Summer '06
Summer '07



Elevator Pitch

Making Tech Club an Engaging Place for Girls and Students on the Autism Spectrum

My goal is to make Tech Club projects at the elementary where I work engaging and interesting for girls. Also, I want Tech Club to be appealing to students on the Autism Spectrum. I want to know if it helps to increase participation by girls if the projects encourage collaboration and social connections. Also, I want to leverage the interest some students on the Autism Spectrum have in technology to make Tech Club a point of social collaboration for these students. I use technologies that allow students on the Autism Spectrum to share their voices and talents, which is empowering for these students. Finally, I leveraged RSS technology to promote the work Tech Club was doing to parents and the school community, through podcasts about our school and its students, teachers, and administrators.

My action research took place over three cycles. I worked with students in grades three through five at a public elementary school. Tech Club had open enrollment, so students could choose to participate in particular projects but need not come to every meeting. Some students remained engaged throughout the year and became student leaders in the Club, organizing and directing Tech Club projects. Other students participated as their interests dictated. One student on the Autism Spectrum participated throughout the entire year, while other students showcased their talents in the podcasting project and by helping with the stop-motion film making.

Besides tracking student attendance and participation throughout each project, the other data that I collected as part of my action research was the work the students produced during each project. Students took digital photographs, produced segments for podcast episodes, and made films, a process that entailed writing scripts, casting roles, shooting footage, and creating a soundtrack and recording dialogue. The students' creative process and the actual artifacts created by the students were documented extensively through still photographs, audio recordings, and blog postings.

My second cycle built interest in the work that Tech Club was doing by leveraging RSS technology and involving many more students in Tech Club by creating podcasts. Students who had previously never participated in Tech Club were recruited by Tech Club members to participate in creating podcast segments. Students on the Autism Spectrum were able to contribute to segments by using GarageBand to create music or by singing songs, in one case with music and lyrics written by the student. Leveraging the prevalence of iPods within the larger school community, I created documentation to assist people in subscribing to the podcast. Tracking the web statistics of "hits" on the RSS file allowed me to develop a sense of my success in promoting the podcasts.

For my third cycle I am using technology to empower students. Two students are directing movies, one a stop-motion film, the other a live action film. Providing a student with a laptop to write her script, or converting my office into a soundstage for the stop-motion filming are examples of my actions that seek to empower students and create leadership through the student-run projects. Now in my third cycle, I have empowered students throughout the year, allowing them to develop as individual thinkers and technology leaders. Tech Club is a comfortable place for students on the Autism Spectrum, and I have two students contributing to projects and socializing with their peers through their work in Tech Club.

I believe that the action research that I have conducted this year is important because it suggests different strategies for technology use might increase engagement and interest in technology by girls and students on the Autism Spectrum. I have met many successes in my efforts to increase participation by girls in Tech Club, and the work with the students on the Autism Spectrum has increased these students abilities to communicate with their community, to share their talents, and to be empowered through their use of technology. Students worked with digital still photography, audio, and video and used each medium to explore their visions of the world and to help create their identities. My efforts have helped students to emerge as leaders, and the work that they produce showcases their talents, gives them voice, and allows for collaborative and constructivist work. Tech Club is much different now than it was at the beginning of the school year, as am I, and I believe the students have grown equally. This is important and exciting work.


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