EDC Examines Effort to Develop Tech Fluency of Underrepresented Youth

Jim Diamond

Jim Diamond (at left) and Francisco Cervantes are conducting a formative and summative evaluation of iDesign, a new collaborative NSF-funded R&D initiative. Over the next three years, iDesign will engage underrepresented youth  in designing interactive, culturally and social relevant computer games to build their technological fluency and increase their interest in STEM-related activities and careers. The iDesign model features after-school tech-focused “clubhouses,” a summer camp experience to train youth leaders to mentor their peers, a summer institute to deepen teachers’ understanding of game-based and inquiry learning, and activities that raise youths’ awareness of future career paths in game design and STEM majors.

Cervantes says, “I’m very interested in exploring the intersection of technology, engineering, and cultural context and seeing how we can build off students’ interests and experiences and have them think about technology and express themselves in a new way through a technological medium. In iDesign, youth reflect on something that matters to them in their community, research the topic—peeling away different perspectives to understand the topic better—complete Game Star Mechanic “quests” to learn game-based theory and find out how to use design elements to structure their topic, and use the Scratch programming language to build topic-focused games. For example, one student dug up facts on the historical nature and politics of climate change to create her game. The role of teachers is to facilitate youth inquiry and exploration. We learned a lot from our evaluation of Scratch-Ed’s teacher professional development that we are applying in our evaluation of iDesign.”

“We’re excited to be the evaluation partner in this unique R&D effort,” Diamond adds. “Global Kids in New York, experts in designing game-based activities, as well as student leadership activities, is developing the curriculum for the clubhouses and Hofstra University is managing the overall project. Evaluation findings will have the potential to advance the field’s knowledge of inquiry-oriented learning and culturally relevant pedagogy through teaching game-based design elements. As part of their efforts to spark youth’s interest in STEM careers, some of the program managers are reaching out to industry professionals, hoping to get the kids off the computer and traveling to visit people who work in game design studios, engineering labs, and other STEM industry settings.”

Last Updated: June 2014