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Designing the Game: How a Project-Based Media Production Program Approaches STEAM Career Readiness for Underrepresented Young Adults

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Abstract

Numerous studies have indicated a need for a diverse workforce that is more highly educated in STEM and ICT fields, and one that is capable of responding creatively to demands for continual innovation. This paper, in response, chronicles the implementation of the Digital Pathways (DP) program, a two-time ITEST recipient and an ongoing initiative of the Bay Area Video Coalition. DP has provided low-income, underrepresented minority young people with 180 contact hours of activities in digital media production to prepare them to pursue higher education and technology careers. A design-based research approach synthesizes staff interviews with student observations, interviews and artifacts to identify a set of generalizable best practices or design principles for empowering young people to move from being consumers of digital media to producers. These principles are illustrated with a case study of the 3D Animation and Gaming track from the second ITEST grant. Researchers argue for the importance of attending to the noncognitive elements of learning and illustrate ways in which instructors encouraged creative expression, personal agency, and collaboration through long-term projects. They also identify strategies for sustaining young people’s participation through the establishment of a supportive community environment.

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Notes

  1. Youth programs at BAVC are no longer called Digital Pathways, but instead fall under the “Next Gen” banner (BAVC 2016).

  2. All names are pseudonyms.

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Acknowledgments

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation’s ITEST program under Grant No. 0737623. The findings and opinions expressed in this paper do not reflect the positions or policies of the NSF. We thank the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to the project and its research: (a) Moriah Ulinskas and Naomi Ostwald Kawamura; (b) Digital Pathways instructors and students; and (c) Elizabeth Bandy. We also thank Carol Varney, Ruchita Patel, Rob Taylor and Lauren Taylor for their feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kristin M. Bass.

Appendix: Digital Pathways Case Study Questions

Appendix: Digital Pathways Case Study Questions

Classroom Observations

  1. 1.

    Instructor–student dynamic.

    1. (a)

      Lecture format?

    2. (b)

      Question and answer format?

    3. (c)

      Are students asking questions/interacting?

  2. 2.

    Teaching assistant (TA)–student dynamic.

    1. (a)

      Does the TA help students one-on-one?

    2. (b)

      Do students reach out to the TA for help?

    3. (c)

      Does the TA approach students for answer questions?

  3. 3.

    Student–student dynamic.

    1. (a)

      Are students working individually?

    2. (b)

      Are students working collaboratively?

    3. (c)

      Is this a collaborative learning environment (based on content and classroom dynamic)?

Student Case Study Interviews

  1. 1.

    Project description.

  2. 2.

    Challenges.

  3. 3.

    How challenges were overcome.

  4. 4.

    Most exciting part of project.

  5. 5.

    How student became interested in Gaming/Audio/OS.

  6. 6.

    Interest in continued learning after class is over.

  7. 7.

    Post BAVC plans.

Focus Groups by Course

  1. 1.

    How projects are progressing.

  2. 2.

    Class dynamics.

    1. (a)

      Do you work collaboratively?

    2. (b)

      Do you ask instructor/TA questions?

    3. (c)

      How do you solve technical problems in class?

    4. (d)

      Who do you reach out to when you have questions?

  3. 3.

    Are you excited about what you’ve learned?

  4. 4.

    Are you still interested in audio/gaming/OS?

  5. 5.

    How are classes at BAVC different from classes at school?

  6. 6.

    What are your post-BAVC plans?

  7. 7.

    Do you feel like you’ve changed over the year?

    1. (a)

      Independence.

    2. (b)

      New environment.

    3. (c)

      New people.

    4. (d)

      Different ages.

  8. 8.

    What are your future plans?

Instructor Interviews and Focus Group

  1. 1.

    What were your goals going in at the beginning of the year?

  2. 2.

    How did you tweak your teaching style, class structure and/or goals in order to fit the group of kids you were working with?

  3. 3.

    What was your class structure and philosophy?

    1. (a)

      If you’ve been at BAVC for more than a year, did you alter your teaching style per class? How has each class been different? Did you see a significant jump in student skills between years? If so, why do you think that is?

    2. (b)

      If this is your first year teaching—what will you do differently in the future?

  4. 4.

    What do you think makes BAVC special? Why is this program successful?

  5. 5.

    What is the most important component of BAVC (aside from student acquisition of hard skills)?

    1. (a)

      Student/teacher interaction.

    2. (b)

      Student/student interaction.

    3. (c)

      Inter-class collaboration.

    4. (d)

      Environment.

  6. 6.

    How did you incorporate soft skills into your classes? How much emphasis did you put on these skills throughout the year?

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Bass, K.M., Hu Dahl, I. & Panahandeh, S. Designing the Game: How a Project-Based Media Production Program Approaches STEAM Career Readiness for Underrepresented Young Adults. J Sci Educ Technol 25, 1009–1024 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-016-9631-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-016-9631-7

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