The Digital Learning and Leadership team (DLL) is constantly looking for new ways to engage youth in conversations around intersections between technology and society. In doing this work, our youth often identify issues within society related to technology and its access, advancement, and usage within communities of Black and Latino residents. This year’s Black History Month, DLL took a keen focus on how technology is being used to speak out against injustices enacted upon people of color and took part in the Black Lives Matter Week of Action across our sites.
The Black Lives Matter Week of Action is a national movement within public schools where, for one whole week during the academic year, youth and educators alongside one another explore contemporary issues through protest, explorative lesson planning, interactive workshops, and projects all geared towards building understanding for the movement.
At Q300 Middle School in Queens, students in the DLL program played through a video game created by a woman by the name of Momo Pixel who is a Black woman who moved to Seattle to work for a tech company and quickly noticed how people treated her hair and herself. The students were able to learn about micro-aggressions and how not all racism is overt and simple to point out. Sometimes, it is the little things that go unnoticed.
5th Grader Katherine playing Hair Nah by Momo Pixel at Q300
Now over to Flatbush, at PS/IS 109 Glenwood Academy of Science and Technology, where the Week of Action took over of the school's loudspeaker system, stages, and projection screens in order to display Black historical achievement for the school's population to enjoy. Over the loudspeaker, they played music such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and gave daily announcements of how Black history was made so that these youth could have more opportunity than those who came before them.
Being that the school serves 80% Black youth, many students explained how they never knew about much of the music and history of visual imagery that was used to create disinformation on Black culture. Students explored the music video by Childish Gambino to talk about what exactly is a Minstrel show and why imagery such as this is used to tell a story about being Black in America. As well, students explored the history of film and television and how in today's time Black people have much more opportunity in terms of rights to IP’s (intellectual property). We discussed why a movie like Marvel’s Black Panther took so long to be made.
Finally, students at the Glenwood Academy viewed a presentation on the Junior Scholars Program located at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to talk about how Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) got his start in education and the overall importance of lifting the voices of your own people truly is.
Image sourced from the The New York Public Library’s Official Website under Schomburg Fellowship and Education Programs
Last but not least, back in Queens at John Adams High School, students explore this and more within their other Global Kids programs. In fact, the students were so motivated by the game made by Momo Pixel that a diverse group of students consisting of South Asian, American, Black, and Latino students all came together to develop video games that point to even more issues affecting our world and culture today. They each agree that the work being done is only a step in the larger work towards equity and equality and they enlisted themselves in this mission, even if they still choose goofy photo poses.
High schoolers in GK’s Game Makers Crew from John Adams Community High School
This year at PS 96, our community school in East Harlem, we have a whole new curriculum that has elementary schoolers excited about technology. We are partnering with teachers in classrooms, getting laptops into the hands of our youth and introducing them to other fancy equipment at least once a week. So far, the students have been able to learn a little bit about how computers work, and have used them to create several cool projects such as logos, profiles, and slideshows.
All of the students at PS 96 are provided with school email addresses through Gmail. This gives them access to all of Google’s services across the Google Suite. By now, all 3rd and 4th graders know how to send, reply to, and forward emails using Gmail. They also know how to create and share documents using Google Drive for purposes of collaboration.
All students have each created a profile that only they can edit. They are each shared in the class folder which means each classroom has its own online community. We plan on expanding on this community much more by compiling their work and giving them the options to give feedback through Google Drive.
Overall, these “tech residencies” are mainly about giving the students the necessary skills to navigate this changing world and equipping them to feel confident in all that they pursue. It is also about building excitement and curiosity about technology so that the students go out and learn more on their own. With these skills they will be able to search the internet safely and also to be content creators, exploring important issues and educating their peers.
The first module was about building basic computer and internet skills. The students got familiar with keyboard shortcuts, customizing text, and they learned new vocabulary. We also used pencilmadness.com to create logos which helped to build the students’ motor skills with the mouse. The students now have the skills they need to create documents from scratch as well as edit and share.
