1. Eli Tucker-Raymond
  2. https://www.terc.edu/display/Staff/Eli+Tucker-Raymond
  3. Research Scientist
  5. TERC
  1. Brian Gravel
  2. Assistant Professor
  4. Tufts University
  1. Aditi Wagh
  2. Postdoctoral Researcher
  4. Tufts University

Investigating STEM Literacies in Makerspaces

NSF Awards: 1422532

2016 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Undergraduate, Adult learners, Informal / multi-age

Investigating STEM Literacies in MakerSpaces (STEMLiMS) aims to learn about how people in makerspaces use representations to help them do their work, design and plan for making, solve problems, find information, and share their work with others. We name this use of representations in social contexts as literacies. Representations might include such things as written notes, sketches, webpages, oral language, diagrams, and 3D models. STEMLiMS is three years of observation in six different makerspace contexts. Year 1 we spent observing a large adult makerspace and a small engineering firm. Year 2 we are at urban community centers in that have makerspaces for youth, including one fabrication lab and one computer center. Year 3 we will be in school-based makerspaces, one for elementary and junior high students and one for high school students. In years 2 and 3 we will also develop literacy practice supports based on our observations. We want to support young people in their making and help schools think about how making is related to and expands school-valued skills, such as knowing how to find information, how to think metacognitively, and how to clearly express oneself and one’s ideas.

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Discussion from the NSF 2016 STEM For All Video Showcase (11 posts)
  • Icon for: araina boyd

    araina boyd

    May 17, 2016 | 01:34 p.m.

    What are your tracking methods to quantify your research? I think supporting hands-on experiences for young learners is crucial to reach a wide variety of learners. What are you doing to promote diversity and inclusivity in your project? Are there methods with recruiting and implementation that you use to promote student engagement? Great project!

  • Icon for: Eli Tucker-Raymond

    Eli Tucker-Raymond

    Lead Presenter
    Research Scientist
    May 17, 2016 | 01:44 p.m.

    Hi Araina,

    Thanks for the great questions! We are not quantifying our work. Our work is mostly ethnographic. We are working in two sites now that are almost completely students from ethnic groups underrepresented in STEM. We hope that our project helps to expand what is possible in makerspaces and in schools by observing a diverse range of young people. With recruiting we have partnerships with informal sites and schools and so we recruit through them. We will be trying out our literacy tools in the year to come.

  • Icon for: araina boyd

    araina boyd

    May 17, 2016 | 02:24 p.m.

    Thank you. This is a fantastic project! Incorporating hands-on, project-based learning is one of the core principles at Iron Range Engineering. I look forward to seeing the outcome of your project. Best of luck to you.

  • Icon for: Victor van den Bergh

    Victor van den Bergh

    Project Manager
    May 17, 2016 | 08:59 p.m.

    Dear Eli, Brian, Aditi, and your team,
    This is an interesting project and your findings will undoubtedly have very useful implications for STEM educators in elementary, middle, and high school. I especially love the idea of bridging in-school and out of school learning. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the ways in which the activities in each of the three years relate to and inform one another. Are you hoping to see whether or not the literacy practices that you discovered during your initial work with adults translate directly to maker spaces with children and young adults, or are you looking for new literacy practices? It sounds like Year 3 is really the year when you “apply” what you’ve learned in Years 1 and 2 – do you expect to get teachers involved at that phase? Thank you very much for sharing your work!

  • Icon for: Brian Gravel

    Brian Gravel

    Assistant Professor
    May 17, 2016 | 09:48 p.m.

    Hi Victor – thank you for the excellent question! We designed the study to build from year to year. In our first year, we interviewed experienced makers from a variety of making areas – artists, engineers, entrepreneurs – where we we began the work of developing our frameworks for making processes as well as literacy practices. The analysis of those interviews led to a version of the frameworks that was used to develop observation protocols and coding schemes for understanding the data from our observations in the two adult makerspaces in the second part of Year 1. Year 2 has focused on taking the frameworks iterated on in Year 1 into spaces where youth are making in order to look for similarities, differences. Ultimately, we want to describe ways of connecting the literacy practices youth bring to the spaces with those STEM literacy practices we observed the adult, experienced makers enacting in their work. We don’t necessarily want young people to emulate the adults, we want to expand the possibilities for what counts as STEM learning in informal spaces and in schools. As we continue to refine and focus the frameworks, we have begun to design supports that will hopefully encourage the development of STEM literacies within youth makerspaces, both in informal settings and in schools in Year 3. In a way, you are correct that year 3 is where we will “apply” our work, but the development of our framework is an application of our work as well. We have also begun piloting supports in year 2. In year 3, we will work closely with teachers at our partner sites to think about their content needs, existing literacy practices, and ways of engaging students in making to further develop bridges between learning in school and learning in after-school, makerspace contexts. We hope this work will help to not only describe supports for students interested in learning STEM through making, but also present ways of connecting the “stuff schools need to do” to activities in makerspaces using literacies as a substantive, and generative bridge. Thanks again for your question! Happy to answer more.

