Contests as a Catalyst for Content Creation

From The Theme

What if youth were actively creating and sharing educational web-based content, learning from their own practice and from the work of others?

We set out to study how various contest structures foster the creation of science content by K-12 students. We partnered with an online learning community in Maine called Vital Signs ( to explore three models of online engagement motivations and participation incentives for middle schoolers: chance, competition and altruism. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, we also investigated students’ choices of learning resources and the role of teachers and community in encouraging participation.

Results of this research suggest that well-designed contests can motivate and energize youth engagement, creativity and collaboration. Prizes generate participation. Effective processes included those that encourage students to produce content, engage in discussion and respond to feedback. Team collaboration enhanced performance. Teacher participation and influence are essential. Positive effects were evidenced from teacher and classroom involvement, community visibility and support, and multi-school networked learning communities.

mediaX Research Project Update, Fall 2013

mediaX Research Theme Update, Spring 2013

Brigid Barron is a Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include Access and Equity, Community/Youth Development and Organizations, Design Experiments, Equity in the Development of Technological Fluency, Family Issues, School as a Context of Human Development, Small Group Instruction and Interaction and Technology in Teaching and Learning.

Caitlin K. Martin is a Lead Researcher for Digital Youth Network. Since 2005 she has been studying DYN learning environments, looking at the impact and outcomes of participation in DYN opportunities for youth, adult educators, and local communities. Caitlin also works as a lead researcher and designer in the Learning Ecologies Group (youthLAB) at Stanford University, facilitating a collaboration between the two synergistic groups.

Sarah Morrisseau received her MA in Environmental Education from the University of New Hampshire in 2005. Since then she has developed web projects and online learning environments for a variety of education organizations, citizen science projects, non-profits, and businesses. At the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, she was part of the Vital Signs online learning platform development team.

Christine Voyer facilitates the learning community’s growth and evolution for Vital Signs. She supports educators through professional development and curriculum development, and works with students and citizens on the ground and through the Vital Signs website. She is driven by a commitment to providing relevant and authentic experiences that inspire and empower learners to make a difference in the world.

Sarah Kirn is Education Programs Strategist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Sarah believes that every student deserves exciting experiences with authentic scientific investigations that let him or her develop rather than lose their natural curiosity. She builds collaborations with like-minded organizations, individuals, learning researchers, and education professionals in state and nationally to strengthen our programs and increase their reach and impact.

Mohamed Yassine received his MA in Learning, Design and Technology from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2013. At the GSE, his interests were Learning Communities, Design Thinking, Citizen Science, Liberation Technologies and Computer Science Education. Since 2013, he has worked in global education projects, most recently for the World Bank.