USA Rural High School Students Creating Safe Spaces to Develop Community-Focused Techno-Social Projects

Conference: The Paris Conference on Education (PCE2022)
Title: USA Rural High School Students Creating Safe Spaces to Develop Community-Focused Techno-Social Projects
Stream: Education, Sustainability & Society: Social Justice, Development & Political Movements
Presentation Type: Virtual Poster Presentation
Sabrina De Los Santos Rodriguez, TERC, United States
Anya Carbonell, Boston University, United States
Maria Ong, TERC, United States
Michael Cassidy, TERC, United States
Kimberly Scott, Arizona State University (ASU), United States
Tara Nkrumah, Arizona State University (ASU), United States


This paper describes a techno-social justice program (Scott, 2021) across six rural high schools in Arizona, USA between 2019 and 2021. We explore how students developed safe spaces in their classrooms while creating community-focused projects using technology. Projects included a website on environmental justice awareness, where visitors were encouraged to calculate their carbon footprint and challenged to lower it; a social media site on mental health awareness, where students were asked to pledge to take seriously their own and their peers’ mental health; and a website dedicated to providing students with more power, resulting in the establishment of a student council.

Our research team conducted a qualitative, retrospective interview study with 18 high school students who participated in CompuPower as sophomores (ages 15-16). During hour-long interviews, we employed a photo-elicitation technique (Harper, 2002), showing students the work they completed in the year prior to respond to specific aspects of their projects. Our research questions included: 

-What topics did students choose for their projects and why?
-What community changes were students trying to achieve, and what were the outcomes? 
-In what ways did students feel they were able to express themselves and explore their identities and communities through their projects?   

Our findings have implications for addressing and developing student-centered programs exploring identity and community. We suggest these programs develop a safe space environment for students to feel empowered to engage in deeper discussions of project topics, leading to more meaningful and impactful community projects.

Virtual Presentation

Virtual Poster Presentation

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