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Friday, October 7 • 9:00am - 10:30am
From Discovery to Imagined Possible Futures: Exploring Youth Interests

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In this discussion, we explore youth interest discovery and their opportunities for imagining possible futures. We look across multiple scales, ranging from three youths’ experiences playing Starcraft to over 3,000 afterschool programs for youth in one large city to explore questions of what ignites youth interests and what conditions surround their pursuit of possible futures and desired outcomes. Through sharing this Connected Learning research, we hope to spark a conversation about ways to support youth in such interest-related pursuits.This panel includes the following presentations, discussant remarks, and a conversation:

Mapping and Modeling the Abundance, Diversity, and Accessibility of Summer Learning Opportunities at the Scale of a City. We explore the abundance, diversity, and accessibility of out of school learning opportunities by taking advantage of a unique dataset for the City of Chicago that includes information on the 3,844 organized summer learning opportunities for youth in the city. Using a combination of data mining techniques and Geographical Information Systems tools, we map the ecology of learning opportunities in a large city, showing the variability in program abundance, diversity, and accessibility across the city.

Supporting interest discovery in a free-choice making and tinkering environment: Not what you might expect! FUSE aims to provide a fun and relaxed way to explore STEAM topics in both school and out-of-school spaces, by providing an environment in which students can pursue diverse ‘challenges’ in areas such as robotics, electronics, graphic design, or 3D printing. Evaluation of FUSE reveals that interest development is characterized not only by sustained engagement into a particular activity, but from the space and opportunity to explore and try out various activities.

“We are all scientists here”: How museum program design supports youth’s science-linked identities. Learning environments play a critical role in shaping youth’s views of science, their interest-development, and their pursuit of science careers. Drawing on youth interviews and museum artifacts, we examine three separate science museum internship programs to understand the relationships among program design, youth’s conceptions and pursuit of science, and their identities within these fields.

Disruptions and Redistribution of Practices: Examining Suspensions of Youths’ Interest-related Activities. Although understanding what sustains engagement in interest-related activities is integral to the field, understanding what disrupts engagement has been largely ignored. We seek to expand and complicate the notion of “conditions of practice” for the youth and their interest-related pursuits. We found that some youth suspended their participation due to loss of access to resources, and other youth suspended pursuits due to competing educational commitments and future desires.

The “Armchair Philosopher”: Learning in StarCraft and Supporting Possible Selves. Research on videogames and learning has typically focused on features of games, and how these can be leveraged to promote deeper learning. We examine how playing StarCraft, and learning within the StarCraft gaming community, influenced three players’ development of “possible selves” as they consider post-secondary aspirations. Our findings indicate that the players envisioned linkages between the game’s skills, strategies, epistemology, and the work they hoped to find—or avoid—in the future.


Daniela DiGiacomo

Graduate Student, University of Colorado Boulder

Michael Harris

Univeristy of Colorado

Bill Penuel

Professor, University of Colorado Boulder


Evanston, Illinois, United States, Northwestern University

Erica Van Steenis

University of Colorado

Friday October 7, 2016 9:00am - 10:30am
Doheny Ballroom

Attendees (27)