iPAC Associate Director and iSchool Faculty Receive $550K Grant from National Science Foundation to Study STEM Identity Creation in School Libraries

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland’s iSchool, including iPAC Associate Director Mega Subramaniam, Ph.D., are among the first recipients of a three-year grant  ($550,000.00) from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Cyberlearning: Transforming Education crosscutting program, in support of the research study Developing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Identities through Participation in Science-Infused Media and Virtual Peer Networks.

This research has grown out of a nationwide awareness of the dearth of women and minorities in the STEM fields. In 2009, the White House issued a call to expand “STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.”

Dr. Subramaniam and the team will work with librarians and students at four middle schools in the Washington metro area with high concentrations of minority and low-income students to develop a learning program where students will engage in an online community of science-based storytellers.  The goal is to increase their engagement with STEM fields by linking science to a fun activity around multimedia storytelling.  Students will participate in an after-school program administered in the school library. During the program they will:

•    read science-infused books and engage in science-infused media based on recommendations by school librarians and peers,

•    co-design the online community using the expertise of the Kidsteam at the iSchool’s Human Computer Interaction Lab,

•    develop creative writing projects from the perspective of a STEM professional such as a scientist, engineer, or programmer and

•    share those projects with other students via this online community.

The students will be observed over the duration of the study to assess whether their self-conception as students capable of engaging with STEM topics changes.

The research team is lead by Dr. June Ahn (PI), and include iPAC Associate Director Dr. Mega Subramaniam (Co-PI), Dr. Kenneth Fleishman  (Co-PI) and Dr. Allison Druin (Co-PI), and, as well as Graduate Research Associates Amanda Waugh (iSchool master’s student) and Greg Walsh (iSchool doctoral candidate).

For more information about this study, please contact: Dr. Ahn at juneahn[at]umd.edu or Dr. Subramaniam at mmsubram[at]umd.edu