Public Discussion

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 11, 2015 | 08:04 a.m.

    Very impressed with the integration of IE and KB to address engineering challenges. Can you say more about how this is being utilized and integrated in classrooms or informal learning settings? What support do you provide to help teachers make the best use of these materials? How do you plan to broaden participation and evaluate impact?

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 12, 2015 | 11:39 a.m.

    Hi Vivian! Thanks for your question.

    Through My Window consists of three major components—the novel (Talk to Me), the website with interactive learning adventures, and a teachers’ curriculum guide with offline enrichment activities.

    We’ve had both informal and formal educational settings use Through My Window, and different programs have used different combinations of those components. Some only use the novel and offline activities, some only use the website and novel, some use all three, etc.

    We provide professional development workshops to educators interested in using Through My Window. We are happy to work with educators to help them plan implementation, including customizing lesson plans for their specific program. In addition, our educator website, teamthroughmywindow.org, provides a place for educators to contact us, provide feedback, learn more about the project, etc.

    We’re using a variety of channels to broaden participation, including exhibitions and presentations at conferences (e.g. the American Society for Engineering Education, the Society for Women Engineers, the National Afterschool Association); collaborations with state after school networks including Connecticut and Massachusetts; social media (including facebook and twitter); and strategic networking with formal and informal educational districts and networks.

    We are evaluating impact through student surveys that measure student attitudes about engineering as well as through students’ online journaling that they write as they complete the online learning adventures. These journal entries give us an idea of how their ideas about engineering and the specific content area (e.g. design or artificial intelligence) are improving and changing as they progress in the learning adventure.

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 12, 2015 | 04:13 p.m.

    Just curious—do you ever have engineers take a look at the student journals—and provide feedback on the “authenticity” of their ideas and the growth in their understanding?

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 12, 2015 | 04:13 p.m.

    Just curious—do you ever have engineers take a look at the student journals—and provide feedback on the “authenticity” of their ideas and the growth in their understanding?

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 10:33 a.m.

    Hi Vivian—great question. The people who look at the student journal entries are an educational theory expert/principal investigator on our grant/professor at Smith College, Al Rudnitsky; an engineering education expert/principal investigator/Smith professor, Glenn Ellis; and undergraduate students of Ellis and Rudnitsky in both fields. As I mentioned to Cynthia and Debra below, they are looking closely at student journal entries for growth and changes in ideas as well as understanding of certain content areas.
    Were you thinking more specifically of having engineers “in the field” so to speak look at the journal entries—or comparing what students write to the way professional engineers answer the same questions? That’s an interesting idea—I’ll have to run that by our team!!

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2015 | 02:07 p.m.

    I did mean engineers “in the field” but you’ve expanded my ideas to include comparisons with ways professional engineers answer the same question—-It would be great to make a few of those comparisons, even if restricted to a small sample.

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 02:16 p.m.

    Both really excellent ideas, and I’ve brought them up to our team as possibilities for the future!

  • Icon for: Debra Bernstein

    Debra Bernstein

    Facilitator
    May 11, 2015 | 02:54 p.m.

    This does sound like a very creative project, and I like the use of narrative as a tool to engage students. Following up on Vivian’s question, how will you evaluate the impact of Through my Window on students? Will you compare your approach to a non-narrative based approach?

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 12, 2015 | 04:09 p.m.

    Hi, Debra, and thanks for your question!
    As I briefly mentioned to Vivian above, we have a number of ways we’re evaluating the impact of Through My Window. This includes student surveys that look at student attitudes about, engagement in, and perceptions of engineering; online student journal entries that give us a window into student thinking about the specific content areas of each of the learning adventures; and student focus groups. In addition, we think educator perspectives and feedback are incredibly important (in many ways, they’re the experts!), so we also have educator surveys, interviews, and a feedback portal on our educator website (teamthroughmywindow.org).
    While we aren’t directly testing Through My Window against a non-narrative control group, educators have told us that narrative provides certain advantages, including engaging a broader range of students and providing an opportunity to integrate the teaching of English/literacy and STEM.
    Let me know if you have more questions!

