Search Results for: IJIMS

Superintendent: IJIMS Strengthened Learning and Professional Development in New Jersey School District

In June, 2009, my colleague Ursula Wolz and I had a chat with outgoing Ewing New Jersey Public Schools Superintendent Raymond Broach about his views on the IJIMS Project. IJIMS or the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers, is collaboration between Ewing township’s middle school and The College of New Jersey that is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Broadening Participation in Computing Project.  Wolz is the Project’s principal investigator; I am a co-PI along with Monisha Pulimood. The other TCNJ members of our team are gender equity specialist Mary Switzer, several TCNJ student research assistants, and a select group of volunteer mentors. Meredith Stone is our external evaluator.

Our hypothesis was that students who don’t think of themselves as “computing types”  can be successfully introduced to computing and programming concepts by learning to do multimedia journalism about their own communities. Our research results more than validate our hypothesis.

In this interview, Dr. Broach lauded the constructivist nature of the IJIMS model – a method of teaching the emphasizes collaboration and discovery, making students participants in creating knowledge, not merely absorbing knowledge. Broach noted that the Fisher teachers and guidance counselor who collaborated with us also received training in multimedia journalism and programming in Scratch. This, he said was a departure from the usual professional development model, because it required the teachers to learn skills that weren’t necessarily part of their training.

By the way, one of the Fisher teachers, Laura Fay, recently presented her experience teaching the Scratch programming language in the 8th grade language arts classroom at a meeting for investigators in the BPC program. You can read the notes from the presentation she and Ursula Wolz gave on the IJIMS project:

Toward a more perfect union: the case for culturally responsive computational journalism

The slides below are from a presentation I gave today as this semester’s Faculty Senate Colloquium lecturer at The College of New Jersey. To be chosen by one’s peers to deliver such a research talk is a singular honor. I am particularly grateful to my English department colleague, the distinguished scholar and pundit Cassandra Jackson, whose introduction made me sound like someone I’d like to meet.

Here is the presentation abstract:

I moved from industry into academia 25 years ago because I had come to an understanding that the “hollowing-out” and flattening, of corporate, political and cultural hierarchies would make the role of professional communicators more central to the effective functioning of businesses and communities. As the expansion of the Internet and online technologies upended the news and communication industries, I became increasingly engaged with understanding how professional communicators could adapt to these seismic changes. This ultimately led to my current research in the development of culturally responsive models for teaching and practicing computational journalism. In this talk, I will draw upon that research to articulate a vision for a culturally responsive journalism. I will argue that culturally responsive computational journalism is essential to realizing the constructive potential of the seismic changes that computer science has visited upon the news industry. Properly crafted and implemented, culturally responsive journalism could:

1. Create an inclusive epistemology of journalism that moves beyond naive empiricism and the current propagandistic journalism of assertion
2. Democratize access to media technologies by broadening participation in the development and deployment of civic media
3. Deepen and broaden critical user engagement with the news
4. Deepen and broaden civic engagement
Computing technology and networks afford almost everyone the opportunity to be a publisher, but they also reward those who are computationally fluent with superior access to the public square. For this reason, I envision a future in which broad application and refinement the pedagogical models being developed here and elsewhere can actually empower citizens and strengthen democracy.



Here are links to sources for the presentation:

“Newspaper Newsroom Workforce Continues to Drop.”  Pew Research Journalism Project. March 20, 2014

Broadband technology fact sheet.” Pew Research Internet Project.

Computer and Internet Use 1984-2012 US Census

Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project

The State of Digital Divides. Pew Internet Research Project. Nov. 5,2013

The Digital Divide is Still Leaving Americans Behind.” Jessica Goodman,  Mashable,  August 20, 2013

Yahoo Latest Tech Icon to Reveal Lack of Diversity.” Jessica Guynn, USA Today, August 15, 2014

Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers

CABECT research website

CABECT in a nutshell (flyer describing the project, with some preliminary data)



PI, Trenton Makes Music: Cultural Identity, Memory and Economic Development

Funders: New Jersey Council of the Humanities College Music Society

Community partners: Trenton Public Schools, Trenton Historical Society, Trenton’s Conservatory Mansion,  Laura Poll and her volunteers at Trenton Public LibraryBeyond Expectations

  • Project co-director: Teresa Marrin Nakra, Associate Professor, Music and Interactive Multimedia Departments, The College of New Jersey
  • Podcast and event host and co-producer: Sarah Dash

Project website

The goal of the Trenton Makes Music project is to document the stories of the people, places and policies that made Trenton a hidden treasure of the music world. We are collecting oral histories, mapping key locations and otherwise documenting this history as a resource for educators, city leaders and other interested stakeholders. It also serves as a test bed and springboard for prospective new education research initiatives.

