Friday, January 29, 2010

IJIMS in Twenty Seconds

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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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Friday, May 29, 2009

Reflections from the 2008 IJIMS Team!

To create IJIMS, six undergraduate students (of varying backgrounds) were brought into the collaboration process of bringing computer programming to middle school students.

Here are their reflections:

Becky Bernot:: I hadn’t imagined that there would be many situations in my undergraduate career where I would be called to draw upon my dual background in mathematics and journalism. The Interactive Journalism Institute does just that: it seeks to bridge the gap between traditionally writing-dependent careers and the computing disciplines, two fields that were ostensibly at odds in the past but now have become increasingly codependent.

Andrew Chiusano: I believe that working with students and faculty from other disciplines has let me learn new ideas beyond my major. Also, working on a project that will actually go into use has let me learn valuable new skills that are not taught in class. I now have practical experience working with others to implement a computer system that meets the goals of a larger project.

Dan Gill: Having a strong computer science background, I really enjoy how accepting the children have been to programming using interactive animations, and how quickly they learned new things.

Scott Keiffer: As journalism major, I spent a lot of time analyzing new ways of doing interactive journalism and storytelling. As media moves steadily to the web, this kind of technology expertise will be valuable. I made projects such as interactive magazines and timelines to explain stories in a visual way.

Brett Taylor: I think that I’m taking a lot away from this program, which is infinitely more than I expected I would. I look forward to continuing with this program next year. I now know I’ve only begun learning about the topic that may actually be an extremely helpful asset with my (rather ambitious) plans for the future!

According to faculty collaborator Kim Pearson, IJIMS came through with a stream of thoughts and concerns. She said, “We started brainstorming the relationship between computer science and journalism.” As reflected by these student collaborators-IJIMS did just that!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Scott Kieffer: Journalistic Scavenger Hunts: Fun Teaching Tool

Scott Kieffer is a graduating senior at The College of New Jersey who worked as a research collaborator and mentor-counselor for the IJIMS summer camp. This article appeared on the Poynter Institute E-Media Tidbits blog on Dec. 9, 2008. 

"Scavenger hunts may seem like an odd choice for journalism education, but they were precisely what I needed this past summer to help train a group of young journalists.

I developed this offbeat idea as a member of theInteractive Journalism Institute for Middle-Schoolers. IJIMS (a group of faculty and students from The College of New Jersey), ran a two-week summer program for teachers and students from a local middle school. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the program was a collaboration of journalists and programmers. Our goal was to teach the middle school students the skills to build an online magazine...."

Read the whole post

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Slides from presentation at Scratch@MIT conference

From the Scratch@MIT conference July 24-26, 2008

Scratch in the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle School Students

Ursula Wolz, Kim Pearson, Mary Switzer, Monisha Pulimood, Meredith Stone

Our presentation was accompanied by a iWork Keynote presentation that included 2 videos. The media were designed for a live presentation, not for the web. Consequently these documents are large and will take time to load. They consist of:

The video introduction we did is over a half gig. A web version is also forthcoming. Email for a copy of the draft if you are anxious to see it.

Related Resources:

Cafe: Is the collaborative system we built through which the IJIMs middle school teachers and students created the interactive journalism site "F.I.S.H.". If you would like to explore how CAFE works, please send a request for permission to view the site contents to ijims AT

Is the online journal the Fisher teachers and students created in two weeks this summer! They chose the name collaboratively. The teachers helped us create the layout. The teachers and students are anxious to continue working on F.I.S.H. during the school day rather than just at twice monthly after school sessions. We are renegotiating with them how to do this. Their enthusiasm over working on F.I.S.H. far exceeded our project goals. They are able to articulate how journalism, video production and computer programming require the same set of design skills and are eager to continue to program in Scratch to facilitate journalistic goals. Enjoy F.I.S.H.

Kim’s journalism gallery: Contains examples of using Scratch for journalistic purposes. Note in particular the comment thread that has spun from the project "Effects of CO2". This kind of dialog that mixes commentary about news issues in the context of programming is exactly the kind of dialog we are looking for to entice students who would not necessarily think of themselves as "computer types" into participating in computer science. Its getting kids to think about how to create solutions to real problems (as well as illustrate them) with real computing skills.

Quicktime cand be downloaded here.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

From the BPC community meeting, Charlotte, North Carolina, Feb. 8-10, 2009

Our IJIMS project is part of the National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing Program, a national effort to enlarge and diversify the pipeline for computing professionals. While our project is fairly unusual in its focus on middle-schoolers and its use of journalism as a tool for engaging students in computer science, we are part of a national community of education, government and industry professionals who share a similar mission.