The next module is about digital citizenship. The students will learn about building an identity online, and understand what information is okay to share and how to be safe online. PS 96 is also equipped with 3D printers so we plan on ending the next module by building a 3D model of the internet. This will give students an opportunity to explore technology far beyond computers.
Outside of the tech residencies, we have created Global Tech Music, an afterschool workshop that bridges technology and music. Students are using computer software to create beats and record songs right in the classroom. The songs are about global topics such as immigration, and there are a few where students got to express some their own personal struggles. This workshop will also give students the opportunity to use the internet to promote their music, and to curate an event. We would like to have the students in the workshop put on their own hip hop event complete with performances and a cypher.
Author: Naomi, Girl Hack Trainer
This September, Girl Hack kicked off at six high schools across New York City, bringing together students interested in digital media and technology for a year of creating fun, original, socially conscious media projects!
Students started the year by getting to know each other and creating mind maps about what they hope to learn and do in Girl Hack, and what they want Girl Hack to be, for them and their communities. A few ideas came up time and again: this group is motivated by feminism, video games, keeping up with the news, coding, and staying woke about equal rights issues for girls and women! We also talked about how this work can support individual students' college and career goals, and heard from students who are interested in pursuing everything from fashion to veterinary school to law to the military! Along with these conversations, we started to discuss the concepts of intersectionality and the importance of equitable representation in media, posing the questions: How do we want to be represented in media? How can we help ensure that groups we don't personally identify with also get fair representation?
[Caption: Starting our year at Girl Hack with group conversations and mind mapping!]
For their first project of the year, students dipped their toes in the world of graphic design and got to work making incredible posters to let their schools know about Girl Hack and why everyone should want to join. We quickly got busy putting these beautiful designs up around the schools. Girl Hack represent!
[Caption: A sampling of the amazing posters designed by Girl Hack students this fall!]
From there, we dove deeper with our graphic design skills. We checked out ad campaigns from around the world, discussing how a single image can tell a story, and thinking critically about who is represented, who is missing, and why. In this vein of storytelling images, we moved on to read comic books, discuss heroes' origin stories, and created our very own superheroes and everyday heroes fighting for causes students care about, like the environment, disability awareness, bullying, and more.
[Caption: Sample covers and panels from the first generation of Girl Hack comic books!]
For our next unit, Girl Hack students are discussing bodily autonomy and what rights teens, girls, and women have around the world when it comes to making decisions about their bodies. We'll be creating podcasts that explore these issues and tell the stories of people who have been impacted--stay tuned!
Author: Matthew, Senior DLL Trainer
Over the summer, DLL had an opportunity to work with New York Department of Education Computer Science for All team. From August 13th to 17th at John Jay College, DLL trainers Marcus, Ahmed, and Matthew led professional development workshops for DOE educators.
In past instances working with CS4ALL, we’ve taught curriculum of our own design. This time, however, we were happy to have the opportunity to teach curriculum created as a collaborative effort between CS4ALL and partner organizations. The result was a PD that complemented CS4ALL pedagogy with GK’s practical experience and technical expertise.
It’s always inspiring to see educators’ “aha” moments as they realize how to incorporate computer science concepts into their course content to make an engaging and productive experience for young people. We look forward to working more with CS4ALL in the future! Stay tuned for more information regarding upcoming trainings with CS4ALL in 2019!
Houston Haunts PD
This month, Global Kids took our Haunts NYC curriculum just a little bit more global. We here on the Digital Learning and Leadership team (DLL) are happy to announce that this work has made it to Houston! From June 4th to the 8th, Dr. Elizabeth Bishop and myself, Marcus Del Valle, took a trip down to The African American Library located at the Gregory School in the 4th Ward of Houston, Texas to deliver a training to the oral historian and archivist of the Gregory school as well as the staff of Houston’s own CollegeCommunityCareer and teachers from the Houston Independent School District.
