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Employing Narratives To Trigger Interest In Computational Activities With Inner-city Girls

Abstract

"While women use technology to mediate numerous aspects of their professional and personal lives, few are actively involved in designing and creating the computational devices and software programs they use on a daily basis. The decline in the number of women in computer science and engineering courses is well documented at each level of advancement, and disparities are greater when considering minority women. Decisions about participation are often made early, frequently prior to high school, and have been linked to factors such as prior experience, interest, and sense of fit with community. To address these concerns, we developed a program called Digital Divas, where we invite inner-city middle school girls interested in fashion design to develop computational fluency through scaffolded e-textile projects launched using narrative stories. The Digital Divas program intentionally fosters supportive communities and perceptions of girls and women as strong and successful in fun and engaging STEM learning and careers. In this paper, we discuss the role of narrative stories in Digital Divas, used to initiate situational interest, the first phase of Hidi and Renniger's four-phase model of interest development. Narratives have been identified as a way to engage youth in problem solving tasks, connect to real-world problems, and motivate and contribute to positive STEM-identities. We describe our approach to co-designing narratives with the Digital Divas girls and share preliminary results of their interpretation and reaction to these stories."

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