Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Persuasive Media Project

In eighth grade, I teach animation with Flash. It gives advanced students a taste of OOP while allowing less-advanced students a point-and-click 'programming lite' experience. Everyone gets to reinforce ideas like instances and classes, scoping, and lots of other stuff. Plus they find it very engaging. 

The final project is called the persuasive media project. It combines media literacy with animation. Students watch two of a bunch of different web-based persuasive presentations and respond to a set of questions. We discuss the animation techniques they know (and the difference between how you construct something vs. how the audience perceives it!) plus persuasive techniques used in media. Then they choose a topic to persuade someone of. They plan a persuasive presentation including storyboard, then create it. Past presentations have covered everything from 'the war in Iraq is wrong' to 'CS should not be mandatory' to 'school should give less homework'. 

Here are the animations they can choose to watch:
They have to watch two - one we watch together (frequently Pentagon Strike or part of The Story of Stuff so we can discuss them!) and fill out a handout for each one. I got the questions from The Center for Media Literacy. Here are the questions on the handout:
  1. What presentation did you watch?
  2. What were they trying to convince you of?
  3. Who created the message?
  4. What techniques did they use to attract your attention or convince you?
  5. How might other people understand this message differently from you?
  6. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in or omitted from this message?
  7. Why was this message created?
  8. Who is the intended audience?

Do you have any suggestions of other persuasive presentations I can offer?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Putting Research to Work

Two interesting topics are Growth Mindset (vs. Fixed Mindset) and Stereotype Threat. I will put in a post about at least Growth Mindset, but probably both, soon. Right now I need to reboot, but will put in this placeholder link with a poster and handout and information from the Center for Research on Girls:   http://www.laurelschool.org/about/CRGProductsandServices.cfm


What if high school or college CS teachers ran summer camps for middle school students and hired high school girls or freshman/sophomore college women to teach them?
  • It would provide role models for middle school students, to encourage them that CS could be for them.
  • It would encourage the high school/young college students that they are worthy along with reinforcing what they know
  • It would give some interesting skills to middle school students that they can not necessarily get in other places like school or after school programs
  • It can serve as community service for the high school students. 
I did this once. An alum approached me and asked to run a one-week Java class in the summer as her senior service project. She created the curriculum, I got the students, and she taught it for two hours a day over a week. It went great!

I would trust most of my alumni with most of my students. They don't want to look stupid, so they're motivated to do well. They wouldn't agree to do it if they didn't know the material well enough. Anyone who can pass AP CS knows more than enough to teach Java to middle schoolers. I can help them think of fun activities that will engage the students. And it's summer, so there's no academic pressure. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Catherine Didion Keynote

I'm attending some meetings and Catherine Didion from the National Academy of Engineering just gave a great keynote about girls and engineering.  Here are my notes:

“Rising above the gathering storm” – NRC report

  •  Assumptions and stereotypes about who does science and engineering still exist – Time mag front page, 
  • Assumptions and stereotypes about women - Newsweek “What Women Want” cover Sept 22, 2008
  •  Assumptions about who will be the future leaders in science and technology impact students’ choices – example full page ad in Feb 17, 2006 CDG

www.implicit.harvard.edu Science Implicit Association Test

Girls of color are much more interested in sciences than white girls, but they are very underrepresented at the undergraduate level.

How do we keep them away?

  •       Lack of integration of STEM courses with other parts of the curriculum
  • Contributions of women and minorities are virtually invisible – no role models – the instructors there may not be who the students want to be   
  • Much of the science and engineering work seems devoid of any social relevance
  •       Constrained curriculum with many critical paths 

Busch-Vishniac and Jarosz, “Can Diversity in the Undergraduate Engineering Population be Enhanced Through Curricular Change?” Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, Vol 10, 2004

What Engineers Tell Young People:

  • Engineering is stressful and challenging
  • Stress the importance of SUPERIOR math and science abilities
  • “It’s not easy – but if you’re the type who when faced with a problem some would call impossible is even more driven to move mountains to find a solution, then you might have it in you to be an engineer”

IEEE is training engineers who go into classrooms, “first do no harm” – they have a webinar

www.engineergirl.com Most popular part – ask an engineer

Imagine that! is an Engineering contest

Zits Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Help and allow students to communicate through technology they use – You Tube (Large Hadron Rap), Facebook groups, iTunes science section

High School: Non-white girls (41%) are more likely than white girls (~21%) to say that engineering is a “good career” (Study by WGBH)

Message Testing:

For girls one of the strongest messages was: Live Your Life, Love What You Do. 42% of girls & 41% of boys rated this very appealing and 8% somewhat appealing. Tope tested message among non-white girls (44%).

Other top messages were: Creativity Has its Rewards and A World of Difference

Our traditional messages are not about risk-taking or being part of a group. Reinforce what students think they want to do. Military is doing this now.

Take the 10 best and 10 worst behaviors of students and use them in your marketing

Parents are an important constituent group – kids listen to their parents

For girls, older girls are important sources of information. Popular personalities are not

Engineer Your Life  - www.engineeryourlife.org  Totally open source – you can throw your name on it, download it, use it!  Includes PPT for use with guidance counselors!!

“A lot of the work we’ve done is to change people’s perception of the potential of the students"


 "Help students try on careers the way they try on clothing. Help them get comfortable and see what they are. They have a lot more control"