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Digital East St. Louis is developing and testing a model of urban place-based learning to improve STEM dispositions and increase STEM aspirations for minority students. Funded through the National Science Foundation's ITEST program, a cohort of East St. Louis middle-grade students progressed through a three-year out-of-school program of increasingly sophisticated projects that used information technology and computing tools. Supported by a team of educators and project partners, the students produced a digital community resource with associated collections of text, image, audio, and video files that highlight features and events deemed important by the students.

Digital East St. Louis is positioned at the intersection of STEM, information technology, and digital humanities, affording an opportunity to conduct research about the potential for urban place-based learning and the digital humanities to be leverage points for altering student career intentions. Our goal is to use place-based learning as an inspiring and motivating context for reshaping student thinking about STEM careers. We named the student portion of the project Coding for Community, in recognition of the participants’ exploration of a community’s cultural history, urban development, and environmental challenges.

The project is a collaborative effort of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Center for STEM Research, Education, and Outreach and the Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics Scholarship (IRIS) Center, with support by faculty members in the Department of Historical Studies and the Black Studies Program.

 

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