Related posts, publications and presentations

Nakra, T. M. and Pearson, K. “Trenton Makes Music: The Sound of a City” (poster) SANE 2017: Speech and audio in the Northeast. October 19, 2017. New York, NY.

Related post

Pearson, K. “A personal reflection of the Trenton Makes Music project

Audio oral history interviews and edited podcasts

Co-PI, CABECT: Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Undergraduates in Computational Thinking, PI S. Monisha Pulimood

Funder: National Science Foundation
Award #1141170
Duration: 2012-2015
Project website

Partial abstract To adequately prepare a workforce for the changing economic and global landscape, the project is developing a model that enables students with diverse perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds to learn how to collaborate and integrate concepts from their respective fields to develop technology-based solutions for complex real-world problems. The model includes collaboration with a community partner, making it practical for the many campuses with community engaged learning curricula.

Related publications and presentations

Pearson, K. Pulimood, S. Bates, D. Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Journalism Students in Computational Thinking, Teaching Journalism and Mass Communication, Winter, 2017
Pearson, K., Pulimood, S., Bates, D. CABECT: Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Undergraduates in Creating Social Media Technologies. Social Media Technology Conference, September 26, 2014, Washington, DC.

Pearson, K. Sturgis, I., Fortt, J. Write, Edit. Design. Compute! An Introduction to computational journalism. National Association of Black Journalists, July 31, 2014. Boston, Mass.

Pearson, K. Pulimood, S, Bates, D. CABECT: collaborating across boundaries to engage undergraduates in computational thinking. (Abstract only) March 2014 SIGCSE '14: Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education Publisher: ACM

S. Monisha Pulimood, Kim Pearson, Diane Bates. Refactoring courseware to engage undergraduates in computational thinking across boundaries January 2014. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges , Volume 29 Issue 3 Publisher: Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges

Co-PI, Distributed Expertise in Enhancing Computing Education With Connections to the Arts – (PI Lillian Cassel, Co-PIs: Tom Way, Steve Harrison, Deborah Tatar

Funder: National Science Foundation
Award #0829616
Duration: 2008-2012

Award abstract: Computing Education is essential not only for Computer Science and its many sibling disciplines(Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Information Systems, etc.) but for practically all other academic disciplines. Computers are pervasive today and many professionals develop basic programming skills as a way to express ideas, problems and solutions in computational terms within their own disciplines. It is common to find curricula in the arts (music, graphical design), business (accounting, economics), sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), and social sciences with computational courses in their curriculum. In a way, computing is becoming a requirement of most professional degrees. This project addresses both the separation between computing specialists and to widespread integration of computing concepts, not just the technology but computational thinking, in other disciplines. The project will use technologies now commonly available to permit faculty to collaborate in offering courses that extend the potential reach of experts to a broader audience, as well as a collection of recorded expert lectures. In addition, it will develop a visual, interactive interface to a common framework around which to explore similarities and differences across domains and to enable decisions about educational plan development. The teams will also host workshops to identify innovative approaches to teaching, as well as support initiation of new collaborative course experience and reflect of the utility of the courses. The opportunity computing education is to learn how motivated hands-on learning can engage students and provide opportunities to introduce computing concepts. In addition to aiming for diversity in the groups of participating faculty, the project will extend the reach of computing to disciplines not normally associated with that content and will also represent the scope of their discipline to computing students, providing a broader view of the impact of the discipline as it is applied in creative fields. This project addresses the growing conviction that inter-disciplinary approaches are crucial to revitalizing computing education and offers a solution to the need for broader reach of individual areas of expertise. If successful,

Write, Edit, Design, Compute!

Related publications and presentations

Related posts on

Related publications and presentations elsewhere

“Enterprise Journalism: Data Visualization and Mining for Stories,” National Association of Black Journalists Convention, August 5, 2011. Philadelphia, PA

Thomas Way, Lillian Cassel, Kim Pearson, Ursula Wolz, Deborah Tatar, Steve Harrison. "A Distributed Expertise Model for Teaching Computing Across Disciplines and Institutions", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, 2010, "Conference proceedings of The 2010 International Conference on Frontiers in Education: Computer Science and Computer Engineering (FECS 2010)".

