Development of an Online, Multi-Challenge Platform for K-12 Students
Purpose: This project team will fully develop and test an open online platform that posts student-led engineering project challenges for Kindergarten to grade 12 classrooms. Research demonstrates that improved attitudes towards engineering in elementary and middle school are imperative to increase the pursuit of STEM degrees and careers. This project intends to address a shortage of tools and curricula in K-12 engineering today, in order to meet the learning objectives new the Next Generation Science Standards and to engage students in STEM.
Project Activities: During Phase I, (completed in 2016), the team developed a prototype, including a content management platform to host challenges on a broad range of STEM topics, such as computer coding, digital modeling, or producing simulations. At the end of Phase I, researchers completed a pilot study with 100 students and two teachers. Results demonstrated that the prototype operated as intended, that students were highly engaged with challenges on the platform, and that teachers were able to incorporate challenges within instructional practice. In Phase II, the team will refine the landing page, further develop the system architecture to accommodate a larger number of challenges, and upgrade the teacher portal to build capacity for the effective integration into instructional practice. After development is complete, the research team will conduct a pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and promise of the platform to improve learning. The study will include 40 high school classrooms with a minimum of 25 students per class. Half of the classrooms will be randomly assigned to use the platform to conduct a challenge and half to follow business-as-usual procedures. Researchers will compare pre-and-post scores of students' science and engineering self-assessments, which measure ability to engage in science and engineering practices such as asking questions, modeling, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing data, and constructing explanations, as well as content-specific measures depending on the specific challenge with which classes engage.
Product: The project team will develop a platform that will facilitate design challenges in K-12 classrooms across STEM academic topics and career paths within the field of engineering. The platform will enable classes to post their projects to the site and for other classes around the country to participate in the project. Each challenge (and the associated education resources curated for that challenge) will be publicly displayed on the Future Engineers platform and offered free for student participation and classroom facilitation. The content management system will be developed to enable the platform to host a high volume of challenges simultaneously and will allow for a diverse array of student-generated submissions. The platform will also include teacher resources to support the alignment of game play with learning goals and to support implementation.
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