The American engineering pipeline requires future workers to possess a unique skill set, comprised of content knowledge and 21st century skills, to recruit highly skilled, globally competitive engineers. Generally, 21st century skills are defined as the ability to think critically, communicate, collaborate in teams, and creatively solve problems. These skills are pertinent in training future engineers provided engineering utilizes the application of scientific knowledge within an inherently collaborative modality (the engineering design process). One component of developing 21st century skills and engineering competencies is the need for students to broaden their global awareness. Hence, American K-12 teachers are actively seeking opportunities for their students to collaborate with their international peers in an engineering context. One emergent pedagogical strategy is engaging in global K-12 collaborations in engineering in which K-12 students collaborate with international counterparts (another K-12 classroom/s or engineering expert/s), using the engineering design process, to create collaborative engineering solutions (projects). Because of the social complexity of global K-12 collaborations in engineering, the efficacy of these endeavors varies. This paper proposes Activity theory (AT) as a theoretical framework to analyze global K-12 collaborations in engineering. The authors use AT, in the context of an elementary-level U.S./Thai global collaboration, to document the experience and describe the activity. Using student, teacher, and expert created documents from the collaboration, the efficacy of the activity (student learning outcomes) were evaluated and then applied to AT. The rules, division of labor and community were found as areas that presented challenges to achieving successful outcomes within the activity system. This paper provides classroom teachers a roadmap for designing more successful global collaborations for K-12 engineering and 21st century skill development.
Hite, Rebecca and Thompson, Christopher J.
"Activity Theory as Theoretical Framework for Analyzing and Designing Global K-12 Collaborations in Engineering: A Case Study of a Thai-U.S. Elementary Engineering Project,"
Journal of International Engineering Education:
1, Article 5.