Developed by Global Kids alongside the New York Public Library (NYPL) in 2011, Haunts NYC is a STEAM based learning program where participants create a mobile, geo-locative augmented reality game that explores local history and contemporary issues within a particular neighborhood of NYC. Interactive media is continuously growing as a field of scholarly pursuit and a resource for classroom teachers. Global Kids uses the theories fueling our Haunts and Playing 4 Keeps programs to advance game design in the classroom and used it to build global competencies and activist games about a plethora of topics.
So, what does four days of Haunts training look like in Houston Texas?
Crayons, coffee, air conditioning, chart paper, (not pictured) a whole bunch of legos.
Every day we focused on a new exciting point of the curriculum. We first did the work of discovering the issues impacting public education in Houston. Afterwards, we taught the theory of Games for Change and made the argument for games as a powerful teaching tool inside the classroom. We then split into two teams, determined by the topics of our games, conducted the research, learned how to write for game narratives, and finally became the programmers of our projects.
On Day One we used a systems change analysis tool, to analyze the drivers and barriers of success for youth within the Houstonian education system. The levels of analysis included the individual, relational, unit and/or programmatic affects, institutional and inter-institutional relationships and finally the ecosystem of the education in Houston as a whole. What we found was that the youth of New York and Houston are facing similar challenges. Heavy teacher turnover is making teacher to student relations a challenge, there is a lack of safe spaces, resources and supplies for youth, and of course funding are just some of the barriers that Houston youth are currently experiencing.
This is what a completed systems change analysis looks like.
On Day Two, we began the work of the educator. As a digital leader, more specifically, we answered the question: how does one teach using games? The answer to that question is simple: you teach youth to re-imagine the world they live in, digitally, and then you tell stories in that world.
This is what a room full of educators becoming game designers looks like.
On Day Three, we became historical researchers, narrative designers and began exploring the coding interface of TaleBlazer (powered by MIT). Using the Gregory School’s vast and incredible collection of African American history, our educators went to work researching and writing possible game ideas and actively thinking about how their students would react to a program about game development. Many programs create movies, PSAs and other short viewable projects to take action against issues within their communities. Yet players, unlike viewers, are active participants of the story, making the actions they take in the game more aligned to a simulation rather than a movie. For these reasons, historical games must be smart and well researched! Our hosts at the African American library offered the perfect context for this work.
The CollegeCommunityCareer design team researching the history of Prairie View A&M University.
The Gregory School team cooking up magic for Houston's 4th Ward.
On Day Four of the training was the open studio/game jam design day where all of our educators took the reigns of this project and marched onward with it. The Gregory School team, consisting of an oral historian, and archivist and a bilingual 4th grade teacher, created a game about a young boy collecting data on the historical significance of his neighborhood to stop investors from tearing down his grandmother's home. Our second game was an augmented reality tour of the historically black Prairie View A&M University. The game depicts the journey of A&M going from a “Normal School” with a lackluster curriculum to being fully realized and funded which aided the expansion of adding the arts, social sciences and other dynamic programs to their list.
This work will continue to grow with the educators and youth in Texas and Global Kids’ support. Building on our gaming work with educators in NYC and Chattanooga, we are now one step closer to bringing Haunts worldwide and inspiring more people to take action against injustice, explore the world through game design and advance perspective through storytelling. We believe in the power of this community and we hope you do too!
By Myles Bittner, GK Intern & Elizabeth Bishop, Supervisor of DLL
Last week, the NYC Department of Education hosted a Computer Science For All (CS4ALL) Professional Development Institute and the Global Kids Digital Learning and Leadership (DLL) team was invited to present a Scratch workshop series entitled “Historical Heroes” that can be used in any K-12 classroom. This four-day training brought together a wide array of public school teachers who devoted their valuable time to learning how to gamify their classrooms by integrating Scratch and tech tools like Makey-Makey into their teaching curriculums. DLL trainers, Marcus and Matthew, used a social studies based theme as an entry point to invite teachers to embody the Perspectives of Computer Science: the Explorer, Creator, Innovator and Citizen. More information about the CS Perspectives can be found on the CS4ALL Blueprint.
