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Mind the Mindstorms: Technocultures of Engineering Education in Three U.S. Elementary Schools

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Michael Lachney Michigan State University Orcid 16x16

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Michael Lachney is an assistant professor of educational technology at Michigan State University. With expertise in qualitative social science methods, he is interested in the role that technologies can play in strengthening school-community relationships. He is currently working on educational technology design strategies and implementation tactics to help teachers enroll community-based expertise in culturally responsive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. In addition, his work aims to show how STEM can make contributions to everyday anti-racism in schools, with specific attention to engineering and computer science.

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The LEGO Group’s proprietary educational robotics kit, LEGO Mindstorms, has been included in numerous studies on engineering education at all levels. Despite its popularity, there has been little empirical work on Mindstorms as a cultural artifact. Given its popularity, what is the cultural significance of Mindstorms in education? And, how does this shape its meanings and uses in the classroom? To give partial answers to these questions, this paper utilizes the concept of technocultures as a lens through which to analyze ethnographic data from three U.S. public elementary schools where Mindstorms kits were used to support STEM education. Findings reveal how Mindstorms can help to enroll larger technocultures of robotics, automation, and engineering into teachers’ lessons, but that these larger technocultures do not necessarily determine local instantiations. Teachers used Mindstorms in ways that spoke to their own values and social capital, which were shaped by school schedules and spaces, curriculum demands, and class and racial inequities. This paper ends by considering how the moral and ethical implications of robotics might be integrated into elementary engineering education.

Lachney, M. (2019, June), Mind the Mindstorms: Technocultures of Engineering Education in Three U.S. Elementary Schools Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33111

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