1. Michael Lee
  2. https://michael.gidgetlab.com/
  3. Assistant Professor
  4. Increasing Urban Youth Participation in Computing through Mentorship and Coding Resources
  5. New Jersey Institute of Technology
  1. James Geller
  2. https://web.njit.edu/~geller/
  3. Professor and Associate Dean for Research
  4. Increasing Urban Youth Participation in Computing through Mentorship and Coding Resources
  5. New Jersey Institute of Technology
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 10:53 p.m.

    Welcome to our 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase submission! We are excited to see all the other great work posted for this event. Our work with Newark Kids Code (NKC; newarkkidscode.org), the Tech/Coding House, and Gidget (helpgidget.org) aims to engage and sustain young students' interests in programming through Saturday coding activities, access to a community coding center, and near-peer mentorship. To support our program, we have strong partnerships between our university (NJIT.edu), local school district (Newark Public Schools), and the Urban League of Essex County (ulec.org; a local-non profit organization). We hope this video leads to lots of great engagement, discussion, and possibly collaboration! We are looking forward to your comments and questions!

  • Icon for: Jim Hammerman

    Jim Hammerman

    Researcher
    May 13, 2019 | 10:21 p.m.

    This looks like great work, with lots of engagement in interesting activities and kids having fun doing so. I'm curious about what kind of learning goes on in the Coding House space that seems to be the graduation "reward" for kids who complete Newark Kids Code successfully. What, if anything, is your research telling you about that learning or the nature of the community of practice there?

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:46 p.m.

    Thank you for the comments and question! At this time, we do not have any structured or pre-assigned content for participants of the coding house. Instead, we found that the Coding House participants (both youth and college students) naturally find computing-related topics to talk about and work on. This might include how to: create content and edit videos for YouTube, put together and fly drones (we have drone kits at the house), create new Scratch content, update their website(s), or creating interactive systems (e.g., an interactive website or simple mobile app).

    The most exciting thing we have found is the continuation of the near-peer mentorship between many of the children and their (college student) instructors. We have found that several of the NKC participants and their instructors continue to keep in touch, with the kids often explaining how they are improving/updating their projects from NKC, and sometimes asking programming questions related to these activities. This highlights how engaged our youth are in computing, and the important role that mentorship plays in keeping this engagement active.

  • May 14, 2019 | 09:56 a.m.

    We recently conducted a similar program for cybersecurity with students on Long Island, but did an afterschool program for 10 days and found that sustaining participation was a challenge. Was there any incentive for students to participate in the Saturday program other than the Coding House? What was your typical attrition rate through the course of the 10 weeks?  How did you handle when students missed a week - or more? 

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:44 a.m.

    Sustaining participation is definitely a challenge! For the NKC you see in the video, we had an incredible 98% attendance rate (and no dropouts).

    We attribute this success to the work of our partner school's principal and teacher (who followed up with absentee's parents over the phone) and our "spaghetti night" with students' parents. Before starting NKC, we arranged an evening for parents to come and learn about the upcoming NKC program and why it was critical for their children to learn computing early. During this event, we stressed the importance of attending the program every week. Speaking directly to the parents about being accountable for their children attending the program appears to have helped tremendously with retention.

    The challenge now is scaling these efforts to keep these numbers up as we expand the program to multiple schools/locations!

     
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    Gerad OShea
  • May 14, 2019 | 01:10 p.m.

    Thank for the response, and congratulations on your attendance rate!! How many programs have you / will you run during the project?

    We tried to do the same with our prior research program - inviting parents to come and learn about the program - but on at least three different occasions, no parents joined us. It is difficult to tell which factor was most responsible: the program being about cybersecurity (which is still shrouded in mystery and myth for the general public), or the non-availability of the parents, many who had more than one job.

    How did the kids do with knowledge retention week-to-week? Were there opportunities mid-week for them to continue with the activity/concepts?

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:12 p.m.

    Thank you for the followup questions!

    We are currently running our third iteration, and hoping to run at least once every academic semester (Fall and Spring) while slowly expanding to more schools. We are still working out if we should be at multiple locations (several schools at the same time) or if we should have multiple schools join us at one location (this is what we have done the last two iterations). We have had some students attend two out of the three NKCs, and one student who has attended all three!

    Retention does not appear to be too much of an issue week-to-week. We do often briefly summarize what we did the previous week at the beginning of each session. All of our resources (scratch, code.org's html curriculum, and helpgidget.com) are available online for the students to access any time (although we do not explicitly track if they were using these outside of NKC).

  • May 14, 2019 | 12:56 p.m.

    I enjoyed your video and learning about this program. Can you say more about your goals for the young students? Is the goal to primarily spark and sustain interest, or are you also hoping to see an increase in computing knowledge? Are you collecting any data to inform next steps?

