DiSTARS Project

Students as Digital Storytellers: a STEAM Approach to Space Exploration

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) education is about engaging students in a multi- and interdisciplinary learning context that values the humanities and the artistic activities, while breaking down barriers that have traditionally existed between different classes and subjects. This trend reflects a shift in how school disciplines are being viewed. It is driven by a commitment to fostering everyday creativity in students, such that they engage in purposive, imaginative activity generating outcomes that are original and valuable for them. While this movement is being discussed almost explicitly in an education context, its roots are embedded across nearly every industry. A renewed interplay between art, science and technology exists. In many ways, technology is the connective tissue.

DiSTARS aims to test a synchronised integration of Art and STEM in the primary curriculum, simulating the ways in which subjects naturally connect in the real world. Combining scientific inquiry with artistic expression (e.g. visual and performing arts), storytelling, and by using the STORIES storytelling platform along with AR and VR technology, the project aims to capture the imagination of young students and provide them with one of their early opportunities for digital creative expression. In spite of the strong gendering of interest in science, research has indicated that the “The possibility of life outside Earth” seems to be equally interesting for girls and boys. Students who will be involved in the project will work collaboratively in groups to express their visions for the future of Space Exploration. Each group of students will create a digital story in the form of an e-book (in a 2D or 3D environment) showing how they imagine a visit to any planet or moon in our solar sytem, the trip, the arrival, the buildings on the planet, the life of humans there. The project will focus at the age range 10 to 12 years old. It is the specific time that in most of the curricula in European Countries (and in the world) the Arts lessons of the curriculum are downgraded from other subjects, including STEM.

More analytically the main objectives of DiSTARS are:

  • to develop a pedagogical framework for integrating arts into STEM activities. Creativity will be supported and blended within project-based and inquiry science education approaches. The proposed framework will guide the teachers during the storytelling interventions towards better realizing their emerging role as coaches of learning
  • to extensively use the STORIES advanced storytelling platform and its innovative VR & AR interfaces to support students in the creation of their digital stories. The STORIES platform was developed, tested and validated in 2019 within the framework an EU research and innovation (RIA) action. It allows for the creations of the students (paintings, models, dioramas and constructions, 3D objects and landscapes, animations, science videos and science theatre plays) to be captured according to their scenarios and be integrated in storylines. These students’ storylines presented on various interfaces (3D Worlds, VR and AR) will be available in the form of interactive ebooks. The platform will be upgraded to inlude besides Mars, the Moon and other planets of our Solar system.
  • to create a series of STEAM hands-on activities that expand students’ knowledge on space exploration and to propose innovative teaching strategies that will offer students high participation, will support deeper learning and will formulate a common set of guidelines on how scientific work can be used to explore “real science” with “story telling as a catalyst”
  • to pilot DiSTARS to real settings in Germany, Austria, Greece, Bulgaria and Portugal.
  • to provide assessment tools that go beyond addressing students’ intellectual ability looking into competences such as collaborative problem-solving, communication etc. that become indicators of deeper learning
  • to promote the project results and communicate the impact and benefits to the different identified target groups

Research in education indicates that a shift is taking place in schools all over the world as learners are exploring subject matter through the act of creation rather than the consumption of content. Honing these skills in learners can lead to deeply engaging learning experiences in which students become the authorities on subjects through investigation, storytelling, and production. DiSTARS as a promoter of this transformation stretches the importance of piloting and evaluating its approach in real settings across Europe.

The main DiSTARS target groups are school communities (including parents), researchers in STEM education and in ICT-based education and ebook developers and publishers. Following the implementation of the project’s activities, the dissemination targets will include educational policy makers as well as curriculum developers.

Project duration: 01Sept2020 – 31Aug2023
Project lead: Universtität Bayreuth

DiSTARS Summer School 2021
Its main objectives are to introduce teachers to the concept of (digital) storytelling, that enjoys a very long tradition in human history, as a catalyst for the effective interaction between Arts and STEM disciplines which share similar values, similar themes and similar characteristics towards promoting students’ Deeper Learning. Furthermore, a new vision for teaching outlining strategies for how teachers’ roles and conditions can support and enable deeper learning for students will be presented.
Moreover, the course will support and facilitate the aforementioned approaches with meaningful digital technologies, such as advanced interfaces, learning analytics, visualization dashboards and Augmented/Virtual reality applications.

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This article is available in: German