Participant to Researcher

/, REU/Participant to Researcher

Summer intern’s reflection and thoughts on teacher and student STEM computational making during our summer workshop. Learn more about the Phase 2 Summer Workshop on our About page.


by Lisa Liang

My name is Lisa, I go to Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. I am majoring in Elementary Education at Wheelock and minoring in Visual Arts at the College of Fine Arts. I will be going into my fourth year of college in the Fall of 2018 and I plan to teach elementary school students after college. I’ve been on the Re-Making STEM team since October 2017 and I was a participant researcher during the Spring 2018 professional development workshops because the Principal Investigators (PIs for short, they are the heads of the project) on the team wanted me to be a participant researcher. They wanted to give me an experience of participating in the workshops with the teacher participants because of my own goal. I worked with the other participants in the Spring on the prompt of making things that moved. Then during the Summer 2018 workshops, I became a Research Intern who took fieldnotes instead.

One of the summer workshops was during the week of June 25, 2018. After being a participant at the Cambridge workshop during the Spring, it felt weird to not be actively making with my hands at the workshop. Instead I was more of a researcher who was engaging with the participants and asking them questions about their project and what they were currently working on. It gave me a different experience where I was not answering the prompt given by the research team and instead was a backstage helper for the groups. I learned more about the research aspect while taking field notes and allowed me to concentrate more on listening to other people’s conversations. This workshop week had both student and teacher participants so we had a Co-Learning Principles poster up to encourage both participant populations in learning together instead of as individuals. During the second day of the week, the PIs reintroduced the principles to remind everyone about learning and making together.

During that week, I mostly stayed with the Social Hangout group, which was comprised of three students and one teacher. This group wanted to solve the issue of not having a hangout place that was more suited to the students’ needs. This week I feel that the participants in the Social Hangout group learned new tools and materials. They also learned which tools and materials were the ones that they preferred to use more. The students used the hot glue gun every day which is their preferred tool for adhesives. They also learned how to use Inkscape, which is a design program that can save into svg files, which is a type of vector file. Vector file types never become pixelated like jpeg and png files which do get pixelated when you scale them up and down. One student said that she’s good with Inkscape and that when she gets back to school, she will teach everyone. She taught the teacher participant in their group how to use Inkscape. Everyone in that group used Inkscape to cut something on the laser cutter. The student participants taught me that there are sticky backings to the wood that must be peeled off after being cut on the laser cutter.

Social Hangout Project

The student participants were in control of their Social Hangout space project while the teacher participant sat in the backseat and made some suggestions towards the project. The student participants were the ones who decided what they wanted and what materials to make them out of. There were times where the students did not know what task they should be doing so they would sit until they find a new task to be doing themselves. When a member of their group would say that they need something for their project, someone would say that they could do it and would get up to grab the materials for the task. At one point the teacher participant in the group said “This is gorgeous. I’m not really helping right now, I’m just watching the process.” She acknowledged that she was not helping at the time and that she was watching how the project was being put together.

In this group, there was a student participant who referred back to the co-principles of learning. She said to another student, “Why are you saying no to my ideas? Say yes and build on them.” This student participant mentioned that principle twice during the week and both times were to another student participant. The first time she mentioned it was her third day being in the Cambridge space alongside other participants and possibly her third time seeing the co-learning principles. I have not heard any of the other participants connect back to the co-learning principles. I think it is great that this student was able to integrate what she saw in the space around her into a few conversations. This integration of the principle was seamlessly smooth and it supports the idea of co-learning because she, the participant, is the one reminding the other participant about the principle instead of the researchers being the ones to do the reminding. It was nice to hear this student participant say that and it made me more attentive to see if anyone picked up on the principles being referred back to. If I was a participant researcher instead of being just a researcher, I do not believe that I would have caught that being said. It was a great and interesting week that opened me up to trying new ideas and possibilities during making.