Over the course of the CS4ALL PD Institute, teachers selected historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes or Marva Collins to gamify a lesson around a particular narrative event that reflected best practices around student choice and culturally relevant learning. This dynamic and multi-layered series of lessons showed the capabilities and creative possibilities inherent in using Scratch in the K-12 classroom. These real world examples allowed participants to critically engage with issues that resonate with a wide range of students, echoing the CS4ALL mission to focus attention of CS education for female, black and Latinx students in NYC public schools. Marcus and Matthew led a series of workshops that simulated the ways that teachers could introduce coding, computational thinking and computer science technologies into their project-based lessons and units. From general information about block-based coding to high-level discussions of core CS principles, the environment was engaging and collaborative. These workshops got the teachers acting, creating and dialoguing about pertinent issues that students can address while using Scratch.
At the end of the week, participants were able to use their own GK passports as a symbolic representation of entering the realm of computer science skills. This created many opportunities for the integration of concepts taught throughout the week, providing multiple entry points for how the teachers could include them in future lessons. One participant stated:
“My experience as a learner in this CS4ALL Institute has been somewhat difficult but also interesting. Prior to this Institute I did not have any experience nor interest in video gaming or the process in which video games are created and how we can gamify content to increase rigor and engagement. I've now started to begin thinking about how I would be able to incorporate the concepts learned to future units for the next school year.”
Another participant noted:
“The experience has improved my understanding of the concepts and refocused my thinking on ways I can use CS projects in other subject areas.”
One participant who came to the workshop with no prior knowledge of Scratch reported:
“Day 1 I felt like I was thrown in the deep end, Day 2 I was floating and gaining a much better feel of the environment, Day 3 I felt comfortable and ready to implement concepts and practices, Day 4 I am fully in and can use the tools in my toolbox!”
By the end of the four days with the GK DLL team, 60% of teachers with no or little comfort with Scratch moved to comfortable or pretty comfortable. 40% of teachers with prior knowledge of Scratch also advanced to pretty or very comfortable.
The creation of these historical figure prototypes displayed the possibilities of games-based platforms such as Scratch and how these can be used in various ways to communicate many educational concepts in engaging ways to young people across K-12 classrooms. From social studies to mathematical grids, it is an extremely flexible program and using lessons like those created by the GK DLL team, it can be a powerful tool in any teachers’ bank of resources.
By Ahmed Ali (GK Trainer)
Using digital tools like Sketchbook and digital drawing pads, several dedicated Global Kids students from PS 96 worked during lunch periods and after school to create portraits of significant figures in science for Black History Month. Not only did the students get a chance to learn new digital skills, they are going to be able to show off their artwork on LinkNYC kiosks all across NYC from February 12th to February 19th.
The project created a unique opportunity for our youth to conduct historical research in a culturally relevant way and to celebrate their work through the displays on the LinkNYC kiosks.
The mural project began when my students told me that they wanted to incorporate more art into our DLL program at PS96. I had the idea to use Sketchbook as a creative digital tool, but wasn't sure what we would do with it. Around the same time, I contacted Intersection, the company behind LinkNYC, to see if we could start a partnership. From that connection, we decided that student digital murals would be a great way to collaborate. We ended up working with LinkNYC and the Department of Information and Technology and Telecommunications.
The students were so happy to see the results of their hard work, and it's been amazing viewing their work displayed all over NYC. I hope we can partner with Intersection (and companies like them) in the future, so we can continue to help show off the amazingness of our youth.