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:30 p.m.

    Thank you for the positive feedback!

    As you mentioned, one of the main goals is to spark and sustain interest in computing for the kids. We have seen evidence for increasing computing knowledge (e.g., applying programming skills to drone programming), but have not yet measure this explicitly. Yes, we are collecting data in several ways to inform next steps. One of these methods is parent interviews. We believe that informed parents lead to better informed children, so we interview (and survey) parents to better understand their knowledge, understanding, and attitudes about computing, so that we can create better resources and talking points to use during the parents' nights.

    (I also have more details about our evaluation instruments below, under Feng Liu's question).

     
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    Gerad OShea
    Jill Denner
  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 01:26 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting work! And thanks for the tips of keeping up the participation and increasing retention for this after-school program. Could you share more information about how you evaluated the program impact on student outcomes? For example, what outcomes (e.g., student interest in coding, student knowledge in computer science courses if offered at schools) did you look at? What analytic approach (e.g., pre-post comparison) used to measure the impact?

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:41 p.m.

    Thank you for the question! We use several pre-post tests to evaluate outcomes.

    First, for computing attitudes, we will use two paper-based instruments: 1) the Computer Attitudes Questionnaire (CAQ) v5.14 (designed for middle school students), and 2) the Computing Attitudes Survey (CAS) v4.0. Second, for evaluating self-efficacy, we will use the Self-Efficacy with Computer Technologies (SCT) questionnaire as used by Milbrath & Kinzie (2000), and Pamuk & Peker (2008). This measures the participants’ self-reported confidence using different types of computing resources.

    We are examining ways to best measure learning outcomes (please let us know if you have any ideas!). Examples include language-agnostic tests such as the FCS1 or SCS1.

    We also ask demographic questions on our survey, and include questions relating to career interests, academic interests, computing resources they have at home, and about students' mentors/role-models in computing.

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 11:02 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing these great resources, Michael!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Michael Lee
  • Icon for: Jaime Gutierrez

    Jaime Gutierrez

    Researcher
    May 15, 2019 | 10:30 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this work, Michael! It is great to hear you are having such success in keeping these kids coming back. Can you say a bit more about how these youth find out about the program and what the process is to join? How do youth see these opportunities? Are they thinking about them as a fun activity or as something they might want to do in the future? Also, what kind of parent engagement is involved throughout the process? Finally, are there opportunities for youth to continue to foster their interest in CS after the program is completed? In other words, are there programs you're currently recommending to participating youth if they wish to continue to do the kind of activities they do in your program? 

    We're currently nearing the end of a three year project working with high school students in an informal out-of-school STEM program that provides badges for work they do. I see some overlap in the work and thought you might be interested in checking it out: https://stemforall2019.videohall.com/presentati...

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 09:39 p.m.

    Thank you for the comment Jamie! I can definitely speak about the recruitment procedure. Early in the process, we had an information night with 13+ high school principals from the local public school system. We spoke about the importance of teaching our youth code, and how it was important to teach these kids early. We also spoke about how full (weekly) participation was important, and that parent involvement in making sure their kids attended each week is essential.

    After participating schools were chosen (we tried to select evenly across the different areas of our city), the principals at these schools advertise to their teachers, who then advertise to their students. Principals are responsible for collecting applications and permission/consent/assent forms. The school sends outs details about the program, and also advertises a parents' night (described earlier), where parents can come to learn more about the program from us. Parents are invited to observe during NKC days, and almost all students have at least one adult each come to see their final projects on the last ceremony day.

    Based on our observations and talks with the kids, there is a mix of doing it for fun, and doing it for their future. I was struck recently, when one of our students, who is currently participating in her third NKC, said: "Before [NKC] I didn't know what I wanted to be [when I grow up], but now, I want to be a software engineer."

    As for opportunities outside of NKC, we encourage our kids to continue with more NKCs (as peer mentors or attendees) and to participate in the coding house. In addition, we point them to several online resources where they can learn more about coding (e.g., hour-of-code resources). We also found that some students continue to keep in contact with their near-peer mentors (their college student instructors), updating then on progress they made on their coding projects.

    I loved your video and the human-centered iterative approach to designing for authentic issues! Especially the statement by one of your participants, "I'll be able to impact the world somehow by by making tools." Very inspirational! 

  • Icon for: Nancy McGowan

    Nancy McGowan

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 09:39 p.m.

    Your program is FABULOUS! So many wonderful components to keep your students engaged.   I applaud your efforts for kids. I would find it very interesting to have a video featuring your students to find out what aspect of the program meant the most to them.  Please consider me a big fan of your work.

