Jazzmine White's Blog
Here I provide a weekly update regarding my personal contributions to the larger project efforts. You can also visit the other researchers' blogs by following the links below.
In the first meeting we discussed the time and location of our meetings. We created a rough outline of what we wanted the project to look like. As a group we decided to divvy up the initial research. I am researching education using technology versus traditional teacher and textbooks. Maria is researching how to use technology to teach students and Jillie is researching what types of games keep students involved.
This week, we each presented a few articles we researched. I presented an article, "Learning with Technology: The impact of a Laptop Use on Student Achievement". In the article, the authors outline how students with laptops score higher and have a deeper understanding of the course work. The article supports our project by proving that technology is a viable avenue for teaching. Maria’s article about teaching students through code errors, was reminiscent of the REU I participated in during the summer of 2015. At the University of North Texas, I participated in the Bug Wars REU. During two occasions, myself and another REU participant went out to UT Dallas and on the UNT campuses and administered the Bug Wars game. In the game, players must find as many bugs in the code as possible. I may be reaching out to the Ph.D students from UNT for guidance on this project.
Grace Hopper and background research were the main focuses of our third meeting. The Grace Hopper Celebration is a conference for women in computing. Initially, I planned not to attend do to a prior family engagement. Fortunately, Jillie insisted that I attend. In the end, myself, Jillie and a Simmons student from another project attended GHC. We also, discussed in more detail the articles we found last week and which ones could be potentially used in a formal report. Due to two of our group being at GHC during our typical meeting time we will not be meeting.
Jillie and I were attending GHC so, there was not an official meeting. Maria met with students from our neighboring Emmanuel College about combining parts of our project with their after school program for girls in STEM.
During our fifth meeting, we met with our advisor to discuss some goals for the following week. As our background research is coming to an end, she suggested that we all get one image of what the project should be. We created a list of questions to help clarify. For example, should the target audience be early or late middle school? Also, is the game going to teach Python, Scratch or a language we make up?
I attempted to make contact with one of our local middle schools to see if they were interested in being a part of our research but have not heard back yet. Secondly, Jillie and I started work on an abstract for the Tapia Conference. I started working on the scholarship for next year since both Jillie and Maria are seniors.
After deciding what we wanted in the syllabus for the game, we each created a script with variables. Mine was a game where the cat ran towards the heart and when the touched the variable “love” increased by one. It is meant to be a more complicated example so the participants can see a program with moving parts more similar to what they have seen on game sites.
We each created an if-else example in Scratch continuing on our tiered level. I created a beginner level game using if- then, two sprites and one variable. The game has a lot of color and a little back story to keep a younger audience interested. The game is about a penguin who is having a birthday party and it is the user's job to feed him cake. When he has had enough cake he will be "full" and say "No thank you". The if - then statement is involved with the variable hunger. If his hunger is below a certain point then he politely declines the cake and his hunger resets.
This week we created a test run for our project using the young girls from Strong Women Strong Girls Boston. Using the Scratch programs we each created last week, the girls played around and explored coding. My program was a penguin who has having a birthday party and needed to be fed a piece of birthday cake. Each time he was fed, the score went up until he was completely full. The girls played the game as is for about 5 minutes before beginning to tinker on there own. The third grade girls had a bit of trouble putting new blocks together but they were easily able to change the ints and Strings in the existing code clocks. The older girls were intense in their creations. One group even created a woman variable and created a loop that made her dance at the penguin's birthday party.
Due to a few bugs going around campus, we were unable to meet in person. Through email we decided to reach out to several groups on campus for test groups. I will be reaching out to Strong Women Strong Girls who we worked with last week. Also, we will have more accountability as far as keeping up with blog posts. Jillie and I decided what we will work on for the Tapia poster over winer break.
This is our last meeting before break so we discussed our expectations for next semester. Most importantly we chose a time to meet for the following semester. Next, SWSG was interested in participating in our research but they no longer have funding for field trips so we will have to discuss it. Also, they were interested in doing a mini hackathon for the older girls later in the year.
I have realized that somehow my weekly blogs are one week behind everyone else in my group. It is most likely due to changing our meeting days early in fall semester. To get back on track weeks 12 and 13 will be a combined winter break update. Jillie and I communicated during the break, assigning each person specific part of the proposal for Tapia. With the guidance of Maria and Jillie, I felt a lot more comfortable about presenting the poster alone next year. Also, I researched some of the most popular scratch projects and how to utilize scratch with children older than elementary school.
This week is the first meeting since winter break. Unfortunately, I had a dentist appointment that left me unable to function for the day. I emailed and kept up with our assigned work. The main goal of this week was to finalize our Tapia poster application. I worked on the background research, motivation and part of the abstract. While Jillie worked on the rest of the application and making it look good in LaTex. Maria researched all of our necessary IRB materials.
