In 1971 he graduated with a Masters (Mathematics and Physical Education) from the University of Heidelberg. With a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), he spent the following two years at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and the University of California, Irvine. He obtained a PhD from the University of Hamburg in Computer Science (1977), followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, Cambridge, (working with Seymour Papert and the LOGO community) and Xerox Parc (working with Alan Kay and the Smalltalk community).
From 1978 to 1984 he served as an Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of Stuttgart. During these six years, he spent several extended visits at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh to study with Herbert A. Simon who served as the primary advisor for his “Habilitation” degree that he obtained in 1983 from the University of Stuttgart. In 1984 he accepted a position in the Computer Science Department of the University of Colorado, Boulder combined with being a Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science. During the years at CU Boulder, he spent sabbatical years at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany (1994-1995) and at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand (2002-2003).
He was awarded a "Chair of Excellence" at the Charles III University of Madrid (UC3M), Spain and he spent 6 months in 2012 and 2013 as a visiting professor at UC3M. He obtained a fellowship from the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) an Advanced Study Institute in Delmenhorst, Germany and he spent 6 months in 2014 and 2015 at the HWK as a fellow.
In his early work at the University of Stuttgart, he explored theoretical frameworks and system developments for Human-Computer Interaction and co-founded conferences in Germany on “Mensch-Maschine Kommunikation” (1980) and “Software Ergonomics” (1983). Later work at CU Boulder was centered on domain-oriented design environments, critiquing systems, and the exploration of high-functionality environments.
In 1994, the Center for LifeLong Learning & Design was founded and in the following years, he (in close collaboration with numerous colleagues, including specifically Ernesto Arias, Hal Eden, Michael Eisenberg, and Walter Kintsch and a large number of PhD students; see information in sidebar) explored themes in meta-design, social creativity, cultures of participation, computer-supported collaborative learning, support environments for people with cognitive disabilities, and collaborative problem solving and decision making with table-top computing environments. He participated in the characterization of numerous NSF research programs (including: Lifelong Learning, Science of Design, Creativity and IT) and he serves on numerous advisory and editorial boards and continues to be involved in combining European and American research traditions.
He was inducted into the ACM SIGCHI Academy in 2007 and was elected as a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) in 2009, for contributions to human computer interaction and computer-mediated lifelong learning. In 2012, he received the RIGO award from the ACM Special Interest Group on Design of Communication (SIGDOC). In 2015, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and was featured as one of the Pioneers of HCI