1. Merredith Portsmore
  2. Novel Engineering: An Integrated Approach to Teaching Engineering and Literacy
  3. http://www.novelengineering.org
  4. Tufts University, Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach
  1. Elissa Milto
  2. http://www.ceeo.tufts.edu/people/milto.htm
  3. Director of Outreach
  4. Novel Engineering: An Integrated Approach to Teaching Engineering and Literacy
  5. http://www.novelengineering.org
  6. Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach
  1. Chris Rogers
  2. http://engineering.tufts.edu/me/people/rogers/
  3. Professor, Chair
  4. Novel Engineering: An Integrated Approach to Teaching Engineering and Literacy
  5. http://www.novelengineering.org
  6. Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, Tufts University
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Julie Steimle

    Julie Steimle

    Program Director, CEEMS
    May 16, 2016 | 10:58 a.m.

    I am curious as to how you measure success in your program. Are you seeing gains in students’ language arts skills as well as their STEM skills?

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 16, 2016 | 09:11 p.m.

    Hi Julie,
    In our research classrooms, students did not engage in Novel Engineering units frequently enough for us to feel comfortable saying that our intervention was the cause of ELA successes. We did look at one school district and their state testing and saw that there was an upswing in ELA scores the second year we were in the school. We have heard from many teachers that student are having more in-depth conversations about texts and that some students with learning disabilities are using evidence from the text to justify design decisions. Also we did some research at a school for students with language-based learning disabilities. These are students with executive functioning deficits and difficulty accessing text. We did not see a difference in their executive functioning compared to typically-developing students in the same grade. Also, the teachers said that the students had a deeper understanding of the text than they usually did in a non-integrated context.

  • Icon for: Richard Hudson

    Richard Hudson

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2016 | 12:35 p.m.

    I enjoyed the novel framing of engineering challenges in student literature. Although I would have liked to see video of the students and their projects, the graphic treatment was a clever work-around. What guides the selection of the books included in the curriculum?

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 16, 2016 | 09:16 p.m.

    Hi Richard,
    We wish we could have shown real students too! This was a work-around for an IRB issue. Since Novel Engineering is not a pre-set curriculum, we work with teacher to identify books that will work for them in their setting. The first criteria is that they like the book and think their students will as well. We’ve found that books that are highly fantastical or magical are not good choices since within the context of those book, a magical, rather than a functional solution, makes sense. Part of the work we do with teachers in professional development is to help them consider various books they already use anticipate what kinds of problems their students will identify. If the teachers are unable to identify engineering problems and possible solutions, then it may not be an appropriate book. We have numerous books and classroom examples (with the faces and work of the students) that help teachers understand appropriate books.
    Elissa

  • Icon for: Isabel Huff

    Isabel Huff

    Program Outreach Coordinator
    May 16, 2016 | 06:08 p.m.

    Stories are such a great way to introduce young learners to engineering! Are you implementing your ideas in language arts classes? Have teachers been open to dedicating time to these activities?

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 16, 2016 | 09:22 p.m.

    Hi Isabel,
    Most of the teachers we have worked with have done this during English language arts, but some have done it during science and history. Teacher response has been amazing. Starting with a book is a great way for teacher that are uncomfortable with engineering to feel confident enough to do it in their classrooms. They have strong backgrounds in ELA and see the engineering as helping their students better understand the text. They are still able to have the same conversations that they usually do around the books, but supplement the conversations with discussions about problems and possible solutions. These conversations lead to discussion about criteria and constraints which means the students need to go back to the text to support their views. Going back to the text is something that teachers want students to do, but there is usually not an authentic reason for students to do so. Teachers see these conversations and the students built solutions as far better than a worksheet that gets at the same information.
    Thanks,
    Elissa

  • Icon for: Julie Steimle

    Julie Steimle

    Program Director, CEEMS
    May 17, 2016 | 07:58 a.m.

    Thank you for your reply. I would imagine that the students would be more engaged in the texts if they were also solving design challenges related to their plots.

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 17, 2016 | 06:03 p.m.

    It’s been pretty great to see the spontaneous conversations that occur where students are working at some point in the engineering design process and are grounding their work in the book.

  • Icon for: Ron Ulseth

    Ron Ulseth

    May 17, 2016 | 09:09 a.m.

    Excellent idea. I’ve worked with so many K-12 teachers who struggle with implementation of engineering principles into their curriculum. Your approach to novel engineering bridges that gap wonderfully.

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 17, 2016 | 06:04 p.m.

    Hi Ron,
    I’ve had the same experience of teacher struggling to implement engineering. With Novel Engineering, they seem to make that leap more easily.

  • Icon for: Richard Hudson

    Richard Hudson

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2016 | 10:28 a.m.