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 09:11 p.m.

    Thank you so much for your kind words Nancy! Having a video featuring our students speaking about their experience with the program is a great idea!

  • Icon for: Frank Davis

    Frank Davis

    Researcher
    May 16, 2019 | 10:47 a.m.

    Hi Michael,

     I think your video presents a great design to get young students who may not have ready access to computing in an engaging and supportive setting to do so. I am currently working with a program designed by young people who are members of the Young Peoples Project (YPP) which is linked to the Algebra Project, Inc. The project is designing and implementing high school computer science (CS) courses in Boston. An important component of this work is engaging students (who are typically at the bottom of academic performance) in learning CS. One of the parallels I see in your work and YPPs’ work is establishing a context where students in peer and near peer interactions, teach and support each other. A slogan sometimes used for this connection is “learn 2 teach, teach 2 learn.” (See: https://www.excelhighsb.org/ypp-stem-academy ) I was wondering if you were measuring how this aspect of the connections between students helped to keep students engaged in CS – in and out of school. In the Boston project our strongest measure was almost all the students who took an initial 9th grade course elected to continue in a 10th grade course. I have sent a link to your video to YPP since I think they might like to talk with you about this type of work.

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 04:45 a.m.

    Hello Frank! Thank you for the comments and insight into the similarities between our projects. We are not directly measuring the connection between the younger students and older college student instructors. However, we did find that more of the middle school students do report having mentors on our post-assessment compared to their pre-assessment. We do not know for certain if the college instructors are these mentors, but we are fairly that is the case. We plan on having additional space in the next version of our survey for the young students to write-in/elaborate on this point as it is an important measure!

    Thank you for sending the link to YPP! It would be great to chat more about our respective programs and results!

  • Icon for: Gerad OShea

    Gerad OShea

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2019 | 09:04 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work!

    In our research we've seen parents have a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about CS that prevents them from encouraging their children's interest. Have you found any effective ways to frame or present CS/computing that resonates with parents?

    Thanks,

    Gerad

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 05:00 a.m.

    This is a great question and something that we are continually trying to learn more about from our parents (and kids). What we really found was effective was to bring in working professionals in the computing/programming field in to talk with the parents (which also works great with our young students). Like you said, many adults have misconceptions/misunderstandings about CS, but learning a little about someone's computing job and being able to ask questions directly seems to mitigate things very quickly. These sessions are also useful for us to learn more about what these misconceptions are, so that we are better prepared for future events.

    I would also love to learn more about your research and things you have learned or strategies that you use to approach and inform parents!

  • May 19, 2019 | 09:07 p.m.

    Greetings!  So glad to see that you are offering an opportunity for parents to get engaged and to see the link to building community through the Coding House. I'd really like to know more about how offering educational programing on Saturday is is working. Also I would welcome any lessons learned on parent and role model engagement especially any tips on how to make these outreach activities self sustaining.  If you could consider incorporating Digital Forensics into your program curriculum in the future please let us know!

  • Icon for: Michael Lee

    Michael Lee

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 05:14 a.m.

    Thank you for the questions Daryl! So far, having the main NKC events on Saturdays have been great. We look forward to it, and based on the attendance and overall energy-levels on these days, I am confident saying that the kids are enjoying it too!

    All this success can be attributed to the strong ties our university has with our partners. The Urban League is excellent in exciting the local community and generating positive buzz towards the program(s). The Newark Public Schools (NPS) and leadership is amazing with the investment in their students, providing much needed resources including equipment, personnel, facilities, and transportation. I think this is the key to make these types of programs self-sustaining: a group of deeply invested stakeholders who really want this to succeed and keep it succeeding. Once you have these core stakeholders, we found that others naturally get excited and contact us to want to contribute (e.g., we have had dozens of refurbished laptops donated to us by the National Cristina Foundation and Alliance for Technology Refurbishing & Reuse for use in our program and Coding House). In a similar fashion, we have many computing-related professionals contact us asking how they can help/contribute. Sometimes, the best way is for them to come in and talk to our parents/kids as potential role-models!

    I watched your video and digital forensics is great! We're always looking for additional ways to keep our students engaged (especially for those returning students), so we should definitely chat more about your work!

  • Icon for: Tom Yeh

    Tom Yeh

    Researcher
    May 20, 2019 | 02:38 p.m.

    Hey Michael, I really appreciate your and your team's commitment to engaging underrepresented youths. I enjoy the video tour of the "coding house" and am glad to see how students are immersed in their learning activities. Do you intend to share the outline of your 10 week Saturday curriculum? I am curious what the curriculum is originally based on and what adaptations or modifications your team might have to do for the district in New Jersey your team is working with. 

    Nice work!

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.