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A Mixed-methods Study of Non-text Social Media Content as a Window into African-American Youth STEM Identities

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Donna Auguste University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16

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Donna Auguste is a Ph.D candidate in the interdisciplinary ATLAS Institute, College of Engineering and Applied Science. Her research engages intergenerational learners of color with STEM through sensor-based experiences that are personally meaningful, providing an opportunity to assess impact of such experiences on STEM identities. She examines modern expressions of STEM identities in social media. She earned a M.S. in Information Technology Management at Regis University, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley; has 25 years of software/hardware industry experience and 21 patents; and has volunteered extensively in developing countries.

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Tanya D. Ennis University of Colorado, Boulder

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TANYA D. ENNIS is the current Engineering GoldShirt Program Director at the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She received her M.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her career in the telecommunications industry included positions in software and systems engineering and technical project management. Tanya taught mathematics at the Denver School of Science and Technology, the highest performing high school in Denver Public Schools. She is a PhD student in the School of Education at University of Colorado Boulder studying Learning Sciences and Human Development.

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Shelly Lynn Miller University of Colorado Boulder Orcid 16x16

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Shelly Miller joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder, as an Assistant Professor in August 1998. Dr. Miller held the distinguished position of Chancellor’s
Postdoctoral Fellow, from October 1996 through August 1998. Dr. Miller completed her PhD in Civil
and Environmental Engineering at University of California, Berkeley in 1996. She also holds a MS
degree in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley and a BS degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvey Mudd College. Dr. Miller investigates sources of indoor air pollution, assesses exposures to indoor air pollutants, and develops and evaluates indoor air quality control measures. Her research has focused on indoor air quality since 1991. Dr. Miller has extensive experience conducting full-scale chamber and field experiments, generating and measuring aerosols and bioaerosols, conducting both single and multiple tracer gas experiments, and indoor air quality modeling including both statistical and physical models. Dr. Miller's current research projects include modeling studies of industrial odors and wellbeing in Colorado communities, diesel exhaust pollution, indoor environmental quality and respiratory health, asthma and air pollution, and radon. She has published over 60 peer reviewed articles on air quality.

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Joseph L. Polman University of Colorado Boulder

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Joe Polman is a Professor of Learning Sciences and Science Education, as well as Associate Dean for Research, in the School of Education at University of Colorado Boulder. He designs and studies project-based learning environments for youth in schools and community programs. He focuses on learning and identity development connected to practices of science, literacy, history, and journalism, with a particular aim of fostering more engaged democratic participation. He serves on the editorial board of Journal of the Learning Sciences and the American Educational Research Journal, and will be president of the International Society of the Learning Sciences in 2018-19.

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A Mixed-methods Study of Non-text Social Media Content as a Window into African American Youth STEM Identities

Historically, researchers have observed that some African American youth suppress public expression of their interests in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) topics. Prior research has attributed youth denial of STEM identities to their perceived social pressures. When researchers interview participants in STEM education experiences, we receive certain responses that help us to learn about STEM identities. When we look to social media content, which is sometimes shared publicly and voluntarily, we see a possible window into the perspectives and identities of African American youth and young adults that may help us learn about STEM identities in a new way.

Non-text paralinguistic elements in social media content, such as emoji, hashtags, and images, provide a potentially rich source of personal identity self-expression and sociocultural insights into emerging African American youth STEM identities. Acknowledging and respecting the modern ways that youth choose to express their identities, we sought to include paralinguistic elements in our analysis of their STEM-related public discourse on Twitter and Instagram social media platforms.

Our theoretical framework was that of a sociocultural view of identity development, built upon the concept of communities of practice. We used dimensions of communities of practice as a framework to organize and analyze the artifacts in our datasets, and as a means to understand the contributing roles of paralinguistic elements in those artifacts. When utilizing this framework, we examined youth self-description, looking for trajectories of identification with multiple communities and social spaces, including hybridity and crossing social spaces.

In this paper, we describe the mixed-methods study, with results and dataset analysis.

Auguste, D., & Ennis, T. D., & Miller, S. L., & Polman, J. L. (2018, June), A Mixed-methods Study of Non-text Social Media Content as a Window into African-American Youth STEM Identities Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29699

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