Ursula Wolz, Lillian (Boots) Cassel, Tom Way, and Kim Pearson. "Cooperative Expertise in Support of Multidisciplinary Computing Curricula", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, "SIGCSE Technical Symposium (SIGCSE 2011)".

Thomas Way, Lillian Cassel, Kim Pearson, Ursula Wolz, Deborah Tatar, Steve Harrison. "A Distributed Expertise Model for Teaching Computing Across Disciplines and Institutions", 09/01/2010-08/31/2011, 2010, "Conference proceedings of The 2010 International Conference on Frontiers in Education: Computer Science and Computer Engineering (FECS 2010)".

Ursula Wolz, Lillian (Boots) Cassel, Tom Way, and Kim Pearson. "Cooperative Expertise in Support of Multidisciplinary Computing Curricula", 09/01/2010-08/31/2011, "SIGCSE Technical Symposium (SIGCSE 2011)".

Ursula Wolz, Lillian Cassel, Thomas Way, Kim Pearson. "Cooperative Expertise for Multidisciplinary Computing", 09/01/2010-08/31/2011, "42nd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE 2011)", 2011, "Ursula Wolz, Lillian Cassel, Thomas Way, Kim Pearson. "Cooperative Expertise for Multidisciplinary Computing." 42nd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE".

Co-PI, Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers (Ursula Wolz, PI; S. Monisha Pulimood, co-PI)

The goal of this National Science Foundation - supported demonstration project, was to "develop middle school student interest in 21st century writing, media, math and computing skills to motivate and prepare them for careers in computing-rich fields." (Award #0739173 The Institute consisted of a one-week summer workshop for middle-school teachers, a second week-long workshop in which teachers collaborated with their students to produce a multimedia magazine, and an after-school program . Working with the IJIMS faculty, undergraduate tutor-counselors and volunteers, participants learned to produce text, still images, video and animations programmed in Scratch.. Two of the participating teachers obtained their own NSF Research Experience for Teachers grants to pursue action research projects involving the use of Scratch in the language arts classroom.

Related publications, posters and presentations

Related posts on

Journal articles, blog posts and publications elsewhere

  • Ursula Wolz, Meredith Stone, Kim Pearson, Sarah Monisha Pulimood, Mary Switzer. Computational Thinking and Expository Writing in the Middle School. July 2011 Transactions on Computing Education (TOCE) , Volume 11 Issue 2 Publisher: ACM
  • Pearson, K., Wolz, U., Pulimood, S.M., Stone, M. Switzer, M. "Computational journalism in the middle school, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, August 10, 2010, Denver, Colorado
  • Pearson, Kim. "Using Computer Science Education Methods to Enhance Teaching Across the Disciplines." Culturally Responsive, Teaching, Learning and Counseling Symposium, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, January 30, 2010
  • Pearson, Kim. Scratching Across the Curriculum Culturally Responsive Teaching, Learning and Counseling Symposium, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Jan. 25, 2010
  • Pearson, Kim. "Afterword," Black History Bulletin, v.72, 2009, p. 34.
  • Pearson, Kim. "How Computational Thinking is Changing Journalism & What's Next,", v.May 21, 2009, p. http://po.
  • Pearson, Kim. "From Civil Rights to Computational Thinking: Thoughts on the 100th Anniversary of the NAACP", v.Feb. 13, 2009
  • Pulimood, S. M., Wolz, U., Pearson, K. and Chiusano, A.. "CAFE: A Collaboration and Facilitation Environment for Engaging Students in Computer Science," In Proceedings of the 40th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (Chattanooga, TN, USA, March 04 - 07, 2009). SIGCSE '09. ACM, New York, NY, 4-8., 2009, p. 570.
  • Pearson, Kim. "The Changing Newsroom", v.July 22, 2008,
  • Pearson, Kim. "Report From the Scratch@MIT Conference: Empowering Everyone With Technology and Media,", v.July 27, 2008, p. http://ww.
  • Wolz, U., Stone, M., Pulimood, S. M., and Pearson, K.. "Computational thinking via interactive journalism in middle school.", 09/01/2010-08/31/2011, "41st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education", 2010, "Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, March 10 - 13, 2010. SIGCSE '10. ACM, New York, NY, 239-243".