Feeling much better, I was able to attend this week 's meeting. Since Maria, is heading IRB materials she assigned me to create the pre and post surveys. I created questions following the syllabus we finalized. The task was actually much more difficult than I thought because the questions needed to be easy enough for a beginner programmer to comprehend but also difficult enough to prove that they learned something. Additionally, I tried to keep the questions centered on themes in the game and their lives as pre-teens.
I began working on a volunteer project with IGYDP (Institute for Global Youth Development) after pitching an idea for a hackathon celebrating computer scientist of color targeted towards high schoolers. The director of the organization agreed to help me as long as I helped her girls develop an educational app they had received funding for. This project is a win-win because I was able to get a test group of kids from the Boy and Girls Club of Roxbury, MA and the girls want to include our game on their app. My task for this week was to get demographic information and a test date from the Boys and Girls Club. Given the potential to have the game continue on an app, I decided I wanted to apply for a summer extension that would give me more time to finalize and add more level to the game for a better user experience.
Still waiting on information from the Boys and Girls Club, we worked towards completing the IRB paperwork. I have a few CITI lessons to complete to catch up to Maria and Jillie. We have most of the paperwork complete. Jillie made the survey and as a group we finalized the pre and post survey questions. We also made some changes to the levels in the game already created.
I finished my CITI trainings and Maria gathered all the paperwork to turn in our IRB proposal. Boys and Girls Club has not responded to my emails so I am currently searching for a new test group. Each of us a creating 3 new levels for the game to go over more concepts. Jillie is working on the web design to create a space for all of the games to go. we also dicussed the future of our project. If given a summer extension, I would create more in depth level to the game and if we continue the project next year we would create an accompanying curriculum for the typical in-person teaching to compare whether video game learning is as or more impactful than traditional learning.
This week finding a test group will be put secondary. I am awaiting a response from the Girl Scouts of Boston. As a plan B, a group of high school students I have been volunteering with are willing to become a test group. My primary focus for now is adding Boolean and for loop levels to the game. The Boolean game is "Simon Says" while the for loop is a bracelet making game.
At this point we have created enough level of the game to test some basic concepts. Maria piloted a few of the levels on her 11 year old sister and it was clear that we needed to simplify some of the games and add more directions written in language students are familar with. I thought about the idea of having a central theme for the game but for now we are sticking with seperate levels. Also, I continued to search for a test group by contacting the Boston Teacher's Union school. The liason between Simmons and BTU returned my email but no final decision has been made. Although I do have a good feeling about it because I have personally done service learning there and several Simmons proffesors are personally invested in the school.
Polishing off the games was my main concern. Because I created the games, I thought they were user friendly. We did some betta testing on a few of friends and our advisor. Many times when the game required the user to use the keyboard they thought they were supposed to use the mouse and drag which caused the game to freeze. Adding instructions has proved more difficult than anticipated. With too many instructions the user won't read them and too little and they won't be able to properly play the game. Also I tested putting the Python code directly in the game and it most users just ignored it or found it to be disruptive.I am still looking to find a balance. Also, I gave the permission slips to my highschoolers and we are looking to test with them on Monday or Wednesday depending on how quickly they return the slips.
Testing on my high schoolers did not happen this week. There was some confusion about wether they were meant to come in or not and they opted not. I tried to add more elements of game play into the programs while also making the learning concepts clear. The BTU school continued communication. I sent them our abstract along with our blog. They are meeting next week to determine if they'd like to work with us.
The IRB proposal to work with college students was approved. I still believe that working with children is best but as my high schoolers arrived all of them had forgotten their permission slips. Maria and I compared the games we made and realized that we were not teaching all of the same material. To correct it, I removed the portion teaching the difference between ints, float and doubles because it is not relavant to Python. We both decided that for-loops were beyond the scope of this initial test and removed them. Then, we edited the pre and post test accordingly.
Preparing for the Undergraduate Conference was the main concern. I created a Doodle to get a sense of the times we each were available to facilitate testing with college students. The BTU school has not returned my email so we are proceeding to test on college students. I added code snippets to the background of the games so that the user could have exposure to Python code in context
This week we were finally able to gather data. And, while I would have preffered to use a younger age group it was not an option in this time period. I have made a few connections for the summer to test on children. Collecting the data required a lot of coordination between myself and my partners. While the participants were playing the games we prepared parts of our presentation for the conference. I focused on the application and game levels as well as the pre pilot with Strong Women Strong Girls.
We presented at the Undergraduate Conference and recieved some valuable feed back. One proffessor has ties to a girls science summer camp and is willing to talk about the girls participating. Also, on a personal note I was inducted into Sigma Xi honor society and recieved a Tapia scholarship for this project.
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