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Adventure-Leggers - Making Digital Comics for Out-of-School STEM Learning

Project Type

Mixed methods field study in community spaces


Lead Principle Investigator

Project Description

The two iterations of the Comic Book Academy were enacted as part of Bookleggers Library's Adventure-Leggers community literacy and STEM carnivals held at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, Miami, FL. They featured space exploration and geology themed digital comic making STEM learning activities in which groups of children worked together using the iPad app ComicLife3 to make a digital comic that scaffolded and assessed STEM content area learning.

The initial iteration of the activity was held in an art studio that had different physical backgrounds on the walls that the groups could use to create their narrative comics about exploring the Earth’s crust. This was effective in that it reduced the complexity of the tasks (not needing to manipulate virtual backgrounds) but did not allow for as much creative expression as virtual backgrounds would allow. The second iteration was conducted outside in a big tent and used virtual backgrounds instead of physical ones. Adults were allowed to hep to ensure the added layer of complexity did not prevent younger children from participating.

After children completed the Comic Book Academy activity, they, with their parents' help, filled out a short exit ticket questionnaire (n=16) that included four 5-point Likert scale questions and two open-ended questions.

The questionnaires were analyzed in a mixed method with quantitative descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis, while the children’s comics were qualitatively analyzed using multimodal content analysis to support the questionnaire findings. Children reported positive interest (4.5/5) and comfort level (4.125/5) in using the app during the activity, writing that they liked "dressing up," "the costumes," and "using the props." Also, that "taking the photos was super fun." One child stated they "liked learning about how to use the iPad comics." Children reported neutral to positive ability to learn science through the activity (3.75/5) and future desire to engage in similar activities to learn science (3.75/5). Three of the children's responses on the coolest thing they learned demonstrated specific content area learning with an additional five stating they learned about STEM generally.

From a UXR Perspective

This was an end-to-end development project that included two rounds of design and implementation. I worked with a non-profit community organization to leverage their demographic user data for developing authentic personas and user stories. This was especially important because of the differences in needs and design considerations for young children, adolescent, and adult users.

I took a mixed methods approach to understanding and improving mobile communication technology user's experiences with digital composing interfaces on iPads. The community carnival setting necessitated quick data collection methods that were also accessible for children as young as four years old. I enabled screen recording on the iPads to get an objective record of users’ compositional experiences and took extensive observational field notes. I also designed a four question 5-point Likert scale and two open ended question questionnaire that I integrated into the activity to encourage parents to assist their children without placing incentive for parents to guide children’s answers. I also collected and analyzed the completed compositions to gauge the interface’s success in the novel setting.

I approached my analysis from a user centric perspective, starting my analysis with answers to the open-ended questions, rather than starting with external observations. I then triangulated users' perceptions with the observation data (screen recordings and field notes) and their compositions. After the first round of implementation, I analyzed the user experience data and conducted a second round of design grounded in the first iteration's users' experiences.

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