Videogame Curriculum Development

Senior Investigator: Microsoft Research, 2004. Advanced_Interdisciplinary_Game_Design_and_Architecture_Courses>Advanced Interdisciplinary Game Design and Architecture Courses. (Team lead: Ursula Wolz. Collaborators: Anita Allyn, Mike Martinovic, Robert McMahan, Jikai Li, Phillip Sanders.

Related publications and presentations

Peer-reviewed articles and presentations 1. Chris Ault, Teresa Marrin Nakra, Kim Pearson, Phillip Sanders, Ursula Wolz. Collaborative Learning via 3-D Game Development, SIGGRAPH, 2006. ACM SIGGRAPH Educators Program 2. Ault, C., T. Nakra, K. Pearson, P. Sanders, & U. Wolz (2006). Video Game Design as a Vehicle for Multidisciplinary Collaboration. NMC Summer Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. Blog posts Posts related to game design on

Visible Knowledge Project

The Visible Knowledge Project was a multi-institutional collaboration aimed at understanding the ways of using media technologies to understand and enhance student leaning, particularly in humanities courses. According to the project website, "more than seventy faculty from twenty-two institutions participated in the Visible Knowledge Project over five years" (2000-5). The project director was Randall Bass, currently Vice-Provost and Professor of English at Georgetown University.

Related presentations and publications

I developed an action research project, "Blogging on the Beat," to test the hypothesis that blogging can be a tool for improving student reporting in the feature writing classroom. Much of the site has since been removed, including the research poster that I created. This 2004 write-up on the "Crooked Timber" blog summarizes what I learned:

Blogging on the Beat

Remember when filmstrips were going to revolutionize teaching? If we focus on the medium alone, blogging in the classroom will be just as much of a snore as the Jurassic classics that were so brilliantly lampooned on The Wonder Years. As with any teaching tool, the value of blogging in a particular class depends on the learning goals of that class. I first used blogs in my feature writing class in the fall of 2003, as part of an action reseach project with the Visible Knowledge Project — a consortium of faculty studying the impact of technology on teaching and learning. I had students use the blogs as beat reporting journals, and I hypothesized that being forced to read and reflect on news relevant to their beats would result in more richly sourced stories. You can see the initial results of that project in this online poster. In reviewing a select group of students’ portfolios and responses to a survey I disseminated at the end of the semester, I found that the success of the experiment depended on how well students understood the goals of the class, and the place of the blogging assignment in the context of those goals....

Small Murders: An investigation of journalism coverage of hate crimes

From 2002-2005, I became interested in the way news media make decisions about covering lgbt-related murders, spurred initially by criticisms by conservative media commentators about the failure to accord national media attention to the grisly 1999 murder of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising. I shared my thoughts about that in this 2004 blog post. Then, in the early hours of May 11, 2003, 15-year-old Sakia Gunn was stabbed to death on a Newark, New Jersey sidewalk in what would become New Jersey's first bias crime homicide prosecution. Using my blog as a reporting and knowledge management tool, I tracked the coverage of the Gunn murder up to the conviction and sentencing of her killer. This coverage eventually led to some national interviews and a chapter in the book, News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity (Sage, 2005)

Related publications and presentations

Hate crime coverage from Professor Kim's News Notes

Book Chapter

Pearson, Kim Chapter 9: Small Murders: Rethinking News Coverage of Hate Crimes against GLBT People, in News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity Laura Castañeda & Shannon Campbell, eds. Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: May 31, 2012 | DOI: | Print ISBN

On teaching game design in a journalism class, Part 4: Newsgames as literary journalism

In the  last blog entry on my newsgames class, I reported on my students’ remix of my intentionally buggy, incomplete Food Stamps game. That exercise served multiple purposes:

  • It provided an accessible example of the challenges of conceiving a newsgame, and for defining requirements for such a game as journalism and as a game.
  • Splitting the students into groups focused on specific aspects of the game (story, media, gameplay) afforded an opportunity to reinforce and extend ideas in their texts through collaboration and peer teaching.
  • It provided a natural segue into guiding students into the development of their own games.

