1. Jessica DeSpain
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Digital East St. Louis
  4. http://eaststlouisculture.siue.edu
  5. Southern Illinois University IRIS Center, SIUE STEM Center
  1. Matt Johnson
  2. Curriculum Specialist
  3. Digital East St. Louis
  4. http://eaststlouisculture.siue.edu
  5. SIUE STEM Center
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 12:00 a.m.

    Thank you for viewing our video!

    We hope to be able to talk to you this week about our project.

    We would particularly like to discuss the project's humanities and place-based approach to increasing STEM self-efficacy.

    How might you apply the project's methods in your own programs?

     

     

  • Icon for: Sarah Wille

    Sarah Wille

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 11:12 a.m.

    Hi Jessica, thanks so much for sharing your work! I'd love to hear a bit about some of your evaluation findings specific to the youth in the program, and how you've navigated any challenges with sustaining youth participation (give so many young people have such a range of responsibilities and commitments outside of school). 

  • Icon for: Matt Johnson

    Matt Johnson

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 12:40 p.m.

    To add to Jessica's comments:

    I think one thing that helped us sustain participation was taking a participatory design approach with the students and teachers providing feedback and direction throughout the program. While the decision making and specifics were typically handled by us, providing the kids with choices helped ensure their interest and ownership over their work (to whatever extent that can exist for middle school kids), and also engaged the teachers with what they were working on. I'm typically a big fan of student choice.

     
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    Pati Ruiz
    Sarah Wille
  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 11:23 a.m.

    Thank you for your questions, Sarah! Let me first address the issue of sustaining participation. It was a real challenge. We had a core group of students of about 8 who stayed with the program all three years, but a larger, shifting group of about twenty who came in and out or were with the program for only one season. We had major recruitment efforts, including text messaging, post cards, social media, and direct calls to parents at the beginning of each new session. We also held events showcasing student's work with the broader community twice a year. These elements did make a difference. The participants who stayed with the program formed close friendships because of the team-based approach we used, and this kept them coming back week-after-week too.

    We had to be very adaptable. We designed curriculum that would build on itself while also providing some modularity so that participants who had missed several sessions or who were newly joining us could find a way to participate.

     
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    Sarah Wille
  • Icon for: Christopher Atchison

    Christopher Atchison

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 04:59 p.m.

    Jessica and Matt, great project! The video clearly shows the student engagement that you've fostered through your project.   

    I see you've addressed some of the thoughts and challenges on sustaining participation.  What are some of the ways you've adapted your project from the early objectives of your proposal to maintain participation?  Matt discussed adding in choice and ownership; Jessica mentions the development of a close community of learning in team-based approaches.  What do you think the biggest barriers to their continued participation are?  Believe me, you aren't the only ones facing this issue!  Did you try to identify some of these barriers and integrate new strategies for keeping the students engaged longer?  Getting family members involved?  

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 01:41 p.m.

    Great questions, Christopher! When we began the program, we were running it out of a middle school in East St. Louis. We believed strongly that it was important to embed a place-based project in the community. By year three, though, we moved the project fully to the University because it cut down on several logistic issues we were having related to the space. We couldn't guarantee that it would be open, that the computers would work, etc. The participants so benefitted from being on campus. They felt like they were welcome on campus and could imagine themselves as college students in very real ways. 

    In regards to barriers, we had students move out of town, parents who didn't have stable contact numbers, etc. Keeping in constant contact with parents and getting updates info from students helped with this. We also switched to add student numbers into our call log instead of just parents so that they could be in charge of getting themselves where they needed to be.

    We tried several approaches to family member involvement and we tried to conduct family member interviews in-person and over the phone, but we didn't have a lot of luck. We did have a few very dedicated parents who showed up to showcases. Finding a time that worked for parents was always a challenge.

  • Icon for: Christopher Atchison

    Christopher Atchison

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2018 | 07:44 a.m.

    Thank you for responding, Jessica.  I agree that moving it to a location you have better control over was necessary, and I am sure the students gained a stronger sense of confidence being on campus.  However, do you think removing this from their "neighborhood" had an adverse impact?  Barriers with transportation?  Less awareness by not being at the local school?  

