By Toby Tomlinson Baker
Every Saturday, teen students from around the globe log onto Zoom. Some join at the break of dawn in their pajamas, some join mid-day before lunch, and others join as the sun is setting at the end of a very long day. But each of these students is eager to join the International Community for Collaborative Content Creation, known as IC4. Most of these students have been part of IC4 for several years. They come together from the United States, Kenya, Namibia, Brazil, Mexico, Cameroon, Finland, Iran, and India. But why? What is IC4?
IC4 is a community of student media makers who collaborate and create STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) projects with their peers from around the world. It merges the practices of authentic learning, culture, and collaboration, and provides a digital maker space for students in grades 6 through 12. Their goal is simple: IC4 empowers each student to take on a leadership role in STEM innovation.
Saturday Zoom meetings with IC4 welcome 20-40 students. One student, Robert, from the U.S. said, “I wanted to see how many people around the world like the same things that I do.” Robert spent two months building a block-based coding Scratch game, which he anticipates completing during his summer break. “I can fix all of the bugs that are in my game right now.”
Students in IC4 choose to be part of this innovative mediamaking club so they can develop their ideas and create artifacts that the world can use. Jose, a student from Mexico stated, “I love our presentations from IC4, and I like to socialize. We can do our presentations about whatever we want to do! That is one of the reasons I love IC4! My favorite presentation was about the Theory of Relativity of Albert Einstein, which is the most important theory in history.” Jose added, “The community of IC4 is very friendly.”
Students from Mexico and Brazil also code, build robots, build Arduinos, invent new devices, develop new apps, and make videos. Not only do they create these projects, but a key point of IC4 is to facilitate student collaboration. Monica, a student from Mexico stated, “I have collaborated with a Kenyan student and a student from the United States. It was one of my favorite projects because there is one person for each country solving all the problems of our Python coding project.”
When students create a project they would like to share with the other IC4 students, they prepare a presentation to share at the Zoom meeting or meetup. After the students attend an initial meetup to discuss their STEM topic, they may discover that they have common areas of interest, such as the environment, engineering, and coding.
Scheduling meetups can be tricky due to varying time zones and school schedules. Each meetup begins with introductions by the student meetup facilitator, as opposed to a teacher or adult researcher, since the students are the main focus of IC4. One student leader from Kenya, Beth, began leading IC4’s meetups when she was only 17 and has been a student meetup leader for four years. Later, Beth graduated from Pwani University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, and her love of STEM topics is evident when she leads a meetup. Beth is passionate about connecting students from various countries to work together and create artifacts that will change the future.
Students use the Slack platform to communicate across different continents. A Brazilian student said, “I was supposed to do a project about the Brazilian Culture with a few of the African students from Kenya, but that didn't work out. So, I ended up working with Nanci from the United States on the cloning project.” This turned out to be a positive experience for both students.
IC4 meetings are not limited to STEM innovations. An IC4 student from Brazil, is an award-winning filmmaker for her international film entitled, “The Amazonia Needs You.” This student believes that a person’s skills are gained through effort. She says that “knowledge is acquired through the passage of experiences. I believe that the IC4 meetings are further fueling my knowledge and intelligence.” in the IC4 community, this student film-maker is known for her research on a tea native to Brazil, Yerba Mate and its origins.
Students from Mexico feel that they learn more from students from other countries, particularly about other student’s cultures. IC4 students have the opportunity learn from their partners. One student from Mexico stated that his favorite project was a presentation about the history of Mexican candies, that he completed with another student from Kenya. Since these students connected, they collaborated on another project about the effects of solar energy. “I really like to think about the other languages and learn from others, and what's happening around the world.”
Ana, a student from Mexico has worked with Robert and other students from Brazil and Kenya and created a video project about COVID-19. When Ana first joined IC4, she was a bit apprehensive. As English is not Ana’s native language, she liked working on her communication skills and does not regret joining IC4, as it is helped to improve her communication skills, particularly, speaking in English.
Many of these students’ projects were featured in the National Science Foundation funded STEM For All Video Showcase of 2021 available at https://stemforall2021.videohall.com/. Of 287 video submissions, IC4 won recognition for both Presenters Choice and Public Choice! This is a win for each of the very-talented students who are IC4 community members and are passionate about STEM. These students know that by being part of IC4, they are not only media makers-they are global change makers.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1612824. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.