EAGER: Mobile City Science: Youth Mapping Community Learning Opportunities


PIs: Katie Taylor, Nichole Pinkard, Andres Henriquez
University of Washington
Award Details

Mapping, and understanding related technologies, is quickly becoming a new kind of civic literacy for participating in community-level problem-solving. This project will study how two groups of urban youth collect data about and map their communities using mobile and location aware technologies, and how these data support educators to better understand the places in which students live. Users of these tools can easily map community assets for learning (e.g., library, community center), deficits to learning (e.g., no safe routes to school), and new learning opportunities (e.g., a developing community garden). Educators need these kind of data to create curricula and other educational experiences that are relevant to the young people they teach; community-based, data-driven curricula build upon the assets, opportunities, and problems that exist within communities that are important to address in educational settings. In this way, this research contributes to better understanding how to build smart and connected communities for learning.

Today, with a range of location-aware and mobile technologies, empowering learners to capture information, or data, about their own neighborhoods and communities is easier than ever. GPS tracks, geo-referenced video and photos, text, and demographic variables are just a sample of the data accessible for systematic, scientific analysis of a learner’s community. This project will study the implementation of a Mobile City Science curriculum for learners participating in programming at both the Digital Youth Network in Chicago and at the New York Hall of Science in Corona, Queens. “City science” is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that uses ubiquitous computing to produce data-driven insights and approaches for understanding the complexity of urban spaces. In this proposed study, Mobile City Science (MCS) occurs “on-the-move,” in the city, as well as in classroom and museum spaces. MCS supports young people to collect, analyze, and argue from spatial and digital data they collect within different communities using location-aware and mobile technologies. This proposal is timely in that both the Digital Youth Network (DYN) and the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) are embarking on new curricular designs to make their programming more compatible and relevant to the resources they already have within their respective communities. At this time, both programs require updated, “endogenous” accounts from youth (i.e., maps) showing the communities’ learning opportunities (and deficiencies) that are available and important to their young patrons. Grounded theory, spatial analysis, interaction analysis, multimodal discourse analysis and other analytic techniques will be used in a qualitative, participatory action research paradigm to explore the impacts of the designed sociotechnical system and its affordances for technological fluency, spatial reasoning, design practice, and techno-civic engagement.

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