By Marcus Del Valle (DLL Trainer) and Matthew Wallace (DLL Trainer)
The DLL team had a busy first day of CUNY Games Conference 2018. Bishop, Marcus, and I led three consecutive events in the afternoon! The first was a panel on the tech tools DLL uses in its programs and how these tools contribute to college readiness for young people. I particularly enjoyed talking about Scratch and the amazing games that my students have made to represent issues important to them, including such serious topics as racism and sexism. The second event was an activity called RatRaceEDU, where we led teams to compete in a relay race to grab items symbolizing a "good life" with movement limitations placed on them based on a hypothetical level of education. It's always fun to see how adults react to the GK experiential learning model, and the group didn't disappoint-- the activity was followed by an insightful discussion on barriers to academic and professional success in society. The final event was an "arcade," in which participants were able to play some of my students' Scratch games. All told, the day was a great success. I'm always pleased to see that the work DLL is doing is so well received in New York's youth development community.
Day 2 was a day of learning that took place at Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fiterman Hall. I attended a six-hour crash course on Unity, a powerful game development platform, to see if the game engine could become a tool to add to our curriculum. We started with a walk-through of a Unity tutorial that taught us how its 3D worlds capability simulates gravity and other physical properties. We created a game that tasked players with rolling a ball around a rectangular space in order to collect items floating around the player. Then, a professor from the College of Staten Island showcased how she uses Unity's 2D capabilities to create remixes of the classic game Space Invaders to create study tools for undergrad students! In one iteration the game posted a word under the player's spaceship and tasked the player with firing at the correct Greek root of that word. In another, the words were switched with chemical compounds and elements and had players match them with their symbols from the periodic table of elements.
DLL focuses on teaching students computational thinking and collaboration through game making projects that focus on history and human rights, and Unity can help us do just that and on a much larger scale. It was exciting to learn about Unity’s capabilities and to think about how we can use this tool with our DLL students!
Matthew and Iram
A few weeks ago, DLL’s Matthew and Iram attended the 2017 Games for Change Festival!
Matthew enjoyed the session exploring "VR in the Classroom," both because it's a topic that DLL should explore more in the future and also because this is a topic that Michael will be exploring at some of our community schools. Two corporate speakers, Jesse Schell and Dan White, discussed their game-making companies' foray into making both Virtual and Augmented Reality games to supplement classroom learning. Dan noted the difficulties in implementing VR in the classroom due to the deficit of "one-to-one interaction." He conducted classroom studies which concluded with a recommendation for "asymmetrical play," in which one student wears VR technology and performs a virtual task, while other students observe with tablets connected to the same program and act as support. This dynamic allows for classroom collaboration.
The panel discussed the pros and cons of different levels of VR instruction. They termed the introductory level as "look and learn," in which students experiment with cheaper devices, such as Google Cardboard, and true interaction with content is limited. The next level is "touching and interacting," which allows for student-created content but requires cost-prohibitive, higher-end devices such as the Oculus Rift VR headset.
Iram, in contrast, attended sessions exploring both how to make a Game For Change that is impactful and how using games for education, also known as "learning games," can revolutionize classroom education.
First up was “How to Make an Impactful G4C.” Although these sessions were geared toward adult developers and gamers in the room, we can definitely use the frameworks shared to support our students in their design processes. Jesse Schell and Barbara Chamberlain, two game designers who are writing a book about how to create an effective G4C, shared a simple 3 step process:
Having our students think more intentionally about what they want their audience to take away from their game is key. Another point that was raised was that keeping the goal for the learner/player narrow and specific is very important. Oftentimes, G4C creators want their game to address everything related to the topic. The more narrow the learning goal, the more effective the game can be.
A panel called “Assessments” offered, as you might imagine, suggestions on ways to gauge student learning after a game. Key recommendations:
In the Assessments panel, Colleen Macklin, a game designer and professor at Parsons School of Design referred several times to what she terms "Accidental Games for Change" emphasizing the importance of the game topics coming "naturally" and coming directly from the community that the game will refer to. Perhaps in our design process, GK can include having our students survey those who are impacted directly by whichever topic they choose to inform and elevate their games.