At the BPC conference, I had a conversation with Jane Margolis, an educational researcher from UCLA, whose book, Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race and Computing explores why we are still failing to attract sufficient numbers of students of color to computer science. Margolis told me that many schools are "technology rich" but "curriculum poor," partially because of a shortage of qualified teachers, but also because narrow beliefs about who is capable of being a computer scientist:

Andrew Williams is a computer science professor at Spelman College, a historically black college for African American women, who beat the odds to become a robotics engineer. Williams not only led a team of Spelman undergrads to victory in the prestigious international Robocup competition, he is spearheading a the multi-school, multi-state Artsi Alliance, which engages students from middle school through college in robotics. His book: Out of the Box: Building Robots, Changing Lives, recounts his inspirational journey.

For more information about the full range of programs funded by BPC, check out the BPC Portal.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The IJIMS project at a glance

Overview: Journalism has undergone a profound shift due to the Internet and now provides the potential to engage students who might not see themselves as “computing types.” Our goal is to develop middle school student interest in 21st century writing, media, math and computing skills to motivate and prepare them for careers in computing rich fields.

There is an acute shortage of skilled professionals in the computing disciplines. Research shows that adolescents are influenced in their career path decisions by personal experience, their families and teachers rather than their peers or the media. By directly engaging students who do not necessarily view themselves as “computing types” our program is designed to change their perspective on career options in the expanding computing disciplines. Our student recruiting procedures explicitly identified the students who have a creative bent in visual media and writing as opposed to those who have been identified as successful in the traditional math and science classroom.

The Summer Institute:
A partnership between The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Fisher Middle School, Ewing NJ, five TCNJ faculty, five undergraduate students, and five Fisher Teachers spent a week in July experiencing the news room of the future in preparation for the following week in which they would collaborate with 16 rising 8th graders. During the five day institute for the middle schoolers, teams consisting of 3 or 4 young people, a middle school teacher and an undergraduate planned for and conducted interviews, edited video, selected still images, created interactive animations and wrote prose to assemble five feature stories for the first edition of F.I.S.H., (Fisher Interesting Stories Here). The online journal was launched on the last day of the institute and can be viewed at F.I.S.H. was constructed using the “CAFÉ” (collaboration and facilitation environment) content management system developed at TCNJ by our team.

The Team:
TCNJ Faculty: Ursula Wolz, Computer Science & Interactive Multimedia, Kim Pearson, Journalism & Interactive Multimedia, Monisha Pulimood, Computer Science, Mary Switzer, gender/equity specialist, Meredith Stone evaluator, Fisher Middle School: Barbara Brower, Principal, Jill Schwarz, Guidance, Jean Gardner, Suzanne Gallagher, Laura Fay, and Mary Smith, Teachers. TCNJ Undergraduates: Andrew Chiusano, Rebecca Bernot, Daniel Gill, Scott Kieffer, Brett Taylor, Nancy Sai.

At the close of the week, both the Fisher students and teachers were interviewed as part of our formal study. The students reported that they had had FUN and
  1. learned to program animations;
  2. learned and applied good interviewing techniques;
  3. learned and applied good writing techniques;
  4. learned and successfully used Café, and 5) many also reported that they learned to make videos and use computer software to edit the videos.
Their product, the FISH online journal, verifies the student self-reports. The majority of students thought the most important things they learned were animation, programming and video editing. Half of the students reported that their best work was programming animation, and half reported their best work was interviewing and/or writing their news article. Polled on self-assessment of what they accomplished, their sense of accomplishment increased each day.
On Friday having filed their stories on FISH, their average rating was 4.63 on a five point scale, where “5” designated “an amazing amount.” Comments included: “I did more than I ever thought I could do,” “I learned how to do multiple things with the computers,” “I never knew I’d be able to learn this.”

The teachers were also interviewed at the end of their two-week experience. They were amazed at the students’ motivation, hard work and the “professionalism” of the finished product. Asked how this differed from their usual teaching they said: This week is totally different. I am a player, not the director. And I actually sort of like not being in charge. It takes that burden off of me. We don’t often give them this kind of time for discovery learning. It’s just been joyful being here” Asked what they thought about the overall success of the project: “It’s been wonderful! I see it as an initiating event that can be life-changing for my Fisher kids. And it’s just opening up a whole new world for them. They are really getting an understanding of computer science and an understanding of the power of the internet, and the power of the computer age we are living in—all in a very positive way.” “Of course, these are the tools the kids should be working with in school. They know, and we know, that to have them working with paper and pencil in this day and age is archaic. These are the tools they will be using in their future, no matter what careers they choose.” “This stuff is too good not to teach it to ALL the kids.”

Next Step: In the coming academic year we will support the Fisher teachers and students in bi-monthly after school sessions to continue FISH. We had the long term goal after two years to see teachers begin to incorporate interactive journalism into the regular school day. Our significant result is that after only two weeks of summer experience the teachers, on their own, are incorporating interactive journalism into their curricula, supporting student work on FISH throughout the school day, and proactively engaging their colleagues in adapting curriculum and teaching style to facilitate 21st century learning.

Results reported by independent evaluator Meredith K. Stone, report compiled by Ursula Wolz