One of the first challenges of getting students thinking about the requirements for their own game projects is that I found no literature on how one actually reports and organizes information for a newsgame, not to mention the ethical standards that ought to apply.  Game designers are accustomed to thinking conceptually not literally, so they take liberties that potentially violate the canon of journalism ethics. This has led to some interesting discussions with colleagues. For example, in 2008, my computer science colleagues and I were planning the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers, one of my colleagues had one of our research assistants build a Scratch game that offered a crude representation of the issue of global warming. In the game, clicking on the aerosol raises the earth temperature until the planet explodes:
Scratch Project

I expressed concern about the scientific inaccuracy of the game, and we had an extended discussion about how literal the game needed to be. Interestingly, the project generated nearly 700 views and dozens of comments and remixes, including a debate about global warming. In addition, both this researcher and another student colleague built a number of interesting prototypes, including this game about campus cafeteria food options:
Scratch Project

With this experience and my magazine writing background in mind, I opted to teach the students to think of the reporting and storytelling aspects of the game as a kind of linear, multi-threaded literary journalism. Literary journalism combines the factual reporting of journalism with much of the artistic freedom of literature.


We reviewed the reporting process of collecting data from secondary sources and primary sources, interviewing, and organizing information in cluster diagrams. I had them give me abstracts and annotated source lists, as I would in a magazine writing class. Because we lost the first two weeks of classes due to Hurricane Irene, this process was somewhat truncated, but we did spend some time on interviewing and vetting sources. We also spent a lot of time on copyright, ethics, libel and defamation rules. We also talked about the fact that narrative newsgames are often built on a degree of fictionalization and the creation of composite characters – practices that would be considered unethical in literary journalism.

We talked about ways of mapping story structure to game mechanics. And we talked a lot about new journalism with its emphasis on scene-by-scene construction, changing points of view, dialogue and experimentation in narrative structure. We  did close readings of Gay Talese, Susan Orlean and Jimmy Breslin.

We talked about strategies for fulfilling or confounding audience expectations in order to create suspense and engagement. I used clips from the 80s TV show, Moonlighting, which does this brilliantly:


Parodying Dr. Seuss:

Taking an irreverent approach to a classic, also breaking the fourth wall:

As we brainstormed about their game ideas, Moonlighting also helped me introduce them to genres that might be suitable for the storytelling for their games, but with which they were unfamiliar. For example, I suggested that the conventions of film noir might be worth exploring for one group’s game about the workings of Ponzi schemes.

With the students’ permission, I soon hope to share some examples of the ways in which they applied these ideas to their games.

The Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers and the Quest for Computing Diversity

The Re-education of Me Table of Contents

  1. What we investigate is linked to who we are
  2. The Me nobody knew then
  3. Mrs. Jefferson’s “Sympathetic Touch” meets Mrs. Masterman’s Philanthropy
  4. Discovering Masterman, discovering myself
  5. The electronic music lab at Masterman School
  6. The Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers and the quest for computing diversity

(Disclaimer: while the opinions expressed here are rooted in research that I did with others, these views are my own.)

If Seymour Papert and his colleagues had been able to work their will in the 1980s, an entire generation of school children would have learned to program in LOGO as part of their normal school curriculum. Although LOGO was adopted in some schools, its use never became routine . Instead, the introduction of Microsoft Office and other software applications led most school districts who had computing resources to focus on teaching children to be sophisticated technology consumers, as opposed to technology innovators.

In Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race and Computing, a 2008 case study of the Los Angeles Unified School District education, UCLA education researcher Jane Margolis documented the fact that even where school districts invested in bringing computers to classrooms, unequal access to computing education persists. According to Margolis, lack of resources, beliefs that only a few talented individuals can learn computer science and pressure to teach what will be on standardized tests result in a situation where computing education for students in poorer schools is likely to  be limited to basic computing literacy and vocational skills. In addition to raising questions about social equity, this trend exacerbates the longstanding problem of finding enough students to fill the pipeline for current and future computing professionals.

