About

/About
About 2018-11-14T15:08:41+00:00

Re-Making STEM is a professional development collaboration between Tufts University, TERC, Olin College of Engineering, Malden Public Schools, and Cambridge Public schools. Together, researchers and teachers are exploring the idea of “computational making” within STEM disciplines to examine how computational thinking, computational tools, and multiple ways of knowing come together in “making” to provide powerful opportunities for learning.

Project Description

Our work focuses on supporting STEM teachers on ways to integrate computational making practices in their classrooms. Computational tools offer promising opportunities to engage in rich forms of STEM, but what does this look like in classrooms?

Computation is more than just programming code. It’s about arranging rules and behaviors, seeing how those rules unfold in the things we make. When the results are not quite right, we iterate by adjusting the rules, processes, and materials used. By blending computation with making, we get a process more focused on creativity and personal expression. It opens up opportunities for playful engagement and community-building in asking and answering questions in STEM.

Computational making becomes a way to ask questions about how the world works–through the design and construction of physical artifacts.

Our goal is to bring what we call Disciplinary Computational Making Practices, or DCMPs, to STEM classrooms. DCMPs include ideas like modeling, iterating, and troubleshooting. Instead of assessing whether students have obtained specific knowledge, these practices look at how students achieve “making” goals in STEM exploration.

In two participating school districts in the greater Boston area, we are working with teachers through a three-phase professional development model. The model involves computational play, teachers and students making together, and co-designing action plans for integrating computational making practices into their teaching. With this PD model, we ask: What elements in each phase of the model contribute to teacher learning outcomes? How do high school teachers change their relationships to practices and tools in their home disciplines, or their relationships to students to see each other as part of a professional learning community? And what is the impact of computational making on students learning in STEM classrooms?

Through playful engagement with a wide spectrum of tools and making practices, we’re working with teachers to define “computational making” for the future of STEM teaching and learning.

Phase 1: Exploration Feb to June 2018

STEM teachers do not always have experience in making, so we started with explorations of familiar craft materials. Our open ended prompts for “making” builds toward interactivity through forms of computing.
In Phase 1, teachers designed and built “something that moves” like paper automata and linkages; “something that interacts” like the operation game and a conductive maze. They have ample space and time to iterate, to model, to share their creations, and reflect on their processes and thinking, over the course of 12 weeks.

Teachers also grappled with how their experiences in making intersect with their STEM disciplines. For example, math teachers are are questioning the relationships between math in making – “do we think its better or worse, or does it matter, to use the math to make the thing, or to try to fit the math to the thing?”

Phase 2: Full-Week Workshop Summer 2018

In Phase 2, participants gained new insights on what engaged STEM learning can look like in the classroom in a week-long summer workshop. In late June 2018, we ran a full week workshop in each of the two school districts, and later in early July, ran another week at one location.
Our participating teachers and youth area were presented with a co-making challenge. We asked participants to imagine ways of enhancing public spaces by designing and building things that would draw attention to problems or issues in their communities. The theme for the week was “movement,” which could be interpreted literally, as in making things move, or figuratively, as in social movements or the movement of ideas and people. And they rose to the challenge. Teachers and youth worked together in small groups, iterating prototypes and ideas using craft tools (e.g., scissors, hot glue gun, cardstock) and transitioning to advanced makerspace technologies (e.g., laser cutters, cnc routers, 3D printers) as their vision evolved and solidified.

Our workshop design promoted collaborative problem-solving, revealing the process of struggles and incremental successes within each group project. As participants gained experience learning from their own mistakes and from others, they were positioned as resources for others with similar goals, teaching others best practices for working with new tools, softwares, or processes. This is powerful to see in action across different ages, free from traditional classroom roles.

Phase 3: Making in Classrooms September 2018

Taking inspiration from exploring the disciplinary connection in making, and the co-learning practices of Phase 2, teachers design units and lessons for their classrooms to engage students’ hands and minds in creative STEM inquiry.

