"Identity in the making" in an adolescent new media maker experience : the role of interest, figured worlds, and use of authentic tools and practices Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9593tz89b

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  • Human development researchers consider adolescence a rich time for interest development and identity exploration. A relatively new movement in the Free-Choice Learning (FCL) arena, the Maker movement, offers learners interest-driven, experiential, often collaborative, and process-oriented activities ranging from game design (computer-based and otherwise) and robotics, to sewing LEDs into clothing and anything in between. Maker activities can be engaged in at home, in FCL settings, such as museums or libraries, as part of the school day or extended school day, or in community settings, however there is concern that youth and families living in under-resourced communities may not be aware of the movement nor have access to Maker experiences. I hypothesized that a new media Maker experience, in which early adolescents in a diverse, under-resourced community design their own computer-based games, would provide a window in which to observe youths' STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) interest development (STEM topics, activities, and careers), identity exploration, and understanding of technology and their relationship to it. I conducted a mixed-methods study with ten early adolescents in an underrepresented community, who participated in an intensive, nine-week afterschool game design program. Hidi & Renninger's four-phase model of interest development, Ito, et.al.'s genres of participation, Holland, et. al.'s figured worlds and a place-based lens provided an analytical frame for the Maker experience and methods included observations of the activities, interactions, and conversations youth engaged in; completion of an interest questionnaire at the beginning and end of the experience. Research methods included observations of the activities, interactions, and conversations the youth engaged in; Personal Meaning Mapping; in-depth interviews; and, pronoun usage and artifact analyses. Findings showed that the new media Maker space afforded diverse and underserved youth in the study new ways to identify with technology, explore their interests and re-Make their identities with each other, near peer mentors, and adult facilitators. The authentic nature of the experience allowing youth to collaborate, engage in real game design practices, and utilize genuine tools, was critical, and the figured world of this new media Make experience provided youth opportunities to exercise agency and to position themselves as active producers using technology, rather than passive consumers of technology. The synergy of the Personal, Socio-Cultural and Physical dimensions of the experiences provided a space/place in which underserved youth interested in technology could identify more personally with the tools and practices of technology, broadening and deepening their interest and transforming their relationship to it. Study findings have implications for researchers studying youth interest development, identity exploration and technology use, as well as for practitioners (FCL and K-12), designing learning experiences for youth. Critical components that supported youth agency, interest development and identity exploration around technology were the intentional use of a non-hierarchical facilitation style, authentic tools and practices, collaboration, interest-driven activity and choice.
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