The National Science Foundation, industry leaders and educators have undertaken a variety of initiatives to address this problem. One of those initiatives, the Broadening Participation in Computing program, funded a variety of demonstration projects and larger-scale alliances designed to engage students from underrepresented backgrounds in computing.  The student participants in the BPC program ranged from middle school through college, and hailed from communities across the country. In 2007, I became a co-Principal Investigator in a BPC project led by Ursula Wolz, an Associate Professor of Computing at The College of New Jersey.The goal of our project, the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers, is to use community journalism as a hook for exposing middle school students and their teachers with computing. (Award number CNS 0739173)




That was the formal hypothesis, and our data validated it, as our formal and informal presentations, papers and interviews amply document. [A bibliography is supplied at the end of this post that lists that work in detail. This poster, which was presented at the 2010 convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, offers an overview of the project from a journalism education perspective.] Participants reported that they understood the similarities between the editorial process and the the process of developing software. They identified programming and something that could be creative and fun. A number of participants have identified specific computing careers that they plan to enter, and are can convey an understanding of the courses they have to take to attain those careers.

The IJIMS project was implemented in collaboration with the faculty and staff of Gilmore J. Fisher Middle School in Ewing, New Jersey, and  with the support of the Superintendent of the Ewing public schools. The Fisher teachers now own the program and are continuing to develop it as a school-year program. In this essay, I am writing about the project as it was originally designed and as it was implemented from the summer of 2008 through June, 2010.

The project consisted of four components:

  • A one-week summer institute for participating teachers. The teachers ran through the summer institute that we had planned for the students, and helped us debug it. The week’s activities included brief introductions to news reporting, writing and editing;  shooting and editing video; and creating animations in the Scratch programming language.
  • A one week summer day camp for middle school students, who worked in beat reporting teams led by their teachers and supported by undergraduate research assistants/counselors.
  • An online magazine consisting of the results of the team reporting projects and powered by a custom built content management system, CAFE (Collaboration and Facilitation Environment). Our undergrads built our own CMS under the direction of co-PI Monisha Pulimood, in an effort to accommodate the need for a simple interface, flexible group collaboration, multiple security levels, and the ability to upload Scratch programs. CAFE also has a built-in sourcebook and production calendar. The 2008-9 issue of the magazine is called FISH (Fisher’s Interesting Stories Here); the 2009-10 issue is NEWS (New Ewing Web Stories)
  • An after-school program, initially available only to participants in the summer program, and then gradually made available to students throughout the school as interest spread.

In addition to these core features, students participated in “off-beat” activities after lunch designed both to let them blow off steam and to reinforce concepts related to journalism or computer science. These activities included established games such as Set, and original activities designed by our undergrads, sometimes in partnership with our teachers. Prime examples included Scott Kieffer’s Source Hunt, which taught students how to evaluate the credibility of news sources. Kieffer described the game in this essay for, excerpted below:

The ‘source hunts,’ as I came to call them, seemed simple enough. We organized the students into teams of reporters. Each team got a list of five questions. Then they sought out their potential sources, who were scattered throughout the building. The ‘sources’ were really just members of the IJIMS team portraying various characters. Student reporters introduced themselves to each source, ask the source’s name and qualifications, and then ask the questions on their list. But there was a catch: Although every source would answer every question, those answers weren’t always correct.”

In 2009, undergraduate researcher Michael Milazzo (now a professional learning designer) taught a swing dancing class as a way of introducing computing concepts. If that seems strange, consider that dance steps use an 8-count (as do bits and bytes), and dance routines consist of steps (or subroutines) that have set beginnings, transition points and endings (control structures), and so forth.

Lessons from Middle School Outreach Projects

In this 2010 interview with participating teacher Laura Fay describes how  IJIMS’ scholastic journalism model  has affected her language arts teaching. She speaks of  the steps she has taken to bring the spirit of collaboration that characterized the IJIMS newsroom into her classroom.

Raymond Broach, who was the superintendent of the Ewing public schools at the inception of the IJIMS project, explained that the IJIMS model changed the district’s view of professional development for teachers in this 2009 interview. Broach said that IJIMS was an unusual professional development opportunity for the Fisher teachers because it augmented their existing skills in a way that allowed them to introduce something completely new to the students.


Beyond IJIMS

Beyond these observations and the positive self-reports of project participants, additional lessons emerge when the IJIMS program is considered in the context of other efforts to attract young people to computing.