  • Icon for: Debra Bernstein

    Debra Bernstein

    Facilitator
    May 12, 2015 | 09:07 p.m.

    I like your approach of collecting data from students and also feedback from educators about the materials and approach. For the students, can you say a little more about the online journal entries, and how you will use those to learn about students’ ideas about engineering and the specific content areas?

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 10:23 a.m.

    Hi Debra,
    Look at my answer to Cynthia, below—but I’ll provide another example here.
    In one part of the Rio’s Brain artificial intelligence online learning adventure, students watch videos of machines completing certain tasks, like pouring a glass of water, walking though a crowd, dancing, etc. Students are asked to journal about what they think the machine would need to “know” in order to complete each task.
    What we’ve found is that by the time they get to this point in the adventure (they’ve already completed the journaling and activities I described to Cynthia below, as well as encountering some new ideas about tasks they think are easy or hard for machines), they are able to frame their answers in terms of machines “knowing” certain things—having rules or specific functions—and being able to act on them. That’s IS, in and of itself, the definition of classical artificial intelligence—so students really are “getting it”!
    We should have more examples as we collect more student data and as we release more learning adventures.
    Let me know if you have other questions!

  • Icon for: Debra Bernstein

    Debra Bernstein

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2015 | 09:57 p.m.

    Thanks, Isabel! I agree, it does sound like students are coming away with a nice understanding of these concepts (like AI)!

  • Icon for: Rosi Andrade

    Rosi Andrade

    Associate Research Professor
    May 11, 2015 | 07:49 p.m.

    Would be very interested in learning about the changes in student attitude! Especially student feedback on the experience with Through My Window.

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 02:34 p.m.

    Hi Rosi; thanks for your question! Initial feedback from educators and student responses have been positive, including improved understanding of specific content areas. Check on my answers to Debra and Vivian above and Cynthia below for more information about how we look at student journal entries as a means for assessing student understanding.
    We don’t have a huge amount of data regarding student attitudes about engineering (before and after using Through My Window) YET, but should very soon. At the least, we’ve had rave reviews from students and educators about our novel and audiobook—even in after school settings (where you might expect students to be worn out and reject reading/listening to a book)!

  • Icon for: Nevin Katz

    Nevin Katz

    Facilitator
    May 11, 2015 | 10:16 p.m.

    Very interesting. Are there specific age groups and/or content areas you are focusing on?

  • May 12, 2015 | 11:34 a.m.

    Thanks for your question, Nevin! The project targets upper elementary and middle-schools students (gr. 4-8). This may seem like a broad range, but the idea-centered instructional design of the learning environment allows educators to expand upon “big” ideas in engineering to various levels given student interests and abilities. (The novel has a lexile of 840, or grade 5 level.)

    With respect to content areas, the novel introduces three engineering concepts: artificial intelligence (AI), engineering design, and engineering ethics. AI is then deeply explored in Rio’s Brain, our first online learning adventure. Two other adventures due out later this year — Trapped in Time and The Mad Mummy — will explore engineering design and engineering ethics, respectively.

    A second novel called “Following Sorrow” will also be released later this year. Written more at the gr. 7-8 level, this novel will include engineering themes like bioengineering, sustainability, construction, flight, and knowledge building!

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Regents' Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2015 | 10:57 p.m.

    I think grades 4 to 8 is not a crazy large set of ages to target. Kids at different developmental levels can deal with much of the same content and skills but with different levels of sophistication. You could even think about them returning to an earlier challenge in a later grade, I think, Beth, and it would be really interesting to expand in that direction, I think, and to help us understand how to successfully make that work. Some implementations of problem-based learning in medical schools have learners return to previous challenges after they have learned more; it allows the learners to recognize what they have learned since the first time, and that can be quite inspiring to them.

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 03:27 p.m.