    The new informal science education journal from the NSTA and ASTC, Connected Learning, has a good article on literature and STEM education intersections, here:

    http://csl.nsta.org/2016/03/working-at-the-inte...

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 17, 2016 | 06:04 p.m.

    Thanks, Richard! I will check out the article.

  • Icon for: Robert Tinker

    Robert Tinker

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2016 | 11:13 a.m.

    Sounds like a great idea. If kids at these grades actually engage in design activities you have a partial success. But there are useful and wasteful ways of doing design. Design projects are almost always fun, but limitations in resources and ideas can reduce learning and waste precious class time. This is what killed the progressive educational movement in the 1930s. How are you helping teachers make best use of this idea?

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 19, 2016 | 09:07 a.m.

    Hi Robert,
    We talk with teachers during the PD to address materials and fostering students’ ideas. For materials, we focus on materials that are cheap and readily available. During the PD, the teachers engage in several building activities so they understand how the materials interact with each other which will help them as they facilitate Novel Engineering in their own classrooms. We also talk about focusing on students’ ideas and processes rather than just final products. We do this through modeling when the teachers are the learners and through watching and discussing videos of students working in the classroom so they will be notice the beginnings of engineering in their own students. We work with teachers so they begin to anticipate what their students will be doing as they plan for Novel Engineering experiences in their own classrooms. I think this answers your question, but if I did not address it, please let me know. Elissa

  • Icon for: Jerry Valadez

    Jerry Valadez

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2016 | 03:03 p.m.

    Ditto on most of what has been asked so far. I also wonder what the learning environment for these challenges looks like. Has consideration into the work space, materials, and support for ideation happened? The other videos tell the unwritten story in many cases, so you have the additional challenge in describing what we can’t see.

    Have you had challenges in making the literacy connections to engineering? What have those challenges been so far. What are the strategies you find helpful in making those connections?

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 19, 2016 | 09:22 a.m.

    Hi Jerry,
    We have though a lot about materials, space and support for ideation. We seen a lot of great things and learned a lot from things that have not worked as well. Generally, the classroom looks like a bit chaotic as students are building. The reading part of Novel Engineering looks pretty typical, with the addition of many conversations about problems that occur in the text, why they are problems and for who. There are group conversations about brainstorming and problem scoping that are inherent to engineering design. After numerous whole-class conversations that act to help students deepen their understanding of the text and the design problems, they move to independent work where they pick one problem to work on (in pairs).

    There is an area for materials to be kept and then each pair of students has a work area. We’ve played around with many different materials and have found success with a combination of cheap, easy-to-find materials and some cheap, commercially made ones (Make-Do, metal pulleys, etc.). We want materials that are easily accessible to all schools and classrooms. As part of the process, we have numerous stop along the way when students share their ideas (after planning, mid-way through building) and get feedback from their teacher and peers.

    We have not had many challenges in linking literacy and engineering in this context. This has been the easiest part of the project. Teachers see it as a natural fit and very comfortable leading engineering activities through books. They also see many connections between the writing process and the engineering design process. The strategy we’ve employed for helping them see the connections is for them to do a Novel Engineering activity themselves. In PD, they act as the learners and as we facilitate the activity, we model what they should be do in their own classrooms to make the connections. Also, we show them videos of students doing Novel Engineering so they can see what the integrated approach looks like and what types of things students do.
    Thanks for the questions, Elissa

  • Icon for: Tamara Moore

    Tamara Moore

    Associate Professor, Engineering Education & EngrTEAMS Principal Investigator
    May 18, 2016 | 03:54 p.m.

    Hi Merredith et al.
    In middle school classrooms, what discipline of teacher tends to be interested in implementing Novel Engineering? Do you have pushback in this standards-based world we live in? If so, what is the nature of that pushback and how do you overcome it? These are issues we think about often, and I love your work so I thought maybe we could learn something!
    :) Tamara

  • Icon for: Elissa Milto

    Elissa Milto

    Director of Outreach
    May 19, 2016 | 09:30 a.m.

    Hi Tamara,
    We’ve seen interest mostly from literature teachers, but also history. There has been some pushback, but in middle school the building part of Novel Engineering has been in place of another project that the students usually do. Once the teachers did the project with their kids, they said that it offered more connections to their goals for students than the other ones (diorama, etc.). We have not done as much work in middle school since the funding is for grades 3-5, but were able to expand to other grades to see if Novel Engineering works equally well with older and younger students. I think the biggest thing that helped “win over” middle school has been to show examples of how well Novel Engineering hits standards while students are doing interesting work within an open-ended, project-based context. Also, I think it’s helpful that Novel Engineering is truly interdisciplinary.
    Elissa

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.