  • Icon for: Karen Purcell

    Karen Purcell

    Project Director
    May 19, 2016 | 10:52 a.m.

    Dear Eli, Brian, and Aditi,
    What exciting work! Thanks so much for sharing. Can you expand a bit more on the supports you will be developing for students, schools, and informal science education institutions in years 2 and 3? And, how will you disseminate these? I’d love to know more.

  • Icon for: Aditi Wagh

    Aditi Wagh

    Postdoctoral Researcher
    May 20, 2016 | 12:09 p.m.

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your question! We will be developing supports for participant structures, task structures, and for engaging with, understanding, and creating the kinds of texts we see people use in makerspaces. For instance, in terms of participant structures, we will engage youth in a network mapping activity in which students make explicit networks of knowledge of expertise to which they belong, relate those networks to others in the spaces they share, and then how to apply/leverage/use those networks in support of their making activities. In terms of task structures, we will design ways of helping young makers source, vet, and organize information about materials, tools, and processes. Finally, in terms of texts, we will focus on ways of helping young makers use sketching, modeling, and prototyping as “drafts,” to help iterate their ideas.

    We imagine disseminating through school networks, informal education networks (including library networks), and within maker education communities like Fablearn.

    We have an article in press with Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy where we describe the digital literacies in engineering of one youth maker, in which we articulate one of the literacy supports we are developing.

    Hope this answers your questions!

  • Icon for: Joseph Wilson

    Joseph Wilson

    Managing Director
    May 19, 2016 | 09:26 p.m.

    #teamEli – I love that you are working with makerspaces! Could you speak a bit more about the population of students you are working with and how often the students are engaged in the makerspace? Are these students opting in to attend the makerspace (versus compulsory attendance), and if so, how could you broaden the group that attends? Great video!

  • Icon for: Eli Tucker-Raymond

    Eli Tucker-Raymond

    Lead Presenter
    Research Scientist
    May 20, 2016 | 12:06 p.m.

    Hi Joesph,

    Thanks for the feedback and your questions. We are primarily a research project working with existing sites who have their own structures of recruitment. Currently we are working with elementary, middle, and high school students from an urban area, in two community centers, in the Northeastern United States of America. 98% of our participants are individuals from underrepresented groups in STEM. One of our community centers is located in a public housing development.

    Next year we will work in urban middle and high schools, with dedicated makerspaces and within classrooms engaging maker activities.

    Students opt into work in the community centers. Our role in these spaces is to observe the activities in existing spaces, with existing communities. What we are doing is attempting to broaden and expand what “counts” as STEM in schools, and a goal is to expand opportunities for participation in STEM.

  • Icon for: Leslie Herrenkohl

    Leslie Herrenkohl

    Professor, Co_Director 3dL Partnership
    May 20, 2016 | 10:53 a.m.

    A very interesting project! How often and for how long are students in phase 2 and 3 involved in making activities? How do you decide what types of making activities to offer? Do you work with the facilitators in these settings?

  • Icon for: Brian Gravel

    Brian Gravel

    Assistant Professor
    May 20, 2016 | 12:13 p.m.

    Thank you for the kind words! We are not currently designing the particular activities that youth engage in, rather, we are observing the variety of making activities that are already a part of these particular community centers. Within these existing ecosystems, activities are pretty much open ended and interest driven, and as such youth work alone or together, for long periods of time and on shorter projects. There is a diversity of projects along many parameters. In terms of facilitation, the youth serve as facilitators of other youth. We have not intervened with facilitation at this point, but that is a place where we intend to introduce designs in Year 3.

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