    Why do you think it was such a struggle to get parents involved?  A lack of interest?  Time?  Knowledge of the benefit?  

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 08:14 a.m.

    Great follow-ups, Christopher. We were very worried at the time that it would have adverse impacts. We had to use buses for both the earlier middle school site and the SIUE site, and we always had a lot of trouble with transportation: buses not stopping long enough to wait for the kids, buses forgetting certain kids, the list goes on. I was worried that we might lose attendance because the bus had to pick up the participants earlier in the morning to arrive at SIUE on time, so we moved the program back by a half-hour, and that helped. 

    There were several days when we had immersive activities planned. For instance, participants were collecting soil and water samples, doing interviews at local restaurants, and shooting B-roll for their documentaries. On those days, depending on our transportation needs, we often just picked up the participants in East St. Louis and then split up into smaller groups to do our work through various parts of the city. We drove to specific neighborhoods, got off the buses, walked around, and filmed. One day, the participants just happened upon the new owner of Miles Davis's house for instance, and were able to conduct an impromptu interview and learn about their plans for opening a new center for youth on the site.

    That work was always our most fruitful. The middle school was on the far edge of town, so it too felt isolated, and because East St. Louis is a very long city, no matter what we were planning in the community, we had to use those buses. In our first summer, students used GIS technology to create digital walking tours of the city parks, so we had one bus drop off teams of students with program leaders at each park and circle back for the first one's they'd dropped off. It was necessary for participants to be on-foot frequently to get the images, video, and ambient sounds they needed for their projects. 

    We also tried to host programming at the University's East St. Louis Center, which has a Charter School, but we ran into many of the same scheduling and equipment troubles there. The participants are a resilient bunch, and they are used to things not working, doors being closed, etc., etc., but when we were finally able to get to a place they felt they had some ownership of and get to work, it was amazing how excited they became about the project and how much they were able to accomplish over a relatively shorter period. At the University, I initially reserved one classroom for them, but the participants eventually took over an entire wing on one floor. They decided one room was best for food (and that they could watch part of a movie on the projector as they ate), one computer lab was better for collaboration, and one was better for quiet work. 

    As a result, we realized our initial instincts about the spaces where the participants would feel like they had control and some ownership over their work were faulty. The University turned out to be a much more empowering space for them, and it also meant that it was a place they could seem themselves returning to later. As a project ABOUT space, this was a surprise to us too, and it seemed like one of our most relevant observations.

    One of our spin-off projects, which engages high-school students from SIUE's Charter School, now brings the students to campus weekly four a 45-minute digital humanities club for that reason, even though it would be much easier to run the project on-site.

  • Icon for: Christopher Atchison

    Christopher Atchison

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2018 | 12:44 p.m.

    Such an amazing story, Jessica.  Congratulations!  Tough to share this message in a three-minute video!  How else are you sharing your great work?  

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 11:56 a.m.

    Our lead researcher, Dr. Georgia Bracey worked with Hezel Associates to design pre- and post-assessments of participant learning as well as rubrics assessing participant products. Dr. Bracey is still finalizing the data, but I can tell you about some of our informal findings. Our main research questions were:

    1. To what extent does participation in the program produce a change in students’ abilities to express understandings and perceptions of their community from various perspectives?

    2. To what extent does participation in the program produce an increase in student STEM self-efficacy and an increase in student competence in using specialized technology tools?

    3. To what extent does participation in the program increase student awareness of the diversity of IT and computing careers?

    4. To what extent does participation in the program increase students’ experimentation with digital humanities programs?

    5. To what extent does participation in the program motivate students to make decisions supporting successful entry into STEM education pathways?

    The research team used pre- and post-evaluations for a quantitative assessment, but especially because of the smaller size of the program, qualitative interviews were the most valuable tools for assessing the program's outcomes. Matt may want to add some additional comments about the quantitative analysis.

    Our preliminary reports from the qualitative analysis indicate that "Overall, engagement in this program has changed students' perceptions of their community, both increasing their sense of pride of the community’s culture and history, while also providing students with a desire to share newly developed knowledge sets surrounding East St. Louis' history and culture with members of their community and beyond."

