Science and Journalism

Science and Children, February 2010 | Go to article overview

Science and Journalism


Computer scientists aren't the only ones who need an education in computer science in this innovation-driven economy.

Skills learned in computer science, like complex problem solving and analytical reasoning skills, are important for building a foundation for numerous careers including jobs in science and technology, as well as jobs in marketing, journalism, and the creative arts.

The United States is a leader in computer science at the college level, but most middle- and high-school students receive no exposure to the field. One major obstacle to educating young students in computer science is finding space in an already overburdened K--12 curriculum.

Ursula Wolz, researcher from the College of New Jersey, developed an innovative solution for providing students with an education in computer science with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Unlike traditional computer science courses in which students learn computer science programming through a textbook, Wolz and her team decided to take advantage of how 21st-century journalism is becoming more dependent on computer science. Wolz and her colleagues started a summer institute and an after-school program at which students learned computer programming skills while developing an online magazine.

In their project, which is funded by the NSF's Broadening Participation in Computing program, Wolz and her colleagues designed an Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers (IJIMS). IJIMS is a partnership between The College of New Jersey and Fisher Middle School in Ewing, New Jersey. They recruited middle school teachers, mostly language arts teachers, for a one-week institute at which they learned how to create an online magazine.

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During the second week, teachers were joined by rising eighth-grade students and the teachers became mentors to the students. During the two weeks, the teachers and students learned how to use Scratch, a graphical, syntax-free computer programming language. At the summer institute, students researched, prepared interviews, videotaped, edited the interviews, and developed Scratch projects to supplement their stories with animations or games. At the conclusion of the two weeks, the teachers and students had developed an online magazine.

There were 16 students in the first summer. By the second summer institute, the number of students had increased to 30. This strong interest in the project led the teachers and students to develop an afterschool program to run the online magazine during the academic year. …

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