Monday, October 23, 2017

Digital Humanities Club: Week 6

High school student Jaylen Jenkins and Gaige Crowell edit materials on Audacity.

On Wednesday, October 18, the high school students continued working with Audacity, as we'll do for the next few weeks. We're working our way up to producing audio projects. First, however, we want to sharpen our skills editing.

"The more we expose the students to audio editing," noted Gaige Crowell, "the more they'll be likely to either show their friends or build upon their knowledge and try more new things." He observed that "a couple of the boys were adding new elements to their recordings, and some were still trying to perfect what they had already learned."

"Something I considered about the high school students concerning audio editing or audio production," pointed out Tiara Perkins, "is that if the students focus on one specific part of audio editing and or production they will have a better understanding of what they need to know." She also noted the importance of the students "just playing with different things to see what they like and how to incorporate different pieces to their own audio production."

Amelia Williams offered suggestions on how to approach our next session. "Audio production would be more beneficial for the student if they had a specific goal to reach while working on Audacity," she stated. In addition, Jayla Howard suggested that we should avoid letting the students get too comfortable working with just one undergraduate. "We should switch it up" and have the students "move around a little," noted Jayla.

Week #6 reflection from graduate student, Rae'Jean Spears:
This week’s meeting with the East St. Louis Charter school went well. They seem to really be enjoying having the freedom to be creative with the auto samples. It seems like they have different interests so it would be interesting seeing them have to work together to create something. I look forward to seeing how their creativity will be stretched when given a specific task to complete.
The East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Rae'Jean Spears: the critical facilitator and conversationalist

Rae'Jean Spears facilitates a conversation about superheroes with students at Language Arts Conference

The past two weeks have been especially busy for my graduate assistant Rae'Jean Spears. First, last week, she joined me in facilitating discussions with several groups of students about their extracurricular learning activities. On the weekend, she led a small group of students through the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of the annual trip to the museum sponsored by the SOAR office at SIUE.

From late last week to this week, Rae'Jean met one-on-one with approximately 50 first-year African American college students concerning their upcoming writing assignments. And then on Wednesday, for our Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Rae'Jean facilitated group discussions with 45 high school black girls about superheroes. During those sessions, she sought out students to talk one-on-one.

Rae'Jean talks one-on-one with student about superheroes  

All in all, Rae'Jean has been one of the most critical facilitators and conversationalists for young people involved in our academic programming. Large numbers of undergraduates and high school students hear and learn from her perspective on the world.  At the same time, she listens to and learns from their perspectives.

Rae'Jean Spears and Amelia Williams talk with high school student for after-school DH program.

On Wednesdays, she contributes to our East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club. She  contributes to discussions about technology with the high school students and makes observations. Just as important, she's constantly participating in discussions with the undergraduate team leaders.  Finally, she produces weekly reflections on the activities of the program.

Who knew that a graduate student in literature would facilitate so many large and small group conversations with African American undergraduates and high school students?

The Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Fall 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

Language Arts and Leadership conferences

For the last few years, I've worked with colleagues, college students, and grad students to coordinate a series of conference for high school students.

The Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Fall 2017
The Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Spring 2017
The Language Arts and Leadership Conference, 2016
The Language Arts and Leadership Conference, 2015

That anti-bullying moment from comic book Superb

This semester, I'm coordinating a small study group with students from the SIUE/East St. Louis Charter High School. The project focuses on comic books--Noble and Superb. Working with younger readers helps me see what we're covering in new, useful ways.

When I first read Superb #1, I moved past a moment that I now return to with more focus. Early in the story, there's a moment when Kayla, one of the protagonists, stands up for her friend Jonah who's being bullied. Initially, the scene did not register in a strong way.

However, responses from high school students shifted my interests. When asked what stood out to them about issue #1  of Superb, nearly all of the students mentioned the scene with Kayla preventing Jonah from being bullied. The moment apparently struck a chord with the high school students.

In retrospect, it makes sense. All across the country, large numbers of students report being bullied or witnessing some form of bullying at their schools. Thus, students coming across that scene in Superb would no doubt take special notice. Receiving feedback from the students on that scene gave me a renewed appreciation for what it would mean to them.

East St. Louis study group focusing on comic books
A notebook on comic books

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A free book fair for black girls

One of my signature events over the last several years has been the book fair. I first became particularly interested in bookstores in my late teens, and I've managed to maintain that interest for quite some time. One way to share that interest is by coordinating events that showcase books.

For our fall Language Arts & Leadership Conference yesterday, I coordinated a book fair, with assistance from a group of my students. The high school black girls who attended seemed to really enjoy the book fair.

The items at the book fair included novels, biographies, comic books, and volumes of poetry. The students were most interested in the novels and comic books. They were especially interested in novels and comic books about black girls and women. One of the favored works, which blended novels and comic books, was the graphic novel version of Octavia Butler's Kindred.

The Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Fall 2017
A Notebook on bookstores, book collections & book fairs

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Comic book heroes and black girls

We coordinated a session on comic book heroes during our fall Language Arts & Leadership Conference. The session included a small display on heroes--Storm, Spectrum, Oracle, and Riri Williams. The purpose was to expose the students to heroic characters and highlight the science and technology behind their powers.

Rae'Jean Spears facilitated the activities, with assistance from a group of undergraduate volunteers. The high school students observed the display panels on comic book heroes, and talked about which characters they would be interested in taking on if given the chance.

Rae'Jean Spears facilitates discussion with students about comic book characters

Several of the students mentioned their interest in Storm. Her ability to fly, they said, was especially appealing. Some of the girls also highlighted Riri Williams, noting that her engineering knowledge and ability to attend M.I.T. at an early age were quite impressive.

One of my colleagues Matthew Johnson, Curriculum Specialist at the STEM Center at SIUE, helped me produce the panels on the superheroes by providing observations concerning the science and technology behind some of the superpowers presented in the panels.

The Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Fall 2017

Scenes from the Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Fall 2017

We held our fall Language Arts & Leadership Conference on October 18. What follows are a few images from the day's activities.

Cindy Reed, black girls, and poetry

Rae'Jean Spears facilitates discussion.

Cindy Reed, black girls, and poetry

I've lost count of how many times Cindy Reed has led poetry presentations and workshops for us over the years. I'm grateful, though, that I can keep depending on her.

Today, she led a workshop for our fall Language Arts and Leadership conference for high school black girls. Cindy's workshop prompted participants to investigate how black women’s poetry imagined black girls on the page and how those images prompted them to explore their real life experiences. The high school students analyzed poetry and addressed some of the reasons why black girls represent themselves in the ways they do both in poetry and in person.

The high school students really enjoyed workshop. Some of them noted that the poetry was interesting, and just as important, Cindy affirmed the young women throughout the session.

After the workshop, Cindy observed:
I was fascinated about how the young sisters readily opened up and talked about their own experiences after reading poetry that reflects the images of black girls and women. In fact, the discussion got so good, we ran out of time. This demonstrated two significant things: black girls need more exposure to literature they can see themselves in, and they crave safe spaces in which they can discuss issues and ideas related to their black girl identities.

The Language Arts & Leadership Conference, Fall 2017