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  1. Ji Shen
  2. https://sites.google.com/site/shenresearch/Home
  3. Associate Professor
  5. University of Miami
  1. Blaine Smith
  2. https://www.coe.arizona.edu/blaine-e-smith
  3. Assistant Professor
  5. University of Arizona

Integrating STEM and Digital Literacies with Adolescents

NSF Awards: 1713191

2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8

The STEM + Digital Literacies (STEM+L) project investigates science fiction composing as an effective mechanism to attract and immerse adolescents (ages 10-13) from diverse cultural backgrounds in socio-scientific issues related to the environment. The participating students (grades 5-8) work in small groups to design and produce STEM content rich, multimodal science fictions during the summer (1 week) and the academic year (~4-6 2.5hr sessions). Supporting activities include structured workshops, multimodal composition practices, disciplinary role taking, and presenting in front of authentic audiences. Students also develop meta-awareness of their collaborations, role identities, composing, and learning processes through completing multimodal reflections at different stages of the project. The research component employs an iterative, design-based approach that investigates how students learn in an integrated way (e.g., STEM content, multimodal digital literacies) in STEM+L. Besides multiple types of data (surveys, video recordings, interviews), we also focus on analyzing student multimodal artifacts using different perspectives. Our analyses reveal that the importance of orchestration of modality, integration between science and writing, and imaginative capacity in multimodal narratives. Our research also shows that trajectories of students’ disciplinary identity development are often coupled with their role-taking behaviors; multimodal composing offers multiple points of entry for participation; and integrating science in narratives took multiple forms.

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Discussion from the 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase (10 posts)
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 13, 2019 | 07:42 a.m.

    Thanks for posting this.  Science fiction can be a particularly powerful framing for socio-scientific thinking — and "cli fi" has a lot of potential for helping people engage construtively with the emerging world crisis.Your presentation has focused on the STEM learning that you see being fostered by your work.  Are some kids discovering in themselves a "writing identity"?    So often "STEAM" projects are shaped by people whose interest is primarily in STEM, with the Arts component as a catalyst or context (or motivator) — but we need artists, too!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Meriem Sadoun
  • Icon for: Ji Shen

    Ji Shen

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 13, 2019 | 04:20 p.m.

    The short answer is yes. It's quite often that we found students who were initially not interested in writing or even hated writing became more interested in writing later on in the program. These changing attitudes did not necessarily happen to those who took the role of writer. This may be due to, among other things, the multimodal nature of their composing as well as the collaborative nature of the team project. Also, note that in our project students had to take on different roles to work on their team project. During our early attemp we actually had the role of artist, but later we found it was causing confusion for students with the role of designer, so we combined to the two roles into the designer role only. 

  • Icon for: Ginger Fitzhugh

    Ginger Fitzhugh

    Senior Research Associate
    May 14, 2019 | 06:59 p.m.

    Very interesting idea! 

    Could you say more about your findings in terms of culturally and linguistically diverse youth? Did you see differences in youth's experiences or outcomes based on their cultural or linguistic backgrounds?

  • Icon for: Ji Shen

    Ji Shen

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 15, 2019 | 12:49 p.m.

    We didn’t really examin cultural or linguistic factors as a research focus even though our participants are CLD students. We can clearly see the variety of students’ trajectories (and their artifacts) based on their prior knowledge, interests, and experiences though. Aligning with previous research, we found multimodal composing offered multiple points of entry for students to work with modes, tools, and content in individualized ways.

  • Icon for: Libby Gerard

    Libby Gerard

    May 14, 2019 | 07:56 p.m.

    This sounds so interesting! How did you balance support for student creativity and imagination with guidance on the accuracy and depth in student understanding science topics? What did the teachers view as their goals for students stories?

  • Icon for: Ji Shen

    Ji Shen

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 15, 2019 | 01:00 p.m.

    First of all, we haven't moved to the next level to have other teachers run our program yet - the research team has been providing the instruction. For us, one goal is to help students further develop their own strenghs (identity), and at the same time, develop appreciation of areas they are not good at or not interested in. 

    The first question you are asking is a challenging one (both in practice and in research); to a certain degree, it's about how one integrates Arts with STEM in a STEAM program. One thing that we've developed more nuanced understanding is that whereas there're many differences between supports needed for nurturing students' creativity/imagination and theirsceince understanding, there's also a great deal of overlap. The two could support each other. For example, quality imagination also attends to, among other things, details and consistency, which are also criteria for high level scientific understanding. Come to our poster if plan to attend CSCL. We'd love to hear more of your feedback.

    Kolovou, M., Shen, J., & Smith, B.E. (2019, June). Imagination in adolescents’ collaborative multimodal science fictions. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference of Computer Supported Collaborated Learning, Lyon, France.

  • Icon for: Victor van den Bergh

    Victor van den Bergh

    User Researcher & Evaluator
    May 14, 2019 | 08:52 p.m.

    It's interesting to me that you chose to design the science-fiction writing task as a group activity.  Did you ever consider making it a project designed for individuals who would rotate across all the roles, or was it always envisioned as a group endeavor?  If so, why?  Also, can you say more about how the groups were formed during the program?

  • Icon for: Ji Shen

    Ji Shen

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 15, 2019 | 03:05 p.m.

    In theory, it could be done individually. But we have always run it so that students work in groups on their final projects (multimodal science fictions). For one, it emulates real life scenarios (e.g., how a movie is made by a large team) and we expect students to learn how to collaborate with others. Second, we envision individual students learning different things and further develop different expertise in our program (note that we do have activities that everyone has to do such as Scracth tutorial).

    We have tried different mechanisms to form groups (e.g., students form the groups organically based on their preferences/choices of the roles; see Jiang, Shen, Smith, 2019; Jiang, Smith, Shen, 2019); in more recent runs, we've tried grouping students first and then let them figure out the roles within each group. Of course, different grouping method will lead to different learning experience and each has pros and cons. Despite the formation mechanism, we do constantly encourage students to swtich roles/try out different roles to see different perspectives. 

    Jiang, S., Smith, B. E., & Shen, J. (2019). Examining How Different Modes Mediate Adolescents’ Interactions during Digital Multimodal Composing Processes. Interactive Learning Environments. Online First.

    Jiang, S., Shen, J., & Smith, B.E. (2019). Designing Discipline-specific Roles for Interdisciplinary Learning: Two Comparative Cases in an Afterschool STEM+L Program. International Journal of Science Education. Online First.


  • Shiyan Jiang

    May 15, 2019 | 03:46 p.m.

    Interestingly, although we did not have the component of rotating across all the roles, some students reported that they tried out each role and ended up with multiple roles. The rotation sometimes happened without our intervention.

    The literature showed that rotating across roles could provide equal learning opportunities as students needed to engage in both practices that they were good at and those they were less confident in. But then the tension is when role rotation should happen. Finding the right time that can benefit the group as a whole is a promising direction to go.

  • Icon for: Bridget Dalton

    Bridget Dalton

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2019 | 07:22 p.m.

    Wonderful project -- I appreciate how students pursue storytelling and literacy within a meaningful science context, developing as designers within an authentic project context.  

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.