In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2014).
Understanding identity, including how young people come to aspire to become someone, is vital to address the underrepresentation of minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We report on a two-year, research project where we designed, implemented, and conducted case study research in an after-school program for inner city, middle school students. The program utilizes the school library, new media activities, and science fiction to engage young people to imagine STEM as relevant in their lives. We focus our analysis on two African-American boys, Damian and Jamal, who are best friends and avid gamers. Despite their similar backgrounds, they show starkly divergent
identity trajectories while participating in our program. We highlight how they experienced different connected-learning activities and social positioning over time, and how these experiences related to Damian’s developing aspiration to become a game designer or scientist, contrasted with Jamal’s struggle to imagine a future in STEM.