Remarks to the Trenton NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet, October 31, 2010

Note: I was given the NAACP Education award at this event. I hope to post more information about the event and the other honorees soon.

Thank you for this unaccustomed honor. I am particularly grateful for the presence of my family and friends. I also want to honor the memory of Ann Barnes, who brought me into the world and sacrificed to give me the opportunity for a stable home and an education.

Thank you as well to Brenda Jackson and the Trenton NAACP for choosing me for this special recognition, and placing me on a dais with such an accomplished assemblage. Thank you to all of you for supporting the ,NAACP. The quest for social justice and equality before the law is as urgent now as it was 101 years ago.

I work in the tradition of my intellectual ancestor, WEB Du Bois, who inaugurated the NAACP’s Crisis magazine 100 years ago,  not only to expose the injustices of racism, but also to highlight and leverage the accomplishments of black people. In that tradition, I honor the presence of Dr. Randal Pinkett, both for his own accomplishments and because he represents a vanguard of scientists technologists, social scientists and mathematicians who labor mostly in obscurity to create a better life for all of us. Their largely unrecognized efforts have opened doors of opportunity that too few of us are prepared to enter. That is our present crisis.

Because I am a professor, and because of the urgency of this crisis, I have a homework assignment for you before I sit down. I’d like you to write down the address of three websites:,, and The Scratch and CS unplugged sites have free and fun resources that help children become technology innovators instead of just technology users. Please download those resources kearn to use them, and share them with a child you care about.  The third site is the home of the Algebra Project, which is much needed in Trenton and every other community in this country.

God bless you and God bless the NAACP.

A new Scratch experiment

Here’s the thing. The emerging field of computational journalism makes it more imperative than ever that we find ways to broaden the narrow pipeline for computing professionals. While our IJIMS project was designed to attract young people who see themselves more as storytellers than “math types,” at some point, culturally responsive methods for making math more accessible are critical to producing students who are capable of taking programming courses in college. Algebra is a critical bottleneck.

This interactive story is a first draft of the first episode of a serial interactive story about getting through 7th grade math class. It is based on an interactive story engine designed by my colleague Ursula Wolz. A lot of work has to be done with it yet. The graphics were chosen because they were copyright-safe, so please try to look past that.

If you have trouble getting it to load, you can try the direct link on the Scratch site. I found it loaded best when I ran it through the experimental viewer.

Learn more about this project

Hope you find it interesting. Your feedback is welcome.

Bringing interactive journalism into the middle school: A conversation with Laura Fay

Laura Fay is a Reading teacher at Fisher Middle School in Ewing, New Jersey. For the last three years, she has been an active collaborator in the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers (, a demonstration project at The College of New Jersey funded by the National Science Foundation’s Broadening Participation in Computing Program. (CNS #073973).

The goal of the IJIMS project is to expose students and teachers interactive journalism as a way of raising students’ interest in and awareness of computing careers. In a summer program and after-school club, participants created multimedia story packages, based on original reporting, that included text, video, images and animations created in Scratch, a programming language for novices created at MIT. Fay and her colleagues intend to continue the IJIMS project after its formal conclusion on August 31, 2010. This interview was recorded August 13, 2010 at the Scratch@MIT conference, where Fay and fellow teacher Marcy Havens presented their work along with the project’s Principle Investigator, TCNJ Associate Professor Ursula Wolz, and its external evaluator, Meredith Stone.

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:

Scratching Across the Curriculum

This is a presentation for the Culturally Responsive Teaching Learning and Counseling Symposium, January 24, 2009 at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs College of Education. More information about the research described here is at

Two notes on operating the slideshow:

After the opening sequence, there are pictures of the program participants. When those pictures stop cycling, press the space bar to reveal the text slides.
To advance the text slides, click on them.

Learn more about this project