    Also, in regards to technology aptitude and interest, "Overall, students reported feeling more confident in their computer skills now than prior to joining the program. They are able to speak more comfortably about the technologies and use them more effectively. When talking about their growth, one student commented,'It's fun. My first day it was a struggle. Then I got used to it. It was getting easy. I  didn't know how to do it at first until they taught us more about it and that’s when I got used to it.'”

     
  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 10:36 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing the research questions and I look forward to reading your formal findings. I am especially curious to learn more about questions three and four as well as the integration of these contents across the curriculum - which it seems like this program does well.

    Have you thought about partnering with other (and former) STEM Video Hall participants like EarSketch when it comes to the technology that is used?

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 01:15 p.m.

    Pati,

    Though I can't speak for Matt, I hadn't come across EarSketch before, what a fascinating project! During the course of DESTL, we used a lot of established coding and digital humanities tools (the project was based in Omeka, which is a Content Management System developed by George Mason University, for example). As the project continues to evolve, we hope to develop similar collaborations.

     
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    Pati Ruiz
  • Icon for: Matt Johnson

    Matt Johnson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 01:33 p.m.

    I had only recently become aware of the EarSketch project and would have loved to be able to have it be a part of our program. I'd been thinking about it in relation to some STEAM projects that have been discussed, but don't know why I didn't immediately connect it to the Digital Humanities clubs that Jessica and colleagues have been running. I'll have to put some additional thought to that and see if it might be a good fit for the high school group. Thanks for the suggestion Pati!

     
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    Pati Ruiz
  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 06:53 p.m.

    I recently used EarSketch in my high school (all girl's) CS class and they really enjoyed it!

  • May 16, 2018 | 01:33 p.m.

    This seems like such a terrific program for building interest and hope in STEM and the humanities.  I love the way students are so evidently engaged/  Congratulations on this work.  What comes next on the research side for this project?

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 01:46 p.m.

    Hi Eric! We are in the final stage of formalizing our findings and submitting articles about the project. This las year we also began two spin-off pilot programs to investigate sustainable options for replicating and expanding our work.

  • Icon for: Katie Widmann

    Katie Widmann

    Graduate Student
    May 16, 2018 | 05:29 p.m.

    This is great project!  It's wonderful how these kids are able to put their community into their own words, rather than listen to the words of others.

    How do you see these kids grow, change, or evolve as they go through the program, both for one-timers and for repeat attenders?

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 05:43 p.m.

    Hi Katie! 

    In the case of the longterm participants, we saw so much growth. Practically, they all learned how to troubleshoot HML and CSS code. They also learned skills of organization, collaboration, and critical thinking. By the final year, they entered on Saturday knowing exactly what they wanted to accomplish for the day and setting their own goals. Overtime, I heard several of them say how much they wanted to be able to communicate their own experiences in their community with a broader public. In Summer 2017, participants met with professionals to workshop their sites, and it was one of the most exciting days of the program. They showcased their work, learned from constructive criticism, and substantially changed their projects based on the feedback they received.

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 05:47 p.m.

    In regards to shorter term participants, because of the modular design of the curriculum, even in one day they could learn about podcasting, videography, audio editing, interviewing, or GIS technology.

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    D. McCoy

    May 17, 2018 | 10:24 a.m.

    I loved watching these sweet beautiful children so engaged and learning. I liked when Ms. Parks said that the young man was one our current champions. There's a reason that we are a city of champions. And it has to do with the many connections throughout the area.

  • Icon for: Jessica DeSpain

    Jessica DeSpain

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 07:54 a.m.

    Yes, D. McCoy! Thank you for your comment. The kids learned so much about their city, and everyone in the community was so glad to give an interview and let them film video. They learned that they lived in a tightly knit community with a history worth preserving!

  • Icon for: Michael Briscoe

    Michael Briscoe

    Researcher
    May 21, 2018 | 02:31 p.m.

    Such a wonderful way to engage students! What is the web address of the  digital humanities website? I would love to share that resource locally so our students could see the work of their peers and work in a similar fashion.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.