Throughout the spring semester, in the Learning Technology class, we had the challenge to design a learning experience integrating technologies informed by the literature based on personal interest. I worked with Anahit Vardanyan in the design process of this project; our shared interest in underrepresented populations in STEM (especially girls), designing informal learning experiences, and the use of technology to make learning visible and learning through the interaction with manipulatives was an excellent asset for developing ideas for this particular learning design. My colleague Anahit, and I worked collaboratively on developing a mock-up of "Telling Science; exploring everyday STEM through stories" a gamified application blending digital and physical interactions.
We combined both affordances of digital technology and the constructionist approach by having kids engage with manipulatives and physical tangibles and materials found in everyday contexts (home/the hardware store/outdoors). The experience was designed to be held in an app in which anchoring stories were presented as cues of cultural forms. Through these digital stories, characters of the story would encounter challenges that would prompt the kids to help the characters solve them through science and engineering processes in real life. Learners take the role of agents who experiment with various affordable physical materials and can be found at home or outdoors to help the character solve challenges.
The "Telling Science" app is aimed to be used in informal settings such as home, playing with friends after school, or with family members. Our targeted learners are children between 8 and 15 (upper elementary and middle school).
Through "Telling Science" we wanted learners to:
Theoretical lenses that guided our design...
The main overarching framework that we took as lenses that guided our design is Thick Authenticity by Resnick and Shaffer (1992). As we read this theory we decided that we wanted our experience to be authentic in all the different dimensions that the framework drawns.
Other theories of the learning sciences complemented ideas, components, and design decisions, you can read more about how these theories informed our design below.
Click on the boxes below to learn about how other theories were lenses to inform our design were:
Learners engage in the process following the narrative of the story and build their knowledge by constructing artifacts in real life that aim to solve problems in the storyline. “Thinking with”… the artifacts they create that reflect big ideas and STEM concepts.
The stories frame an open-ended authentic problem that challenges children to go through the process of engineering a solution based on STEM concepts or methods. The problem would be introduced in stages so that learners can identify critical steps that will lead them to research the targeted solution. Afterward, learners reflect on the process they went through and explain their understanding of it.
Anchored instruction (Bransford)
Anchored instruction is a technology-based learning approach that stresses the importance of placing learning within a meaningful, problem-solving context. Anchored instruction uses context- stories or micro- to situate the learning and application of knowledge.
For our learning design this implies that the learning is contextualized in stories that provide students with roles (e.g, scientists or engineers) that serve to enhance their mental model building.
Cuing through cultural forms (Horn)
Tangible interactions with familiar materials help learners understand new concepts by seeing them related to something they already know.
In our case, stories play the role of cuing cultural forms as kids that aged are familiar with storybooks
Design Process: The Learning Journey
For the first iteration of our design, we designed an outline of how we imagined the different stages of the learning design happening as desirable interactions that could be supported by the technology. We took insights from the literature review key aspects such as:
Design decision: Stories for cuing through cultural forms
Stories are something that kids are familiar with (cuing through cultural forms), so if we situated a STEM challenge in a story, it would be more authentic for them to engage in solving a challenge through a problem-based learning approach. That is how we decided that the first stage of the experience would be learners freely choosing digital stories from a library. One constraint we put on the stories was that they presented STEM challenges but that the narratives and characters were not based on typical science or engineering stereotypes, so more kids would be interested in engaging with the stories.
The learning agent that scaffolds the learner throughout the whole learning journey in different ways!
Second iteration: Learning Journey
Accessible tangible materials
Model of the lighting snail