Full Scale Development: Collaborative Research--Using Narrative in a Digital Learning Environment to Engage Children and Teens in Engineering
This full scale research and development collaborative project between Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College improves technical literacy for children in the area of engineering education through the Through My Window learning environment. The instructional design of the learning environment results from the application of innovative educational approaches based on research in the learning sciences—Egan's Imaginative Education (IE) and Knowledge Building (KB). The project provides idea-centered engineering curriculum that facilitates deep learning of engineering concepts through the use of developmentally appropriate narrative and interactive multimedia via interactive forums and blogs, young adult novels (audio and text with English and Spanish versions), eight extensive tie-in activities, an offline teachers’ curriculum guide, and social network connections and electronic portfolios. Targeting traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering—especially girls—the overarching goals of the project are improving attitudes toward engineering; providing a deeper understanding of what engineering is about; supporting the development of specific engineering skills; and increasing interest in engineering careers. The project will address the following research questions: What is the quality of the knowledge building discourse? Does it get better over time? Will students, given the opportunity, extend the discourse to new areas? What scaffolding does the learning environment need to support novice participants in this discourse? Does the use of narrative influence participation in knowledge building? Are certain types of narratives more effective in influencing participation in knowledge building? Evaluative feedback for usability, value effectiveness, and ease of implementation from informal educators and leaders from the Connecticut After School Network CTASN) will be included. The evaluation will include documentation on the impact of narrative and multimedia tools in the area of engineering education. Currently, there is very little research regarding children and young teen engagement in engineering education activities using narrative as a structure to facilitate learning engineering concepts and principles. The research and activities developed from this proposed project contributes to the field of Informal Science and Engineering Education. The results from this project could impact upper elementary and middle-school aged children and members from underrepresented communities and girls in a positive way.