Digital East St. Louis: An Urban Place-Based Learning Model to Promote Information Technology and Computer Science Career Interests of Minority Youth
A longitudinal study of a cohort of 50 middle school students is examining the potential for digital humanities to increase interest in computing and IT careers among urban, minority students.
A high quality, technical workforce requires that students, particularly those from underserved populations, have innovative experiences with computational tools and informational technology. The main goal of this Strategies project is to experiment with new content and methods for engaging students who are underrepresented in STEM fields in the computing sciences via a place- based curriculum that asks students critical questions about the environment and culture of their own region. Working with East St. Louis teachers and project partners, students will produce a richly annotated web-based community map with associated images, texts, audio and video that highlight features and events deemed important by students and the community. Partners include the Southern Illinois University (SIUE) STEM Center, the Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics Scholarship Center, and Curriculum and Instruction Center, the Department of Historical Studies, the Black Studies Program as well as the Virtual East St. Louis Historical Society, Harris Stowe State University and the East St. Louis School district. Beginning in the sixth grade, a cohort of 40 students will progress though a three-year out-of-school program in which they will engage in increasingly complex projects that involve the use of information technology and computing tools. Expected outcomes for the students include increased student self-efficacy, enhanced technological skills, and awareness of IT and computing careers. The project will also provide extensive professional development for six teachers.
The project will conduct a longitudinal quasi experiment that will follow students through the three years of their participation, including the transition to high school. Data will also be collected from a comparison group, allowing for an assessment of any outcome differences from the student cohort participating in the program. Program evaluation data for answering research questions and assessing progress on the project objectives will be collected using instrumentation specifically designed for this study. Data sources include (a) student pre-/post-STEM questionnaires; (b) student interviews; (c) observations of program activities; (d) student-created artifacts; (e) annual coursework/career intentions questionnaires; and (f) parent/caregiver questionnaires and/or interviews.