Asee peer logo

Mysteries and Heroes: Using Imaginative Education to Engage Middle School Learners in Engineering

Download Paper |

Conference

2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Using Web-Resources and Literature to Teach Engineering in P-8

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count

22

Page Numbers

22.1092.1 - 22.1092.22

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/18782

Download Count

29

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Lucy McAuliffe Smith College

visit author page

Lucy McAuliffe is the senior editor and an instructional designer for the Talk to Me Project. Lucy is currently a student at Smith College, majoring in American Studies and Environmental Science & Policy. She is a First Group Scholar, and recipient of awards including the Newton Arvin Prize in American Studies and a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She plans to enter the publishing industry upon her graduation in 2012.

visit author page

biography

Glenn W. Ellis Smith College

visit author page

Glenn Ellis is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Smith College where he teaches courses in engineering mechanics, artificial intelligence and educational methods for teaching science and engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Operations Research from Princeton University. The winner of numerous teaching awards, Dr. Ellis received the 2007 U.S. Professor of the Year Award for Baccalaureate Colleges from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. His research focuses on applying the findings from the learning sciences to encourage deep, intentional learning in K-16 engineering classrooms. This research was recognized by the Benjamin Dasher Award for best paper at the 2004 Frontiers in Education conference.

visit author page

biography

Sonia Katrin Ellis Smith College

visit author page

Sonia Ellis is a professional writer, editor, and instructional designer whose published work includes fiction, feature stories, profiles, articles on science and engineering, marketing literature, and educational modules. Sonia received her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and her master's degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University. She has contributed to research and development projects in fields ranging from consumer products to veterinary medicine.

visit author page

biography

Isabel Huff Smith College

visit author page

Isabel is an instructional designer and blogger for the Talk to Me Project. She is a first year student at Smith College. Her major is currently undecided, and she is a recipient of the STRIDE scholarship from Smith College.

visit author page

biography

Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh Springfield Technical Community College

visit author page

Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, M.S.C.E. (ABT) is an Associate Professor of Physics and Civil Engineering Technology at Springfield Technical Community College where she teaches courses in physics, engineering mechanics, technical mathematics and reinforced concrete design. She received her B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The PI for a 2008 NSF MSP Start Partnership grant, she has designed professional teacher education and created a learning community of Springfield MA Public School teachers that is changing how engineering and technology are taught throughout the city.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Mysteries and Heroes: Using Imaginative Education to Engage Middle School Learners in EngineeringThis paper will present the application of Imaginative Education in the development of anengineering education website. Included in the paper will be an overview of the Talk to Mewebsite, featuring: a young adult novel in which the fictional characters learn about engineeringconcepts while solving a mystery; artificial intelligence, engineering ethics and engineeringdesign activities that tie into the novel; and a blog in which undergraduate engineering studentswrite about what it is like to study engineering in college. An independent assessment ofSpringfield Public School (SPS) teachers’ reactions to the website and an assessment of a pilottest of the website with SPS summer students will also be included.Imaginative Education was chosen as an educational strategy for the website based on theresearch showing its effectiveness in both engaging learners and supporting deep learning.Developed by Kieran Egan, Imaginative Education supports the development of five differenttypes of understanding that enable students to make sense of the world in different ways. A setof cognitive tools is associated with each level of understanding. Middle school learners aredeveloping what Egan refers to as Mythic and Romantic understanding. Mythic understanding isthe developmental stage when learners first acquire oral language and engage with topics such asmystery, story, humor, and games. Romantic understanding evolves when learners reach thestage of written language and engage with topics such as a sense of reality, extremes and limitsof reality, and association with heroes. A well-crafted narrative involving these topics will bothconvey concepts in a coherent and memorable form and help the learner engage emotionally withthe information being communicated.The Talk to Me website uses narrative and other cognitive tools associated with Mythic andRomantic understanding throughout the novel and tie-in activities to engage middle schoollearners. A beta version of the website was launched in July 2010. It was piloted in a two-weekNSF-funded workshop for SPS middle school engineering/technology teachers in which theywere introduced to the website, learned about Imaginative Education and engineering concepts,and were given tips on how to incorporate Talk to Me into their classrooms. An independentassessment at the conclusion of the workshop found that 85.7% of the workshop participantsstrongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “The content of the Talk to Me website is morelikely to engage students in engineering than what is currently available for me to use.”Additionally, 92.8% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “If in the future the Talk to Mewebsite were designed to address the Massachusetts learning standards fortechnology/engineering, I would utilize it in my classroom.”The first analyzed student use of Talk to Me occurred in a July 2010 summer robotics camp,where the SPS teachers used it for a one-day session on Artificial Intelligence. Data showed thatthe students engaged with the characters and were interested in using the website and reading thenovel after the one-day session ended. Further studies of student use and interaction with Talk toMe are in progress in Springfield, and results will be available for inclusion in the paper.

McAuliffe, L., & Ellis, G. W., & Ellis, S. K., & Huff, I., & McGinnis-Cavanaugh, B. (2011, June), Mysteries and Heroes: Using Imaginative Education to Engage Middle School Learners in Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18782

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015