Developing a Model for Expanding Informal Tech Education for Underrepresented Communities through Makerspaces
This project 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). Building on a successful approach to technical education training with minority youth through the Baltimore-based Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF), the project will identify efficient and effective methods of scaling maker-based technology education programs, beginning with middle and high school youth. Maker education models provide multiple points of entry for youth to gain exposure, interest, and skill-building in high-growth technology skills. The DH model presents a holistic, scaffolded approach to providing a long-term support for educators and organizations as they integrate maker-based tech learning into their youth offerings. Project research will inform best practices of scaling youth makerspaces and tech education programs, especially for underrepresented youth. Maker, academic, and youth-service communities will benefit from our training materials, tech education curriculum, and evaluations of diverse engagement strategies. The project will share its experiences, materials, and strategies publicly through DH website, as well as via conferences, papers, as well as dissemination of our training materials.
This project will test three professional development models: Satellite-Site, Home-Site, and Remote Engagements. The goal is to find cost-efficient, yet successful mechanisms to disseminate training for informal educators to establish a safe, youth-focused makerspace inside their existing spaces; provide starter curriculum to build basic competencies and maker mindsets for educators and youth; support educators as they independently integrate their own tech projects into future courses and activities in their programs. Project research will: 1) compare three training and deployment methods to integrating a youth-focused makerspace and entry-level curriculum into existing after-school programs; 2) explore an innovative, scaffolded professional development approach that encourages program ownership and continued skill-building for youth-service providers. Methods and analysis will respond to common techniques of afterschool program management and STEM professional development approaches. As an immediate result of this project, three independent afterschool programs serving diverse audiences will receive basic equipment, training, and curriculum to run their own tech education programs.