Being mindful of any illusions the game might create, intentionally or not, is important. One speaker talked about how games can fail, or have no effect. They highlighted an example of a game that succeeded in creating more empathy about poverty among its players, but players also left the game with the impression that the issue of poverty is something that is much more simple than it is and is personally controllable, due to the game having the main character get himself out of poverty after a few quick steps.
Finally, Iram attended the Learning Games in Schools panel and observed the wealth of exciting collaboration taking place between designers and learning specialists to create more academic-focused games for educators to use as supplemental tools in their classrooms to amplify learning. Factors that are being taken into consideration include: how to create a game that is both analog and digital to appeal to different types of learners, how to create games that would fit smoothly into a classroom period, and how to get school districts to support teachers/buy into these learning games. Most of our GK afterschool programs, DLL or non-DLL, include "gamifying" topics to engage our students. It's exciting to hear that there is a movement among educators to utilize this approach more in classroom teaching!
Matthew and Iram left the G4C Festival feeling inspired to leverage a whole new range of tools and methodologies with our GK leaders!
In mid-July, thanks to the support from the Hive Learning Network Opportunity Fund, my Global Kids colleague, Marcus, and I participated in the Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute) User Conference “Applying the Science of Where” in San Diego. Esri, which stands for Environmental Systems Research Institute, builds ArcGIS, the mapping and analytics platform used in such apps as Lyft or Pokémon Go! Several universities around the country offer both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geographic Information Science (GIS). Having always been interested in geography, I was surprised to find out that I had never been exposed to the field of GIS. This conference was my first chance to experience the field of GIS, and through the work that Esri is doing, GIS seemed to make the world feel much smaller and more accessible.
Marcus and I attended the Esri user conference for nonprofits and educational institutions. The latter half of the conference focused on accomplishments in the private sector. While we did not attend this later portion of the conference, we were able to see the opening speech by Jack Dangermond, Esri’s founder. During the opening ceremony of the Esri conference UPS and the country Abu Dhabi were both awarded for their accomplishments using Esri.
We arrived in San Diego to find schools, other NGOs, and municipalities all sharing the work they have been doing with Esri. The variety of projects was impressive and their utilization of the Esri tools provided a great framework for future efforts to all those in attendance. Using drones, the state of North Carolina was able to map out unemployment rates in different areas of the state and then cross reference them with employment opportunities. A 4th grade school teacher was able to use Esri to teach her students about pollution and how water flows in the state of Mississippi. We also heard from a librarian how was able to archive, and make digitally available all the information from a local museum.
Globally, Esri has supported the production of apps like Geo Citizen that links service projects happening in your current location. It even supported the development of a geography focused school in Nigeria that uses Esri tools to support sustainability in the country.
One of the most interesting aspects of the conference (for me, Marcus) was how large it was and just how many different uses Esri has. Teachers and students alike, mapped out water flow to track water pollution, impoverished communities had their homeless and unemployment rates mapped out throughout the city, which was then cross referenced with job opportunities, homeless shelters and information on how to prevent further pollution in the waterway. It was awesome to see the different levels of good that a map has the possibility to do!
For me (Ahmed), the most interesting part of the conference was learning how companies were using GIS software like Esri to reduce costs and operate more efficiently, particularly seeing how UPS used the platform to reduce travel routes, saving them fuel costs and time on delivery.
We’re looking forward to incorporating what we learned at the conference into our work at GK this year. We’d like to see how we can use the ArcGIS software in our programs to map out issues in communities and see how we can solve those problems. And maybe someday we can use ArcGIS software to map out the impact that Global Kids has had over the past 28 years!
Ahmed Ali &
Marcus De Valle
GK Digital Learning and Leadership Blog
Check back in to find out what projects our DLL team is working on with Global Kids students!
Archived Blog Categories