    Hi Janet,
    Agreed regarding the age range! As Beth mentioned, our materials work throughout that range. Even in the kinds of journal entries I described to Cynthia below, we saw improvement in students’ definitions of intelligence REGARDLESS of the complexity of their original ideas.
    While we don’t have a structure in place for students returning directly to the specific problem they faced in a previous learning adventure, our offline enrichment activities often have strong connections to multiple learning adventures. That means that when students start a new learning adventure, they can still refer back to the big ideas they learned in previous ones, integrating that with the new content.
    Creating specific challenges that could be returned to in a later grade is a great idea for the future of our project—thanks for sharing!

  • Icon for: Zenaida Aguirre Munoz

    Zenaida Aguirre Munoz

    Associate Professor
    May 11, 2015 | 11:04 p.m.

    Sounds like a very interesting project. Effectively going through the design process can depend on both prior knowledge of the science needed to analyze materials for the design as well as how to effectively test them. Does your project directly target this knowledge and skills?

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 01:35 p.m.

    Hi Zenaida! Thanks for your question!

    My impression of what you’re asking is how we account for previous student ideas and knowledge, as well as materials use and testing, in the context of the design cycle. (If that’s not your question, feel free to reply and ask again!).

    Our upcoming engineering design unit (we call them “learning adventures”) doesn’t focuses on the design cycle not as a specific set of procedures, but as a flexible framework for problem solving. We took the framework from NGSS—“Define, Develop, Optimize”—as the basis for this learning adventure. Students travel back in time and learn about different parts of the design cycle in the context of different problems—from Tesla and Edison’s fight about whether AC or DC should be used to the Apollo 13 filter adaptation problem. Within these exciting historical stories, students will learn about testing prototypes, getting a variety of perspectives when defining the problem (this may relate to your point about the importance of “prior knowledge” when defining the problem), the importance of collaboration and diversity when creating solutions, and more.
    The final part of the learning adventure will be an online activity with students trying to create a raft, including trying out different objects to make it float.
    Our learning adventures are designed to be engaging and effective regardless of the students’ prior knowledge of the specific content area.
    Please let me know if that answers your question! I’d be happy to clarify or go more in-depth if you’d like.

  • Small default profile

    Cynthia Berger

    Guest
    May 12, 2015 | 09:52 a.m.

    Liked the way you used animations in your video! Wondering what you are seeing as students interact with the website—how do you measure success?

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 12, 2015 | 03:50 p.m.

    Thanks, Cynthia! The major way we look at student-website interaction is through student journal entries on the site.
    For example, at the beginning of the Artificial Intelligence learning adventure (called “Rio’s Brain”), students are asked to define intelligence in their online journals. After completing part of the adventure (including viewing videos and completing activities), students are asked to revise their definition of intelligence. This is an important question, because understanding human intelligence—or intelligence generally—is an important first step in thinking about artificial intelligence.
    Our preliminary results are positive—students ideas about intelligence are improving and expanding after completing the online activities! While students often begin by defining intelligence as just having information, their revisions often include more sophisticated ideas like common sense, problem solving, physical ability, and artistic ability as forms of intelligence.
    This is just one example of what we’re looking at—there are many more to come as we release more learning adventures and have more student data to look at.
    Let me know if I answered your question and/or whether you’d like more information!

  • Icon for: Gay Mohrbacher

    Gay Mohrbacher

    Outreach Project Director
    May 12, 2015 | 12:05 p.m.

    I like this approach very much. Would liked to have seen a snippet of Talk to Me but I know we had a 3minute cut off. Will visit your website.

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 12, 2015 | 03:11 p.m.

    Hi Gay, thanks for your comment! Were you referring to hearing a part of the Talk to Me audiobook? If so, you can find it here: http://throughmywindow.org/content/talk-me-audi...
    If you were looking for something else, please let me know and I can provide a link to it.

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 12, 2015 | 03:57 p.m.

    I just read the Talk to Me story which is very compelling and will take a look at the other website resources. Are there other NSF projects that are using narrative as a jumping off point for exploring STEM? If so, which ones and do you have a chance to exchange ideas?

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Regents' Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2015 | 07:14 p.m.

    I read one earlier today. Will have to refind it and make connections. ;-)

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2015 | 09:44 a.m.

