More than this, I am also interested in developing a range of innovative technologies that can help to enable people with neurodiversity.  

Marc Francois

Doctoral Student

In the School of Teaching and Learning (STL) at University of Florida, Marc’s research interests include technology integration in K-12 and higher education, immersive learning, and inclusive design of e-learning. Specifically, he is interested in how emerging learning technologies, such as virtual reality can be used to promote inclusive practices for children and young people of diverse identities and cultural backgrounds. Before joining STL, Marc earned his bachelor’s degree in school administration from Université Quisqueya and his M.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from University of South Carolina.

Rebekah Johnson


As a current student pursuing her master’s in Educational Technology, and having previously completed her undergraduate degree in Educational Sciences specializing in Disabilities in Society at the University of Florida, Rebekah is very passionate about creating equitable education opportunities for people with disabilities. Rebekah is interested in researching how new technologies can create an inclusive culture in education and remove barriers for people with varied abilities. Specifically, she would like to explore practical solutions to reduce exclusion. Her experience includes over two decades volunteering as a mentor for children, adults, and families affected by a burn injury, helping them navigate their way through recovery and speaking as an advocate for the burn community in various cities in the U.S.

Irene Kao


Yu-Chia(Irene) Kao is currently a second-year master’s student in the Department of Educational Technology at the University of Florida. Prior to beginning her master’s studies, Yu-Chia earned her B.A. in English from Taiwan and with years of experience in teaching TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) students in K-12 schools. She is interested in how technologies support teaching and learning in diverse environments, such as emerging technologies, technology-integrated learning, and online learning. Specifically, Yu-Chia’s current research interests focus on applying emerging technologies(VR) to real-world learning environments and engaging people with diverse needs.

Zachary Larson


As a Computer Engineering student at the University of Central Florida, Zachary Larson has always had a passion for STEM topics and for helping those with Autism. For years, he has volunteered with Amazing Child, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping children with Autism learn social skills. Zachary’s experience as an individual with autism, as well as his extensive knowledge of computer engineering, provide him profound insight into the nuances of technology and its relationship with disabilities.  He plays a central role with the ELTL advising and supporting our STEM outreach activities.    

Congzhi Ma


Congzhi was born in Tianjin, China and earned his bachelor’s degree in English Translation and Interpretation from Binhai School of Foreign Affairs of Tianjin Foreign Studies University. He earned his M.A.E in ESOL/Bilingual Education from the University of Florida. Congzhi has two years of teaching experience of English in China and United States. As an incoming Doctoral student in School of Teaching and Learning at College of Education at the University of Florida, he will focus on Educational Technology in applied contexts. His research interests lie in integrating emerging technologies such as virtual reality with language learning in higher education context, especially spoken languages and communication skills.

Ashley Kelly

Undergraduate member

Ashley is a 3rd year communication sciences and disorders major, with a minor in education studies at the University of Florida. Her research interests include extending technology-based education materials to diverse populations that could benefit from their use. She has an interest in using these technologies to teach an array of subject areas and making them more mainstream to benefit a wider range of learners and students.

Dr. Dimitra Magkafa

External Collaborator and Past Member

I am an external collaborator at the Equitable Learning Technology Lab, and past member (studying with Dr Newbutt in the UK) and bring with me an interdisciplinary background and interests in the areas of education and Human- Computer Interaction (HCI): education technologies, designing and evaluating interactive technologies for learning, inclusive design, and participatory research methods (for children in school settings). I hold a PhD in Education and Childhood from the University of the West of England, Bristol. My doctoral thesis focused on co-designing and evaluating a technology-based program, aimed at supporting children with autism in a museum setting. I am currently a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, UK and I am working on a project that seeks to improve the legal capability of children, aged 15 years and under, drawing on game-based learning theories and adopting a participatory-based approach to develop game-based interventions

Join the ELTL Hub

Undergraduate Students

If you are interested in joining the lab as a research assistant, collaborator, or proposing ideas for projects (undergraduate projects, etc…) please email Dr Newbutt to say “HI” and include an overview of your ideas and ways you’d like to become involved. 

Prospective Graduate Students

If you are interested in joining the lab as a graduate student, please email Dr Newbutt with your CV and description about your research interests. Additional information including application instructions is available here.

Doctoral Students

ELTL welcomes applications for PhD and EdD-level study.  We are keen to support, mentor, and supervise (as Chair or on committees) doctoral-level projects.  We are currently accepting Ph.D and Ed.D proposals that sit within the remit of our aims and core values.  In return we offer an academically stimulating environment and creative space to develop your contributions to knowledge.  We have a range of links with local sectors that can support the applied nature of your work.  Either way we offer a rich and diverse range of scholars who can support your studies.

Graduate Students

We have an opening for an expression of interest for a Graduate Assistant for 9 months (starting Fall 2022).  This is to work closely with Dr Newbutt to help establish basic, and underpinning, research that will focus on community-based issues impacting people with neurodiversity.  This Assistantship will support the drafting of literature reviews, help to conduct focus groups and analyze qualitative data.  Please reach out to the Director with an email that includes a brief introduction of you and your work, plans for working within the community, and experience of working with people with neurodiversity.  Attach an up to date CV too, please.