Synthesis and Design Workshop: Principles for the design of digitally-distributed, studio-based STEM learning environments


PIs: Jill Castek, Blaine Smith, Kevin Bonine, Jennifer Nichols, Leslie Sult
University of Arizona
Award Details

This workshop will convene January Februrary 25-28, 2019 at The University of Arizona Biosphere 2 in Oracle, AZ.
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This workshop is funded through the “Dear Colleague Letter: Principles for the Design of Digital Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Learning Environments (NSF 18-017).” In today’s educational climate, organizations are creating physical learning spaces for hands-on STEM activities, often called makerspaces, co-working spaces, innovation labs, or fablabs. These spaces have evolved to be interdisciplinary centers that personalize learning for individual, diverse learners in collaborative settings. When designed well, these physical spaces create communities that contextualize learning around participants’ goals and thus address STEM learning in a dynamic and integrated way. Participation in these learning environments encourages the cultivation of STEM identities for young people and can positively direct their career trajectories into STEM fields. This workshop will bring together a community of collaborators from multiple stakeholder groups including academia, public libraries, museums, community based organizations, non-profits, media makers and distribution channels, and educators within and beyond K-12 schools. Led by the University of Arizona, and held at Biosphere 2, an international research facility, participants will engage in activities that invite experimentation with distributed learning technologies to examine ways to adapt learning to the changing technological landscape and create robust, dynamic online learning environments. The workshop will culminate in a synthesis of design principles, assessment approaches, and tools that will be shared widely. Partnerships arising from the workshop will pave the way for sustained efforts in this area that span research and practice communities. Outcomes will address research and development of the next generation of digitally distributed learning environments.

The three day workshop convening will provide a unique forum to (1) exchange innovative ideas and share challenges and opportunities, (2) connect practical and research-based expertise and (3) form cross-institutional and cross-community partnerships that envision, propose, and implement opportunities for collecting and analyzing data to systematically inform the collective understanding. Participation-based activities will include design-based experiences, participatory activities, demonstrations of works in progress, prototyping, creative pitching, practitioner lightning talks, small group breakouts, hands-on design activities, and an ‘unconference’ style synthesis of bold ideas. Participants will be invited to experiment with distributed learning technologies. Five focus areas for the workshop include (1) inclusivity of learning spaces that invite multiple perspectives and full participation, (2) documenting learning in ways that are linked to outcomes and impacts for all learners, (3) implementing the use of new technologies in diverse settings, such as the workforce, (4) interpersonal interactions and peer-to-peer learning that may encourage a STEM career-path, and, (5) methods for collecting and analyzing data at the intersection of people, the learning environment, and new technologies at multiple levels. Outcomes of the workshop will serve to advance knowledge regarding critical gaps and opportunities and identify and characterize models of collaboration, networking, and innovation that operate within and across studio-based STEM learning environments.

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