Research Team

Brian Gravel
Brian Gravel
Brian Gravel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Tufts University, and he is a Co-PI on the Re-Making STEM project. He studies how people of all ages use representations to work and learn in STEM. As a former engineer and teacher, he has always loved building things and exploring how material behave and interact. He worked closely with the Malden school community to build Nedlam’s Workshop, a making space in the high school where Re-Making STEM is taking place.
Aditi Wagh
Aditi Wagh
Aditi Wagh is a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Education at Tufts University. She studies how learners engage in building computational models and physical artifacts, and how these constructions support science learning and computational thinking. Her research advances conversations around design of these environments and learning in three interrelated ways: 1) Designing and investigating accessible entry points into computational making and modeling; 2) Supporting meaningful integration of these activities into existing practices in formal and informal learning environments; 3) Examining how to support sustained engagement in building.
Maria Olivares
Maria Olivares
Maria C. Olivares is Co-PI for Re-Making STEM and a postdoctoral fellow at TERC. She received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Maria is interested in understanding how Students of Color come to think of themselves as STEM-doers and how curricular reform initiatives can support students in their development of strong STEM identities through personally meaningful and enriching experiences with STEM-doing.
Eli Tucker-Raymond
Eli Tucker-Raymond
Eli Tucker-Raymond is Co-PI of the Remaking STEM project. His work focuses on understanding the role of humanizing STEM learning environments for teachers and young people from communities of color. He is particularly interested in the ways in which intersections of new media and STEM can support the development of robust identities and learning trajectories.
Amon Milner
Amon Milner
Amon Millner is an Assistant Professor of Computing and Innovation at the Olin College of Engineering. He directs the Extending Access to STEM Empowerment (EASE) Lab. He teaches courses, engages in research, and releases products that are guided by his mantra: make things; make a difference; make your way. Millner develops systems that lower the barrier for entry into computing. See Scratch and Fab Labs as example efforts for which Millner has served on the core team.
Dionne Champion
Dionne Champion
An engineer, arts educator, and learning sciences researcher, Dionne Champion is a postdoctoral fellow at TERC. Her research focuses on the design and ethnographic study of environments that blend STEM and creative embodied learning activities. She is interested in developing programs that engage children in authentic STEM experiences.
Ezra Gouvea
Ezra Gouvea
Ezra Gouvea studies the flow of emotion inside real moments of math and science practice. He is currently a graduate student in the STEM Education PhD program at Tufts University. He thinks of his research path in the learning sciences as grounded in his experience of disciplinary affect, distributed cognition, and dynamic development within research level mathematics.
Ada Ren
Ada Ren
Ada Ren is a Research & Development Specialist at TERC. Her work in Re-Making STEM focus on designing and implementing activity design structures of the teacher professional development workshops. With depth of experience in graphic design, branding, web development, videography, quantitative research, and multiple making-related hobbies, she supports the project in many ways.
James Adler
James Adler
James Adler is an Associate Professor in Mathematics at Tufts University. His research is in scientific computing, particularly in the area of computational and applied mathematics His work focuses on the numerical simulation of nonlinear systems of differential equations that are used to model multi-scale physical systems, such as in complex fluids, electromagnetic phenomena, and poroelastic media.
Tim Atherton
Tim Atherton
Tim Atherton is Associate Professor of Physics at Tufts University. He obtained his PhD from the University of Exeter in the UK and was a postdoctoral scholar at Case Western Reserve University. His research interests are in Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, with a particular focus on Soft Matter, and Physics Education Research.
Ann Rosebery
Ann Rosebery
Ann S. Rosebery is co-Director of the Chèche Konnen Center, TERC, Cambridge, MA. Her research focuses on improving learning opportunities for students from non-dominant groups and related issues of teacher professional development. A major focus is cultivating teachers’ interpretive power, using classroom discussion as a focus for inquiry into students’ sensemaking. Currently, she is investigating the affordances of an ArtScience approach for engaging students in complex scientific domains (human microbiome, climate change). She has authored numerous scholarly and practice-oriented articles and books.