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Engaging Children in Design Thinking Through Transmedia Narrative


This paper presents the implementation of Imaginative Education (IE) pedagogy in a transmedia learning environment that engages children in engineering design. Cited in How People Learn and the literature on supporting transfer, IE uses narrative to engage learners' imaginations; helps them master the cognitive tools necessary for progressing to higher levels of understanding; and helps them structure what they learn in meaningful ways.

Included in the paper is an overview of an online learning environment developed for middle school children using IE pedagogy. The website includes an illustrated young adult novel and audiobook in which fictional characters learn about engineering concepts while solving a mystery. It also includes interactive, multimedia learning adventures that tie into the novel. The focus of the paper will be showing how IE pedagogy was used to create the "Trapped in Time" learning adventure, in which users-accompanied by characters from the novel-are transported back in time to learn about the engineering design cycle. Included in the adventure are an interactive graphic novel that frames the story, numerous videos, an online journal and several games and puzzles that the users need to solve to complete the story. Throughout the adventure the terminology and engineering content are carefully aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Data examining the impact of this approach on student attitudes and learning is presented in the paper. Surveys and focus groups indicated improved attitudes towards engineering and increased STEM identify. Matched pre- and post-tests indicated an improved ability to apply engineering design concepts after completing the adventure.