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
Senior Program Associate
There we were－ educators from libraries, after-school programs, school classrooms, and community-based nonprofits-- in the Chattanooga Public Library’s makerspace, pouring over books on the city’s history. These weren’t books you could get on Amazon. They were locally published by local authors, written from the research materials found in family attics and photo albums. We were on a ghost hunt, and the past seemed to be colliding with the present day each page we turned.
Let’s back up. Global Kids was invited to Chattanooga through the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund to train local educators in a Global Kids designed curriculum where students investigate local history and create a socially conscious, geo-locative game related to their historical content. (Think Pokemon GO, but the Pokemon are historical figures and you are a social justice time traveler.)
Haunts was created to be student interest driven, but this professional development (PD) training demonstrated the importance of giving educators time to explore a program as a participant before bringing it to students. Through a personalized and collaborative learning process educators are able to uncover the link between the social ails of the past and present and to make the Chattanooga Haunts program relevant and exciting to its youth.
We began the PD as we begin the Haunts curriculum, with a community walk and open dialogue to elicit what the participants already know about the area’s history. The conversation that began deepened over the course of three days as we moved through the curriculum, from game coding to research and back again.
What do you see? Who is here? What are they doing? How do you feel in this space?
Prying the educators for possible “ghost stories” to explore in their game, I inquired about the naming of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Did King have a role in the civil rights movement here? The answer I got was not so simple.
“Remember the I Have A Dream Speech? There’s a reason he says, ‘Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee...’ Do you know why?”
According to this educator (and verified by our consequent research in the Times Free Press), Lookout Mountain was segregated during the time of King’s speech; home to black Chattanoogans and known for the adversity faced by its residents. Another educator remarked that now Lookout Mountain was known as a wealthy and white area of town. We began to ask if our students would be interested in this history, how this change happened, and could it be connected to recent reports that Chattanooga is ranked top ten for income inequality in American cities, and is home to the second fastest gentrifying neighborhood in the country.
DLL Program Assistant
Last fall, when I began teaching DLL classes at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) and PS/IS 109 in East Flatbush, my goal was twofold: teach students to code using Scratch – a free, online, browser-based coding platform – and then guide them in using these skills to create games incorporating a social issue with global relevance. At the outset, I had a set of ideas and a framework in mind regarding how I would accomplish this, but as the semester I found that my plans required constant adaptation. Education is a two-way street: in the last year I have learned as much about STEM pedagogy as I have taught my students.
Given the after-school, rather than in-school, nature of the programs, I couldn't rely on extrinsic motivation – such as grades – to compel students towards a finished product. Working with the DLL team and facilitators at each site, we quickly learned that the Golden Rule of teaching Scratch was to keep things as engaging as possible, regularly pulling back from the relatively-dry computer work to teach computational thinking with a more hands-on perspective. The more engaging and relevant to our young people, we figured, the more intrinsic motivation we could leverage to connect them with coding.
As an introduction to game design theory, students examined tic-tac-toe using the "five elements of game design": goal, rules, space, mechanics (essentially "verbs" relating to the game), and components ("nouns" involved in the game). They played a round and changed various elements, such as adding a fourth column to the game space or allowing players to take more than one turn at a time. Finally, they played again, noting what worked and what didn't and how it affected the player experience. Thus, the introduction to the "play-test-change" cycle of game design.
Of course, Scratch games are a bit more nuanced than tic-tac-toe. Since they take place on a x/y-axis coordinate plane, we next explored movement from a video game character's point of view. We found a corner of hallway in each school and arranged a maze on the floor with masking tape. One blindfolded student acted as the player and their classmates become the game's "controller," shouting directions for up/down y-axis movement and left/right x-axis movement in increments of single steps.
Third and fourth graders at PS 96 in East Harlem are our youngest students participating in Global Kids programming this school year. All year, I’ve had a chance to lead GK’s DLL elementary school program, MakerSquad, and have had a great time with these amazing kids.
To start off the year, I led workshops focused on online safety, but as our students began to be concerned about the proliferation of “fake news” stories leading up to the presidential election, the DLL team found it critical to dedicate time to helping students identify legitimate news sources through news outlet exploration and discussion.
As the year progressed, I introduced projects to my students that would develop their computational thinking skills, focusing on game design. My students worked with a great new game design online platform called Ready Maker that can create projects such as short animations and games without the use of block coding. This program was especially helpful with our younger students because they didn’t associate it with coding (which can be intimidating), so it was easier to introduce this as a stepping stone to more complex coding down the road.
David Bennahum, the creator of Ready came and conducted a workshop for the DLL staff earlier this year and stated that average age of Ready Maker users is 18. The program introduces users to cause and effect codes as well as problem solving strategies.
Using Ready project templates, students at PS 96 followed their trainer’s instruction to complete projects independently. Students conducted a workshop on pair programming and then completed another Ready game with a partner, at their own pace. Below are samples of my students’ work. Enjoy!
DLL Program Assistant
As fun as Scratch can be, at the end of the school year, right before summer break, middle schoolers can get Scratched Out. But the semester isn’t over! Thus, DLL recently got creative with teaching the more nitty-gritty (read: "boring") aspects of coding. Fortunately, Scratch’s colorful blocks lend themselves to creative, physical teaching methods.
In one workshop, facilitators used cardboard cutouts of Scratch blocks and students assembled them like a puzzle to get their desired script:
When the novelty of assembling cardboard puzzles wore off, we moved to something a little squishier: Play-Doh!
With teaching methods like these, Global Kids ensures that, no matter how dry coding may be, our middles schoolers are always engaged!
This week, students in our Girl Hack programs at John Adams High School and William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens finalized the topics for their end-of-year projects, their Games for Change. Girl Hack is a program for female-identifying high school youth who are interested in using technology and gaming to shed light on issues that girls and women face. Each of our students will be creating a game in Scratch, an online block-based coding tool. Their games, in addition to being fun, will raise awareness about a global women’s issue to be a “game for change.”
During our sessions this week, the girls sat down to map out an initial brainstorm for their final games. This activity was an exciting moment for our students and for the GK staff who have been supporting them through the game design process this school year. We've been building up to this stage of the design process since September when we introduced game design theory and first began exploring a range of global women’s issues. Some of the topics that have been covered in our program include global standards of beauty, representations of women in advertising and media, access to education, child marriage, reproductive health, sexism in the workplace, and the stigma around menstruation.
Students completed a worksheet to guide them in their brainstorm, which prompted them to think about the elements of a game (goal, space, rules, components, mechanics) and what their game’s story will be.
Through their games for change, Girl Hack-ers are employing computational thinking, coding skills, and critical thinking skills, to come up with ways to “hack” the lifecycle of a girl/woman. We spent the first half of the school year exploring issues that females face at different stages in life, from early childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and as elderly. Now our students are coming up with engaging topics for their games that will not only bring attention to important, and often overlooked, issues but will also convey creative solutions and “life hacks” to some of these issues.
What I have found to be one of the most powerful parts of Girl Hack is the fact that our students are using male-dominated tools like coding, technology, and gaming to bring awareness to girls’ and women’s issues, and I know that our Girl Hack-ers are eager to prove that game design is not only "for boys.”
If you'd like to see the amazing work of our students, join us at Emoti-con on June 17th! Emoti-Con is NYC’s biggest showcase for young designers, technologists, and makers who use digital innovation as a tool for positive change in the world. Girl Hack students will be displaying their final projects. RSVP here!
GK Digital Learning and Leadership Blog
Check back in to find out what projects our DLL team is working on with Global Kids students!
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