Acquainting Metro Atlanta Youth with STEM (AMAYS)
AMAYS is a design-based research project involving the creation, implementation, and evaluation of a unique ICT-rich informal learning environment for urban middle school students.
Acquainting Metro Atlanta Youth with STEM (AMAYS) is a design-based research project involving the creation, implementation, and evaluation of a unique ICT-rich informal learning environment for urban middle school youth. AMAYS participants are largely African American middle school students on free and reduced lunch who are participating in a free after school program called After-School All Stars Atlanta, which operates at multiple middle school sites in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. The AMAYS intervention involves participants working on flexible, modularized computer science activities in an informal, after school learning environment at the aforementioned schools. AMAYS activities are centered around using MIT’s App Inventor, a user-friendly web application that allows novice computer programmers to develop android applications using a block-based interface.
AMAYS activities consist of:
1) Guided series of programming steps that lead to the creation of pre-designed apps,
2) more lightly guided problem-based task that allow participants to continue, tweak, troubleshoot, or remix existing apps, and
3) Opportunities to bring participants’ own ideas to fruition.
AMAYS activities are presented to participants in a flexible, modularized fashion, but also based on increasing difficulty. Activity design is based on presenting participants with opportunities to use computational thinking concepts, practices, and perspectives (Brennan and Resnick, 2012). As much as possible, each activity is also designed to connect participants' app building experience with relevant, tangible, and when possible, socially responsible themes. Rather than being designed as one-size-fits-all, these activities have been designed with our target population in mind; and they are the result of a target audience analysis, a pilot study, and review of relevant academic literature.
Students can submit completed activities in exchange for new activities, and for experience coins. Experience coins allow individual students, teams of students, teachers, guardians, and peers to track and recognize progress, but also allow a means for formative feedback. Coins are also a currency that students can use to purchase assets for their apps as well as school supplies. Students can submit completed activities, redeem experience coins, communicate with team members, access digital resources, view videos created by tech sector role models, and communicate with AMAYS mentors in a custom built, password protected Web interface called AMAYS Online.
During AMAYS time, participants interact with teachers, AMAYS graduate student facilitators, and undergraduate mentors who are Computer Science students from local HBCUs.
The AMAYS team has finished two years of design, development, and pilot testing. AMAYS in its current form is now being implemented and evaluated at 9 middles school sites during the 2017/18 school year. Evaluation is guided by the following questions:
1) Does the intervention facilitate:
the acquisition and development of participants' disciplinary knowledge and scientific practices?
a change in perceptions of and interest in STEM and STEM careers?
2) Which aspects of the intervention are effective and under what circumstances?