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Friday, October 7 • 3:15pm - 4:15pm
Generating Alternative Stories: Using fictional narratives to build STEM identity, interest, and community for non-dominant girls

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There is an increasing need to develop digital literacy and computational fluency for all young people such that there is equal opportunity for participation in the growing number of STEM-related careers, but there remains a critical underrepresentation of women--especially those from non-dominant populations. Although programs for girls are on the rise, females continue to perceive challenges related to lack of prior experiences and sense of fit with existing activities communities. The Digital Youth Divas (DYD) is an out-of-school program that uses narrative stories to launch the creation of digital artifacts and support non-dominant middle school girls’ STEM interests and identities through virtual and real-world community. In this presentation, we will discuss an exploratory and innovative approach of using fictional stories to engage girls in STEM practice and community. Presentations will include this work from different lenses including theoretical, design, implementation, and outcomes. 
Theoretical: Using narrative stories as a situational STEM interest and identity resource.  Storylines have implications for learner’s perceptions of themselves and their abilities, and for the types of identities youth are afforded access to within learning environments (Nasir et al, 2012). The use of fictional stories is inspired by research in gaming and educational platforms that has found narratives capable of increasing motivation and interest for domain-specific topics and tasks (e.g. Plant, 2009, NSF, 2003, Baker & Leary, 1995). We hypothesize the use of DYD stories as material and ideational identity resources (Nasir & Cooks, 2009) that can trigger situational interest, the first phase of interest categorized as being dependent on environmental factors (Hidi & Renninger, 2006). 
Design: Collaborative process of developing multimedia narratives for learning. The narrative was co-designed by girls in a pilot program, written by professional children’s authors, and brought to life by professional media producers. Narratives center around a group of non-stereotypical characters that are students in a parallel universe middle school DYD club. Characters use technical language related to STEM concepts and encounter situations that require the creation of a physical artifact or written solution. To support multiple learning modalities and opportunities for exploration and connection, the narratives are available in various formats, including video animations and comic books.
Implementation: Incorporating narratives into the program structure and carrying out in practice. The interactive narrative unfolds on the DYD online platform. Each week girls launch an episode and are prompted to engage in project-based work mirroring what characters are doing. The girls solve challenges by submitting work online and communicate with virtual characters through online messages. We will share experiences from actual program implementation, including evidence of successes and challenges in the field.
Outcomes: Girls’ perceptions and interest development. Results from our work suggest that the use of narratives can spark discussions regarding race and identity and have the potential to anchor situational interest in STEM learning. We will share participant reflections on the narrative stories, pre and post survey results that compare girls’ perceptions of who should learn computing, and case studies of individual learner experiences.


Friday October 7, 2016 3:15pm - 4:15pm
Doheny Ballroom

Attendees (23)