Black History Month Guessing Game in Scratch

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month

The programmers at MIT’s Lifelong Learning Lab who created the Scratch programming language for novice programmers have come up with new “ask” and “answer” blocks. I decided to try them out by creating a guessing game about Black History Month.

I am thinking of creating some additional games using Carter G. Woodson to introduce other historical figures. Feedback is welcome.

Here are my project notes from the Scratch website:
Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was a son of slaves who became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. At that time, history books did not include contributions made by Africans and people of African descent. To fix this problem, Woodson founded the organization known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915. He began publishing books, magazines and journals about black history.

In February, 1926, Woodson started Negro History Week to encourage schools to teach students about this neglected subject. He chose February because of the birthdays of two men who played key roles in ending slavery in the United States: Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). In 1975, the United States Congress decided that the entire month of February would be known as Black History Month.

Learn more about this project

What “premium news content” will you pay for?

Steve Outing asks a great question about the emergence of various “freemium” content models for news outlets:
“[W}hat is this premium content that newspaper companies can produce for the web (and mobile devices) that will get online users spending?”

Content that serves the needs of diverse communities might be the key to building successful “freemium” models.

Read the post, comments and Outing’s follow-up post for some interesting ideas. I think there are some niche possibilities for creating products tailored to the needs our increasingly diverse communities.  My state, New Jersey, is both racially diverse and home to immigrants from more than 100 nations according to a 2009 study described in this article from the Newark Star-Ledger. I’m a middle-class, suburban-dwelling, physically-challenged, working African American mother who has lived and worked in the state for most of the last 35 years. Based on that experience and those of others I’ve met along the way, here are some of the kinds of information that people I know look for:

  • For people considering moving into a new community:
    • How diverse is the community, both economically and culturally?
      • Are there multicultural hair salons?
      • What’s the range of religious institutions represented there?
      • What kinds of multicultural civic institutions are represented?
    • The school report card doesn’t tell me Help me understand how the school system will affect my children.
      • Is there an achievement gap in the schools? If so, what measures are being taken to address it?
      • Are there support groups for children of color, such as the invaluable African American Parents Support Group in the West-Windsor Plainsboro district?
      • How do the schools handle the needs of diverse learners? Show me their commitment to culturally responsive teaching.
      • What enrichment programs are available and what do they cost? (In the affluent West-Windsor Plainsboro district, I had to pay for my daughter’s clarinet in order for her to participate in her elementary school’s music program. In the middle-class Ewing school system where she finished high school, instruments were free.  It’s not the only factor in deciding where to live, but when you have a child who is serious about participating in the arts or other enrichment activities, knowing the costs matters.
  • For people with disabilities:
    • I’d pay for quality, consistently-updated information about transportation affordability and accessibility.
    • How about an Augmented Reality app that would allow me to hold my phone up to a building and trigger a map of accessible building entrances?
  • For small business owners and non-profit administrators:
    • What are the local implications of federal and state incentives for building green businesses?
    • How about a comprehensive guide to technical assistance workshops, webinars and other services that will help business owners and non-profit managers understand what they need to do to qualify for relevant grant and loan programs?

That’s just a couple of thoughts off the top of my head. What are your thoughts?

Who is a journalist and what are a journalist’s rights?

New Press Shield Law Won’t Clarify Blogger’s Rights

For decades, press freedom advocates have pushed for a national law to protect journalists’ rights to withhold confidential sources and data from government authorities. A bill wending its way through Congress, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009, has come closer to passage than ever, with the blessing of the Obama administration, according to a postfrom the Reporters’ Committee on Freedom of the Press.

Journalist Josh Wolf Freed From Prison However, if the bill passes, it won’t apply to many of the people who are  increasingly responsible for reporting the news.  That’s because the bill defines a journalist as a person who gathers and disseminates information as a paid employee of a news organization.  That means freelance bloggers and reporters will continue to operate in the legal limbo created by inconsistent state laws and judicial precedents.

For example, in a  case reported by Damon Kiesow for,  the New Hampshire Supreme court is considering whether a mortgage blogger who published a confidential document containing damaging information about a lender is  entitled to the protections accorded journalists under that state’s shield law.  The defendant describes himself as an online journalist: someone who, as his attorney put it operates with the intention to “gather, analyze and disseminate.”

That’s the standard advanced by former Society of Professional Journalists president Christine Tatum when I interviewed her in 2006 about the jailing of videoblogger Josh Wolf, who set a record for serving federal time for refusing to surrender outtakes from footage she shot of a 2005 demonstration. Ironically, Tatum and the other experts I interviewed for that story said Wolf’s case was a prime example of the need for a Federal shield law.