    Great idea. Always so much to do, but leveraging ongoing work from different sources is so important. Hope you can make the connection.

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 10:00 a.m.

    Hi again, Vivian! I’m delighted that you took the time to read Talk to Me!
    The other project we know of that uses story is Engineering is Elementary, and Christine Cunningham (vice president of research at the Boston Museum of Science and a head of EiE) is actually on our grant advisory board. We’re currently working with them to explore ways in which we might be able to collaborate.
    What we feel makes Through My Window unique in the application of story is the specific use of Imaginative Education, or IE. IE gives a strong research justification for using narrative, and for embedding what we want to teach as deeply in narrative as possible. In addition, IE lays out specific “cognitive tools” (for our age group, grades 4-8, these include things like limits and extremes of reality, heroes and heroines, binary opposites, etc) that correspond with phases of development. Using these elements in our materials makes them especially engaging for students and fosters deep learning. In addition, as the video alluded to, these engaging stories provide the perfect setting for bringing up real world, open-ended questions for students to discuss and improve understanding.
    Janet, if you find it, please let me know! I’d love to know about additional projects including narrative.

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Regents' Professor Emerita
    May 13, 2015 | 10:37 a.m.

    I found one more so far: Meredith Portsmore and Chris Rogers, Tufts, Novel Engineering. resourcecenters2015.videohall.com/posters/526. I also told them to be in touch with you guys.

    Janet

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 01:36 p.m.

    Thanks, Janet! I’ll post on their video as well.

  • Icon for: Jacqueline Miller

    Jacqueline Miller

    Senior Research Scientist
    May 13, 2015 | 02:25 p.m.

    Your video presentation is totally engaging. I cheered when you talked about using story as a central component for teaching concepts. Story is a powerful way not only to engage students in STEM (or any discipline for that matter) but can also serve as the backbone of the learning experience by presenting a challenge or problem to be addressed. Research has shown that the brain remembers much better when ideas are presented in the framework of a story. This approach has formed the basis for our curriculum development work for the past two decades. The major problem we have confronted is that learning in the context of story (especially at the high school level) suggests to some reviewers that the curriculum is “watered down” or for struggling learners only. Definitely NOT the case. Our materials are scientifically rigorous and challenging. I hope that view changes as more educators recognize the power of story.

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 02:59 p.m.

    Hi Jacqueline—thanks so much for your great comments!
    We completely agree about the benefits of using story for engagement and for the presentation of interesting questions and problems in context.
    Two ideas for you regarding those who view story as “watered down” (and maybe you already do these):
    Kieran Egan, who works at Simon Frasier, has done a lot of writing about using narrative (his theory is Imaginative Education, as mentioned in the video). He considers and writes about stories as powerful tools for ALL ages.
    Using stories engages learners, but also requires students to think more deeply than non-narrative-based curricula. Narratives require students to consider ethical challenges, the way STEM fields interact with different societies and communities, and how interconnected STEM and humans really are—things often ignored or lost without the use of narrative.
    Finally, our principal investigators—Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, a presenter here, but also two professors at Smith College, Al Rudnitsky (Education) and Glenn Ellis (Engineering) have used narratives in their college-level courses for all the reasons described above!
    Thanks again for your comment.

  • Icon for: Jacqueline Miller

    Jacqueline Miller

    Senior Research Scientist
    May 13, 2015 | 03:11 p.m.

    Thanks for reminding me about Kieran Egan’s work, Isabel. I had read some of his writing several years back and found his ideas very informative and supportive of our approach. Another essay that has inspired our use of story and narrative nonfiction is E.O. Wilson’s Power of Story published in American Educator (2002 I think).

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2015 | 03:35 p.m.

    Great! I’ll absolutely look it up. Thanks!

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2015 | 04:12 p.m.

    Thanks for a robust discussion. I learned a lot.

  • Icon for: Nevin Katz

    Nevin Katz

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2015 | 10:12 p.m.

