Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 IJIMS Students Deliver the N.E.W.S.

For the second summer, students from Fisher Middle School produced a multimedia magazine packed with features on everything from one man's quest to bring the Scratch programming language to Tanzania to a young woman's popular debut novel. The students were rising 7th and 8th graders participating in the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers (IJIMS). Students attended the Institute, held at The College of New Jersey, from July 13-17.

IJIMS is a demonstration project funded by the National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing Program, directed by Dr. Janice Cuny. (Award #0739173) Through the study, a team led by TCNJ professor and principal investigator Ursula Wolz are demonstrating that interactive journalism can be a tool for introducing fundamental computer science concepts into the middle school curriculum.

Last week saw the second IJIMS Summer Institute; the first Institute, held in July, 2008, resulted in the inaugural edition of an online magazine, F.I.S.H. (Fisher's Interesting Stories Here). Between the two summer programs, participating middle school teachers and a growing number of Fisher students continued to work on the magazine, while also using elements of the IJIMS curriculum and tools in their regular course work.

This summer's institute constituted a significant expansion over the previous summer's program in several respects. There were 27 IJIMS campers this summer; last year there were 16. Last year's campers were all rising 8th graders; this years campers were rising 7th and 8th graders. Last year's teachers were language arts and technology teachers -- this year a math teacher is also involved. In addition several of the teachers are developing their own action research projects building upon their IJIMS work.

There was also an expansion in the quantity and scope of the projects produced by the campers. They interviewed Washington lobbyist Nick Manetto, Fox Business News executive Ray Hennessey, Nickelodeon producer Nia Long, TCNJ professor and digital artist Chris Ault, ESPN research Mark Simon, novelist Anna Carey and budding philanthropist Dan Gill. These interviews led to multiple articles, video segments and interactive graphics and games programmed in Scratch. One major change was instigated by the campers - the name of the magazine was changed to N.E.W.S (New Ewing Web Stories)

One special component of this year's program was a videotaped greeting from former President William Jefferson Clinton, who encouraged the campers to make a point of learning something new.

External evaluator Meredith Stone conducted daily surveys, pretests and posttests on the camp participants. The results of those surveys will be made public soon, but they expand upon the positive findings of earlier assessments.

In addition to Wolz, the team includes co-PIs Computer Science professor Monisha Pulimood and English professor Kim Pearson, gender equity specialist and program manager Mary Switzer and external evaluator Meredith K. Stone. Six Fisher teachers participated: Mary DeSimone, Laura Fay, Suzanne Gallagher, Robert Kohut, Marcy Tucker, along with guidance counselor Jill Schwarz. The teachers led the student reporting teams and managed much of the daily supervision of the campers. Six undergraduate assistants helped refine the project's custom content management system, CAFE, created tutorials and model projects, designed kinesthetic activities that reinforced the IJIMS curriculum, and mentored the IJIMS campers. They are Chris Hallberg, Kelli Plasket, Mike Milazzo, Julius Reyes, Tim Sanders and Brett Taylor.

Check out our photo gallery.Photo credits: Chris Dunne, Kelli Plasket, Nik, Steve Thomas

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