My desire to pursue this study stems from a long-standing interest in wanting to make a difference, particularly concerning children. The insights I have gained along the way regarding uses of technology in learning, and policies in education, strengthened my resolve to help students bridge learning gaps and develop real interests in learning. My coursework in the Digital Humanities track which was led by Matt Gold and Stephen Brier centered discussions in relation to defining what DH is and what digital humanists do and delved into the ways that the field might be applied to our interests. The uses of big data to create data visualizations held my interests as I considered how these technologies could be used to inform so that the idea of using massive amounts of data in topic and computational modeling intrigued me. The ideal of situating projects through making and building was another core concept that was discussed during the semester, through the lens of student experimental learning. I collaborated with a team of four individuals during the second semester of DH to develop Beyond Citation, an online academic database, taking on the responsibility of creating the website’s overall design and logo, which familiarized me with the idea of using wireframes for web design and layout. After that responsibility was completed, the entire team assisted in accessing online academic libraries to gather and arrange data.
Coursework in International Migration took up discussions of assimilation, ethnic identity and group borders, the labor market, undocumented migration and the Country’s immigration policy. Topics relating to gender and family, transnationalism and documented and undocumented citizenship were all compelling to me as they describe hardships that can be experienced by migrants particularly regarding acculturation processes of children and how they come to understand American society.
The three semester Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program was a natural follow-up to DH coursework. Steve Brier, Luke Waltzer, Michael Mandiberg and Lisa Brundage lent their considerable knowledge to topics of pedagogy and technologies, and I became curious about creating visualizations that reflect K-12 learning so that the topic of under-resourcing in education began to crystalize as an idea that could be explored. I reasoned that given the multitude of digital tools that are currently available for use in education and the fact that eversion of technology had occurred, a reframing of education in minority communities could situate constructivist pedagogical practices to benefit students in lower socio-economic communities. Our class discussions reviewed the ways technology could affect academia. For instance, its uses in peer review processes described a potential for commenting in online book production, and what that could mean to academic publishing. The idea that technologies could affect scholarship held a special meaning to me as my thoughts were always centered around children, and I became fascinated with the idea of game play and other cultural frameworks as pragmatic ways to interests K-12 students who had lost their drive for learning. I believed that understanding differences in education especially when they are situated out of racial constructs, was an excellent starting point in which to construct a visualization that could contribute to ongoing dialog, and chose to situate my ITP minimally viable project within District 2 and District 23 as areas of interest to describe the roles of poverty and affluence as they exist in these communities. Michael and Lisa supported this idea and helped me drilled down my project to focus on PTA fundraising. Now that I had a project I could be passionate about, I needed to define which tool could be used to best describe this dichotomy visually. I believed the use of a collapsible tree using a D3 tool could show this data in a way that would be visually engaging for the user, but through the feedback of my classmates, decided on the use of a geospatial map was a more precise choice because the data would be situated spatially. Michael and Lisa introduced the idea of managing projects through Gnatt charts as this tool could be used to track responsibilities for project activities and the stages of advancement.
As I began my research for the geospatial map I realized that the issues surrounding K-12 education were politically entrenched, and far beyond my understanding at that point. As I became familiar with research materials, my desire to understand these issues heightened. This led to my study with Ira Shor where policies in urban education such as privatization, deregulation, and neoliberalism framed a deeper understanding of how student learning in minority communities has been effected. My subsequent classwork under Terrie Epstein introduced the topic of learning through cultural frameworks, so that I was delighted to discover that researchers and educators were arguing against the notion of deficit cultural models, and had constructed concepts of culturally relevant pedagogies into class learning as a way to situate learning through students’ cultural heritages, and through culturally sustaining pedagogies that give students the means to produce knowledge through youth culture practices.