Will Collaborate for Change: Creating a Hybrid Culture between STS and Science/Engineering Graduate Education – Presentation at 4S Conference

Categories:  Alumni, Fellow Alumni: Andrew Ellis, Fellow Alumni: Dan Lyles, Fellow Alumni: Ellen Foster, Fellow Alumni: Libby Rodriguez, Fellow Alumni: Louis Gutierrez, Fellow Alumni: Michael Lachney, Fellow Alumni: Michael O’Keefe, News and Events

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GK12 fellows, both current and alumni were part of a panel presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S). Their panel submission titled, Will Collaborate for Change: Creating a Hybrid Culture between STS and Science/Engineering Graduate Education was part of the conference theme that emphasized original and timely contributions to themes relevant to science and technology studies.

Collaborations for Social Justice: K12 Teachers and STEM Graduate Students
Michael Lachney (current) and Andrew Ellis (current)  Read Abstract  View Presentation

Deliberative Construction: Social Influences as a Resource in Software Development
Libby Rodriguez  (current) Read Abstract   View Presentation

Culturally Situated Sensing
Louis Gutierrez (years 1&2) and Michael O’Keefe (current)
Read Abstract  View Presentation

Critical Growing: Social Justice, Urban Agriculture, and STEM Education
Dan Lyles (years 1&2)  Read Abstract  View Presentation


Collaborations for Social Justice: K-12 Teachers and STEM Graduate Students

Abstract:
This paper explores the role of graduate student/K-12 teacher collaborations in reconfiguring STEM education to foster more empowering forms of students’ social agency in the context of low-income African American and Latino communities. We challenge traditional notions of the importance of upper class cultural capital and posit an alternative focus on the cultural capital already existing within these low-income communities—including students’ awareness of social injustice and their understandings of vernacular and heritage culture—as potential resources in becoming part of STEM classrooms. We situate ourselves within a public school structure and advocate for a move towards a critical self-reflexive process for STEM graduate students who become part of K-12 classrooms. The graduate student is in a unique position: they are not bound by the traditional structures of public school employment, which also means that they are not provided with the same opportunities to develop deep student relationships. Thus the grad relationships with teachers becomes a critical component in attempts to further social agency beyond traditional expectations. Downey’s concept of “scalable scholarship” illuminates how an understanding of the politics playing out in classrooms through curricula, schedules, and content regulations helps graduate students “scale” their own academic work into the classroom structure in ways that are recognizable to dominant practices, while not completely conforming to them. These efforts culminate in our “proof of concept”: two after school STEM programs that explore how students create hybrids between their social agency development and the building of “computational capital” through the use of Culturally Situated Design Tools. View Presentation

 


Deliberative Construction: Social Influences as a Resource in Software Development

Abstract:
STS analysis of computer science has been highly critical, and rightly so: social influences can result in artificial intelligence that assumes male gender, social networks that violate our privacy, and firewalls that facilitate authoritarian control. But how can STS help guide us towards the reverse: deliberately incorporating beneficial social influences in the approach to computer science? This presentation describes some experiments that attempt to deliberately use the social construction of technology as a resource for educational software development. We draw on the work by Eric Gutstein, Terry Lamont and others who develop a social justice approach to math and science education. Far from finding some natural or self-evident means by which one can convert this approach to software; we find that there are contradictory tensions that must be negotiated or “deliberated” (both in the sense of intentional and in the sense of “carefully considered”). These tensions include: (1) participatory design: the tension between democratically allowing the users to choose their own designs, and introducing new ideas for their ethical and intellectual development; (2) interface aesthetics: the tension between elevating cultural materials with high-end graphics, versus the children’s desire for playful irreverence; (3) cultural specificity: the tension between heritage culture identification versus flexibility of design; and (4) the software development process itself: the tension between freedom for developers, and cohesive system outcomes. Together these four areas help us envision an alternative approach to computer science that allows social influences to be a stepping stone to effective, socially beneficial software development.
View Presentation

 


Culturally Situated Sensing

Abstract:
Environmental sensing has become an increasingly important component in efforts towards environmental justice, but it contains an inherent contradiction: On the one hand, technologies need to meet national standards if they are to produce data of sufficient legitimacy. On the other hand, innovations that are actually useful to environmental activists, such as the Louisiana “bucket brigade”, often need to be specifically tailored to a particular pollution event or context. Our “culturally situated sensing” (CSS) project seeks to develop a platform that can be customized for specific needs, but still “in conversation with” national or international standards (eg comparing locally obtained data with national measures as a validation check). Initial prototypes were deployed in recording indoor air quality in rural Peru, but costs were prohibitive. Current prototypes use cell phones as the data-gathering unit. The ubiquity of cell phones, even in low-income communities, offers a drastic reduction in cost. The cell phones offer a simplified user interface via our Mobile App, which is also capable of communicating with a server that hosts the CSS data platform. Users can then examine the uploaded data from all sensors in a given community, apply analytic tools (statistics, visualization), and share results using a social networking system. New applications for the CSS include K-12 education for schools in low-income areas, where a “sensor caching” activity (similar to recreational “geocaching”) combines playful engagement with the serious work of mapping urban pollution.
View Presentation


Critical Growing: Social Justice, Urban Agriculture, and STEM Education

Abstract:
Urban plant cultivation is a growing movement that extends the ancient tradition of urban gardens to contemporary practices of organic community food production, living art works and a wide variety of alternative techno-bio-social arrangements. In this paper I examine the intersections with STEM education oriented towards social justice and sustainability. STEM education is always an inherently a political act, but it primarily passes as a non-political, objective practice. The use of urban growing systems for promoting social justice and sustainability—what I term “critical growing”–requires us to think carefully about our roles as educators and as researchers performing interventions in inner-city classrooms. In particular, it forces us to ask how we can deploy STEM education strategically while negotiating the existing limitations and structures of primary education. Critical growing offers new opportunities to engage in hands-on experiences for urban youth that offer the material agency of self-generating biological life as a entry point to discussions of corporate convention, the pesticide industry, and other eco-social concerns. I draw on the work of Mizuki Ito, Paulo Freire, Leo Marx, Lamont Terry and others to inquire into the ways that the needs of empowerment and STEM can be simultaneously met by engaging with the process of education as a site of political and social contestation. At stake is both the problematic relationship between the professional needs of teachers in this particular historical moment and potential critique that may arise from students engaging in STEM critically. The question of how critical growing is integrated into the classroom is not merely of acknowledgement or ignoring its politics, but to ask how those politics are framed so that they are mutually beneficial to students, teachers, and community empowerment.  View Presentation

 

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