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SciGirls Code Playlists for Learning Final Report

Colorful art bots built with Hummingbird Robotics Kit

{Art bots built with Hummingbird Robotics Kit}

Who were you addressing with your design objective?

SciGirls Code is designed for middle school girls (in grades 5-8) in out-of-school time. Sixteen participating sites, located across the country, will each engage ten girls in the nine-month pilot connected learning project. Sites are: Cedar Park Elementary School, Apple Valley, MN; Community Code, Columbia, SC; CU Science Discovery, Boulder, CO; Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, Murfreesboro, TN; Girl Scouts of Central Texas, Austin, TX; Girls Inc. of Orange County, Orange County, CA; Laura Jeffrey Academy, St Paul, MN; New Mexico PBS, Albuquerque, NM; Project Scientist, Charlotte, NC; Salem Keizer Education Foundation, Salem OR; Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines, IA; Sci-Port, Shreveport, LA; spectrUM Discovery Area, Missoula, MT; Town of Ramapo Challenger Center, Airmont, NY; WSKG, Vestal, NY; and YMCA of Metropolitan DC, Washington, DC. We plan to scale up this work in the future to include additional sites that are part of our SciGirls CONNECT network.

In addition to the playlists for girls who are learning computer science and computational thinking principles, we developed a playlist for the informal educators (who will work with the girls in their communities) to use as part of their professional development training. The idea was to have them experience playlists in order to understand how the girls would be interacting on the LRNG platform. The educator XPs were done in conjunction with webinars as a flipped learning experience, which the educators completed online prior to participating in the webinar.

What are the three essential questions the field needs to answer to move learning playlist design and implementation forward?

  1. We think that more work needs to be done for utilizing playlists for younger learners. We had some pain points and continue to work with our chosen platform (LRNG) as it doesn’t completely meet the needs we have for connected learning with our audience. This is in part due to girls younger than 13 not having their own social media outlets to connect back to the playlists and to each other. We feel there are gaps in how the girls can connect with each other and the uploading of their content to the site for sharing their evidence.
  2. It would be interesting to know the similarities and differences when youth participate in facilitated work, with and in-person aspect to the program, versus online by themselves. Both scenarios are likely, but is one preferred?
  3. Relatedly, given our project involves some technology investment, we are curious if youth could ever participate outside of organized programs. Are there other projects with similar concerns?

Have the goals for your project changed at all throughout the design process?

The goals of our project have remained steadfast throughout the design process. However, when designing playlists, we realized that they needed to be "chunked," or broken up into shorter playlists in order for the girls and educators to follow the material more clearly, and for the girls to receive badges more frequently, instilling confidence in their accomplishments.

For youth, we ended up with eight playlists. The playlists for girls include:

Mobile App Development

  • Mobile Maven
  • Mobile Makeathon

Robotics

  • Rolling Robots
  • Art Bots
  • Robotics Makeathon

E-textiles

  • Starting Stitcher
  • Flashy Fashion
  • E-Textiles Makeathon

While we did not originally plan to create content for educators, we decided to create one playlist with three XPs in order to give the educators experience on the platform. We had great participation from the educators and were impressed with the quality of their work. The playlist for educators is:

  • SciGirls Code Boot Up

What did you learn through the design process? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

In general, for the full SciGirls Code curriculum and the playlists, we would utilize backwards design principles and methods earlier in the process. Because we utilized content that already existed, we lost sight of this at some points in the process. We realized we needed to take a step back and think about the whole project, what the learning goals are, and what skills we want youth to develop. Moving forward we would then use those big ideas to determine what “success” looks like and crafting tasks that will allow youth opportunities to show success. We achieved this in the end but could have been more efficient in our path to get there from the onset.

 What are the 3 most important things about designing your system or solution that you would share with another organization just getting started?

  1. Take your time and give yourself the opportunity to experiment.
  2. Potentially involve your audience in the design process.
  3. Get to know the larger community of people doing this work. People are doing great things and we can all learn from each other.

What is left to do? What is left unanswered? What might help you continue to succeed?

We will have youth on the platform starting in August 2017. Our playlists are in draft form and we expect to have them finished by mid-June. We also expect to continue to tweak them before publishing. We are interested to know how girls respond to badging and think this knowledge could help the field, as well. We are also interested in understanding how the interaction of working on group projects yet tracking individual progress plays out. Feedback from our educators, collected by our external evaluator, will help us understand how this works.

What are the three essential questions the emerging field of connected learning playlist design needs to answer or make happen in order to move your work forward or scale it?

  1. How could XPs be disaggregated for personalized learning environments?
  2. How can out-of-school time explicitly help youth with their academic work?
  3. How can youth help each other succeed? What affordances can the LRNG build to foster knowledge sharing amongst young people?

What parts of the playlist platform technology are working well? What limitations are you experiencing?

Letting the educators try playlists on LRNG beforehand via the educator XPs and being able to look at and download evidence are going well.

Not being able to edit content once it has been published. We see the opportunities for connected learning somewhat limited on the LRNG platform--especially for younger learners.

What have you done, or do you plan to do, to evaluate the efficacy of your learning playlists in your community/communities?

Dr. Cassandra Scharber, from the University of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Media Lab will be researching our work. We also will be getting some feedback through our external evaluator, EDC, on how the implementation of the project is going from the educators’ perspective.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption or scale of these learning playlists for your organization?

  1. We need time to scale our project, which is a nine-month implementation plus research work. The current architecture of the playlists build on each other so that to be successful youth would need to go through them in sequence. We need to think about how this could look in different programs.
  2. For future projects, we could build licensing fees into budgets, but it would be nice for content providers to be able to apply to be on the platform for free -- as we were able to do as part of this grant. Thank you!
  3. It will be helpful to have SciGirls Code examples to help build support for learning playlists and how they could be used within our organization, Twin Cities PBS. People don’t really know what we are up to!

What plans are in the works, or do you plan to put in the works in order to sustain your system?

After our project is researched, we hope to apply for scale-up through the National Science Foundation. Our outreach model, SciGirls CONNECT, is noted for its sustainability. With all the interest in computer science, we know there is a hunger for this kind of programming in communities everywhere.

How are you getting institutional buy-in, or adoption from your learners or other stakeholders?

The organizations we partnered with for SciGirls Code are required to use the playlists in their programs. We have been conscientious in terms of making sure educators understand the reasoning behind the use of the playlists, and providing them with the training they need to be successful. We hope that our external evaluation will show that the educators found the use of learning playlists valuable in their programs.

What outreach strategies will you employ to communicate and support your playlists?

SciGirls has a network of over 130 partner organizations around the United States. We expect to offer the program to the rest of the network once this pilot phase of the project is complete. For our current work, we had to turn away partners. Everyone is interested in bringing coding opportunities to girls in their communities!

How are you going to, or did you, incorporate the feedback from the workshop into your plans going forward?

We made more, shorter playlists than planned. In other words, we chunked the content differently than first imagined. We also continue to network with colleagues in the cohort. We really value the exposure to all the interesting work they are doing!

Have you budgeted adequately to materialize the design work you imagined?

Yes.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your progress?

Thank you for the opportunity to be early adopters of LRNG. SciGirls Code is based on the connected learning framework, so we were fortunate to have access to a platform based on the connected learning research. Likewise, mixing with the other grantees has been a wonderful opportunity for our team.

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