    Beautiful artwork! I think I saw some influence from The Matrix at 2:23. :-) The use of narrative is hugely important but I imagine that it can be challenging to capture the value of it in terms of “data.” What have been the most effective methods of documenting your findings and conveying them to funders?

  • May 15, 2015 | 07:20 a.m.

    Thanks, Nevin! Our artwork is done by a supremely talented Smith College undergraduate named Evanleigh Davis! (A short video interview with Evanleigh can be found here: https://youtu.be/i0J10mVJQqM.)

    With respect to data, at this time we are primarily focusing on student pre- and post-surveys as well as analysis of journal entries in the AI learning adventure. Student surveys address the effectiveness of the learning environment in engendering student understanding of the work of engineers and as well as STEM identity. Do students see themselves as engineers or are they more likely to consider engineering (STEM) as a career after using Through My Window?

    Analyzing changes in student learning of engineering concepts — the “big” ideas in the learning adventure and novel — is done with embedded assessment. In the AI learning adventure, students are prompted to journal answers to questions like: “What is intelligence?” “What do intelligent machines need to know to complete different tasks?” and “What knowledge can a machine have and how can it operate on that knowledge?”. Students can answer and revise their answers to these types of questions as they move through the learning adventure; they can share and compare their answers with those of their peer group and revise. The focus is always on ideas and idea improvement — not on right or wrong answers!

    A “data team” within the project looks at initial ideas versus post ideas. While we are early in the process, preliminary data indicates significant idea improvement within the AI learning adventure — improvement that signals deeper understanding and broader conception — regardless of the level of sophistication of the initial idea. We are, of course, reporting these findings to NSF as well as disseminating via papers — ASEE, for example, among other opportunities. We’re always open to suggestions when it comes to dissemination methods!

    Thanks again for your great questions and interest in the project.

  • Icon for: Joni Falk

    Joni Falk

    Co-Director of CSR at TERC
    May 15, 2015 | 07:33 p.m.

    Really enjoyed hearing the development of this grant. Very interesting presentation for anyone interested in how grants and ideas get developed over time.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.

  1. Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh
  2. http://teamthroughmywindow.org/about-our-project/who-are-we
  3. Professor, Principal Investigator
  4. Through My Window
  5. http://teamthroughmywindow.org
  6. Through My Window, Springfield Technical Community College
  1. Isabel Huff
  2. http://teamthroughmywindow.org/about-our-project/who-are-we
  3. Program Outreach Coordinator
  4. Through My Window
  5. http://teamthroughmywindow.org
  6. Through My Window

Through My WIndow: Using Narrative in a Digital Learning Evironment to Engage Children and Teens in Engineering
NSF Award #: 1223868, 1223460

Through My Window is at the cutting edge of changes in K12 engineering education designed to prepare young learners for success in the knowledge age. Developed by engineering educators at Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College, the project targets traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering—especially girls—and is changing the way in which children/young teens (grades 4-8) identify with STEM. Improving attitudes toward engineering, providing a deeper understanding of what engineering is about, supporting development of specific engineering skills, and increasing interest in engineering careers are the goals of the project.

Through My Window has been thoughtfully designed in the ways in which children and young teens engage and learn. Two pioneering educational theories are applied in an idea-centered, multimedia learning environment: (1) Imaginative Education (IE), in which developmentally appropriate narrative engages learners’ imaginations and helps them structure what they learn in meaningful ways; and (2) knowledge building (KB), which emphasizes collaborative online discourse in the development of knowledge skills and innovative ways of thinking. Together these approaches support deep learning and address the critical need of equipping children and young teens with 21st century skills and attributes.

IE and KB frame learning in three project components: (1) the full-length, young adult STEM novel Talk to Me, which features well-integrated engineering themes and diverse, relevant characters with female leads; (2) interactive online learning adventures in artificial intelligence (AI), engineering design, and engineering ethics, in which learners deeply explore engineering concepts introduced in the novel; and (3) innovative offline enrichment activities that build upon the idea-centered approach to learning about engineering. Journaling, reflection, and idea improvement are emphasized as learners make strong, broad connections to engineering and develop STEM identity.