Designing Tactile Picture Books: Critical Making in Libraries to Broaden Participation in STEM Education and Careers
This Learning and Research Center will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing an innovative approach to using library Makerspaces to link literacy, career awareness, and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Middle and high schools students from groups underrepresented in science, including visually impaired students, will digitally design and fabricate 3D-printed tactile storybooks for young children with visual impairments. In partnership with schools, libraries, and the Colorado Center for the Blind, the project will engage participants in socially purposeful activity as they gain experiences in integrating art, multimodal literacy, engineering design and fabrication, STEM concepts, and mentoring activities that raise awareness of careers in STEM-related fields. High school students who complete the program will have opportunities to serve as mentors for younger students. The Tactile Picture Books Project (TPBP) has two overarching goals: a) Expand participation in STEM among underrepresented learners, especially girls, underrepresented minorities and students with visual impairments, through accessible critical making experiences in libraries; and b) Increase STEM career awareness and interest among underrepresented learners.
The project will engage more than 770 learners from underrepresented groups, including at least 400 females and 120 students with visual impairments to examine the new strategy and to deepens understanding of the factors that support the success of the approach among groups underrepresented in STEM fields. A Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) approach will be employed to study outcomes relating to three research questions: a) What aspects of the TPBP curriculum and informal learning environment most effectively support students' STEM competencies and dispositions, including: multimodal literacy and 3D design for diverse learners, fabrication skills, collaboration and innovation, and self-efficacy and persistence? b) In what ways and to what degree do STEM Professionals, serving as Makerspace mentors, influence students? awareness of and interest in STEM careers? And c) What aspects of the Critical Making experience focused on tactile books most effectively engage and support underrepresented learners, including girls, minorities and students with visual impairments, in 3D design and fabrication activities, and in developing STEM attitudes and interests? The project incorporates two tiers of mentors to support critical making experiences in libraries: a) High School Mentors, recruited from partner schools, and b) STEM Professionals, recruited from partner Maker groups. Accessible tactile pictures created through the project will be distributed to families with blind children via Colorado's Talking Books Library, integrated into public libraries' Sensory Storytimes (designed for children with sensory processing issues and autism), and the 3D designs will be made available online to support widespread production of accessible materials for young children. The TPBP curriculum, design guidelines and research findings will be disseminated via national networks of educators, libraries, Makerspaces, and researchers in education and career development.