  1. Teachers outside of the STEM disciplines can learn how to infuse computing in their classes.
  2. You have to get IT on your side. IT policies within schools and school districts can create significant barriers to progress, even when there is adequate equipment with the school. Firewalls and computing access policies created challenges in customizing our content management system for the school. For example, the web browser installed on the school’s computers was an antique version of Internet Explorer that didn’t work well with modern content management systems. These policies vary from one school district to another, though, even within the same county.
  3. Young people who become interested in computing in middle school need academic and co-curricular paths to computing study in college. Jan Cuny, the program officer at the National Science Foundation who originated the BPC program, notes that fewer than half of the high schools in the United States have AP computer science classes. Part of the reason for this is that there aren’t enough teachers qualified to teach computer science at the high school level. Part of the problem is that computing is consistently incorporated into curriculum standards in K-12 schools across the country. Cuny and her colleagues are attacking this problem with a new initiative, called CE21, or Computing Education for the 21st Century. Central to this, Cuny argues, is the goal of producing 10,000 well-trained computer science high school teachers by 2015. As Cuny argues in this 2010 article (.pdf) for the Computer Science Teacher’s Association newsletter:

    [E]ngagement programs for younger students will be ineffective if students have no further opportunities to explore computing in high school, nor the chance to discover the exciting opportunities computing careers offer. Likewise, revitalized college computing programs will not have a significant impact on degree production if there are too few students showing up at their doors.

  4. As a corollary, they also need support for their social development as future computing professionals in high school through college. That means that computer science and math educators need to continue to develop and disseminate teaching strategies and tools that respond to the diverse ways in which children learn. Successful BPC projects engage their participants creatively and kinesthetically. A kid who gets excited about programming because she has designed games in Scratch or  Alice (another popular entry-level language) might easily get turned off by the traditional approaches to teaching CS. Computer science educators, therefore should be advocates for the arts and physical activities in the schools, and there need to be more cross-curricular collaborations around the connections between those disciplines and computing.
  5. Language arts, art and social studies are ideal areas in the secondary school  curriculum for infusing computing by way of journalism education.


The IJIMS experiment, and the BPC program generally, corroborate my personal middle school experience that learning activities emphasizing games and creative expression can engage children in ways of thinking and problem solving that are foundational to success in computing and related professions. Composing electronic music got me interested enough in electronics that I would take apart my transistor radio, memorize the names of the parts and put it back together. A basic programming class in 7th grade further ignited my interest. However, just as Jan Cuny lamented, my high school did not have programming classes. At the same time, the experience of working on my fourth grade camp newsletter was followed by similar experiences in high school and college. My parents, teachers and counselors reinforced my understanding of how these activities could lead to a writing career. But as technology storyteller Kevin Michael Brooks has argued,  it is a mistake to think that a capacity for creative fields such as writing and fields such computer science are mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be mutually reinforcing if taught in a way that allows students to explore those connections for themselves.

Diversifying the computing pipeline is essential to meeting the current and future needs of media industries. Therefore journalism industry leaders and educators should be active participants in the discussion about broadening participation in computing. Leaders and educators in the computing industry, similarly, should go beyond the traditional focus on recruiting students who have demonstrated facility with math and science as primary candidates for computer science. That pool is too small. Rather, they should recognize and cultivate the latent computing talents in the writers, artist and athletes in their midst. In the next post, I will look at the way in which interactive journalism programs can help the news industry achieve its elusive diversity goals – and respond to its innovation crisis at the same time.

References and endnotes

Articles, papers and presentations on the IJIMS project

U Wolz, M. Pulimood, K. Pearson, M. Stone, M. Switzer, “Computational thinking and expository writing in the middle school.”  ACM Transactions in Computing Education, forthcoming.

with U Wolz,  M.Pulimood, M. Stone; M. Switzer. “Computational Journalism in the Middle School.” Scholastic Division, 2010 Convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, Denver, Colo. Aug. 4-7, 2010

§ Wolz, U., Stone, M., Pulimood, S. M., and Pearson, K. 2010. Computational thinking via interactive journalism in middle school. In Proceedings of the 41st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, March 10 – 13, 2010). SIGCSE ’10. ACM, New York, NY, 239-243.

§ U. Wolz, K. Pearson, M. Pulimood, M. Stone, and M. Switzer) Broadening Participation in Computing via Community Journalism, New Media Consortium Summer Conference, June 11-14, 2008

§  M. Pulimood, D. Shaw, K. Pearson) “Content Management Systems for Journalism,” New Media Consortium Summer Conference,  June 11-14, 2008

§ (with M. Pulimood, M. Stone, M. Switzer and U. Wolz.) “Scratch in the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle School.” Scratch@MIT conference. MIT Media Lab July 25, 2008

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