Faculty & Staff

Michael K. Thomas

Assistant Professor

Michael K. Thomas is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses the cultural dimensions of technology implementation in learning contexts and what this means for the design of technology-rich innovations for learning. Three key questions with respect to this are (a) What are the central concerns of teachers, trainers, and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of technology in learning contexts? (b) What do they do to continually resolve these concerns? and (c) In what ways does culture play a role in the design and implementation of technology-rich innovations? He is particularly interested in video games and gameification in learning environments. He has expertise in qualitative research in general and grounded theory in particular. Before joining, UNCC, he taught instructional technology and research methodology at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Univerisyt of North Carolina, Charlotte. He has also been an ESL/EFL teacher in New York City Public Schools and has taught overseas.


Thomas holds a double major Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology and Language Education from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Research & Teaching Interests

Thomas' research focuses the cultural dimensions of technology implementation in learning contexts and what this means for the design of technology-rich innovations for learning. He is also interested in the philosophical dimensions of educational research and methodology. He teaches courses in Qualitative Research, Inquiry, and Qualitative Data Analysis.

Selected Publications

Thomas, M. K. & Yang, W. L. (2013). Neoliberalism, Globalization, and Creative Educational Destruction in Taiwan. Educational Technology Research and Development, 61(1), 107-129.

Thomas, M. K. & Liu, K. (2012). The Performance of Reflection: A Grounded Analysis of Prospective Teachers’ ePortfolios. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education 20(3), 305-330.

Thomas, M. K. (2011). The utility and efficacy of qualitative research software in grounded theory research. In V. B. Martin & A. Gynnild (Eds.), Grounded theory: The philosophy, method, and work of Barney Glaser (pp. 133-146). Boca Raton, FL: BrownWalker Press.

Thomas, M. K. & Nayan, R. (2011). Smart Schools for Saving the Soul: A juxtaposition of neofundamentalist and neoliberal discourse concentrations in contemporary Malaysia. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 513-529.

Thomas, M. K., Ge, X., & Greene, B. (2011). Fostering 21st Century Skill Development by Engaging Students in Authentic Game Design Projects in a High School Computer Programming Class. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 44(4), 383-400.

Thomas, M. K. & Columbus, M. (2010). African American Identity and a Theory for Primary Cultural Instructional Design. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 38(1), 75-92.

Thomas, M. K., Tuzun, H., & Barab, S. A. (2009). Developing Critical Implementations of Technology-Rich Innovations. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 41(2) 125-154).

Honors & Awards

2013 – Article of the Year Award, Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D) International Section.
2012 – University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Curriculum & Instruction Award for Mentoring.
2011 – Recipient Dr. Brenda Pfaehler Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Courses Taught

502 Essentials of Qualitative Inquiry in Education


Admission to the Ph.D. in Education program or consent of the instructor.

Surveys methods for conceptualizing, gathering, managing, and interpreting qualitative data. Various ethnographic, historical, and narrative forms of inquiry are reviewed, as are the corresponding methods associated with each. Extensive computer use required. Field work required.