Shannon Dosemagen: I am real­ly hap­py to intro­duce Dr. Nettrice Gaskins. She is join­ing us as part of an inclu­sive speak­er series and will be dis­cussing techno-vernacular cre­ativ­i­ty in STEAM. For those of you who are new to the term STEAM, it’s going to be talked about a lot today. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.

Dr. Gaskins is the Boston Arts Academy STEAM Lab direc­tor, and notably the Academy is the only pub­lic high school in Boston for visu­al and per­form­ing arts. Dr. Gaskins earned a BFA in Computer Graphics with hon­ors from Pratt Institute in 1992, and an MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 94. She worked for sev­er­al years in K‑12 and post-secondary education,community media, and tech­nol­o­gy before enrolling at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she received a Doctorate in Digital Media in 2014.

Dr. Gaskins’ mod­el for techno-vernacular cre­ativ­i­ty is an area of prac­tice that inves­ti­gates the char­ac­ter­is­tics of cul­tur­al art and tech­nol­o­gy made by under­rep­re­sent­ed eth­nic groups for their own enter­tain­ment and cre­ative expres­sion and its appli­ca­tion in STEAM learn­ing. Her essays are includ­ed in edit­ed vol­umes such as Meet Me at the Fair: A World’s Fair Reader, Future Texts, and Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness, which…came out today. So look for it at your local book­store.

I’m very hap­py to turn the mic over to Dr. Gaskins.

Nettrice Gaskins: Thank you.

I’m going to get start­ed and just say good after­noon and talk a lit­tle bit about how I came to STEAM, and then what kind of work I’m doing cur­rent­ly.

Techno-vernacular Creativity, Innovation & Learning” was kind of the title of my dis­ser­ta­tion, and I’m going to talk about how it came to that and then how I found STEAM on the way, through that process.

If peo­ple are famil­iar with ver­nac­u­lar, which I’m sure you are, peo­ple in the audi­ence out­side of this room may not be. It’s basi­cal­ly native lan­guage or dialect of a spe­cif­ic pop­u­la­tion as opposed to a wider, dom­i­nant, or main­stream com­mu­ni­ca­tion. So ver­nac­u­lar could be lan­guage but it could also be visu­al lan­guage, it can be spo­ken lan­guage, or oth­er types of ways of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

So in 2011, I was pret­ty sure that there was a link between graf­fi­ti and math. I don’t know how I came to that. Actually, I was doing some inter­views of graf­fi­ti artists, and lis­ten­ing to inter­views of graf­fi­ti at the begin­ning of my dis­ser­ta­tion stud­ies, and real­ized that a lot of the graf­fi­ti artists I was pay­ing atten­tion to were talk­ing a lot about sci­ence and math, and not mak­ing that con­nec­tion. So I went to some peo­ple and said I think there’s a link between graf­fi­ti and math, and was told, No no, there isn’t.” So my advi­sor said, You’re prob­a­bly right, but you need to find some­one who’s done the work.”

So I made a guess and con­tact­ed Ron Eglash over at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and he was like, Oh. Yeah, we devel­oped soft­ware that’s called Graffiti Grapher. It’s online. It’s free for edu­ca­tors.” They had a bunch of oth­er tools that are based on cul­tur­al art, and they’re basi­cal­ly teach­ing com­put­er pro­gram­ming on a very basic lev­el and/or math­e­mat­ics, or both. So these tools were just there since 2006 or what­ev­er, and one of them was graf­fi­ti and math. And there was a lot of back­ground about how that con­nect­ed to math­e­mat­ics, look­ing at coor­di­nates and things like that.

But my inter­est in graf­fi­ti goes way back to when I was a high school stu­dent, and maybe even before that. So being able to con­nect it in such a way was a great thing because that’s when I heard about STEAM, around the same few months of time.

Techno-vernacular (the tech­no” part being tech­no­log­i­cal or tech­nol­o­gy), is sort of look­ing at cul­tur­al art and tech­nol­o­gy made by under­rep­re­sent­ed eth­nic groups. So indige­nous, African, and Latino dias­po­ras for their own enter­tain­ment or cre­ative expres­sion. So it’s less about the def­i­n­i­tion and more about how peo­ple find mean­ing in math. Or how they find mean­ing in sci­ence. How they find mean­ing in an art and oth­er things. And how they sort of com­mu­ni­cate. The look, the style, the expres­sion that’s asso­ci­at­ed with a par­tic­u­lar group, time, place, or event.

So I was like let’s look at this as a frame­work. Reappropriation was some­thing I looked at, impro­vi­sa­tion, con­cep­tu­al remix­ing as it relat­ed to techno-vernacular cre­ativ­i­ty. And so through reap­pro­pri­a­tion you rede­ploy mate­r­i­al. I’ll give some exam­ples of that in a sec­ond. Improvisation, which is huge, is sort of recon­ceiv­ing tech­nol­o­gy that trans­gress­es the tech­nol­o­gy’s designed func­tion and mean­ing. And then remix­ing is the redesign­ing or pro­duc­ing new mate­r­i­al arti­facts after the exist­ing form or func­tion has been reject­ed. So look­ing at schol­ars who were in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy stud­ies and some in engi­neer­ing, and how they were look­ing at these groups and how they were engag­ing with tech­nol­o­gy and sci­ence.

The idea of con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing or plac­ing some­thing in a new or dif­fer­ent con­text, syn­the­siz­ing, see­ing rela­tion­ships between seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed areas and then syn­cretiz­ing or invent­ing new things by com­bin­ing ele­ments nobody thought to put togeth­er was some­thing that I found kept com­ing up when I was look­ing at some exam­ples.

This is reap­pro­pri­a­tion. This is lowrid­er car cul­ture, out of Chicano cul­ture. There’s a film called Underwater Dreams which is about a high school group out of Arizona [who] in 2006, I believe, beat MIT at an under­wa­ter robot­ics com­pe­ti­tion. They were most­ly Hispanic stu­dents, first gen­er­a­tion, and beat them both in the pre­sen­ta­tion and in the actu­al robot itself.

But in the film, and also when I went to hear one of the peo­ple that won talk about it a year and a half ago, he start­ed talk­ing about hid­den switch­es. And that is ver­nac­u­lar used when you’re doing lowrid­er cars. They used lowrid­er car cul­ture to sort of get into robot­ics. So we talk about a ver­nac­u­lar, in this case lowrid­er cars and car cul­ture, and then we talk about robot­ics. And then this is the way into robot­ics for a lot of groups, through this cul­ture.

A young man sitting on the floor surrounded by dismantled electronics

This is Kelvin Doe. He is from Sierra Leone. He was brought by MIT a few years ago. He’s also known as DJ Focus. He’s a self-taught engi­neer. He want­ed to be a DJ, have a stu­dio. They did­n’t have the resources. So he went and found junk and put things togeth­er and cre­at­ed his own stuff. So in a place where there aren’t any resources, you find young peo­ple like Kelvin who are self-taught and began to do the kinds of things you might find in and engi­neer­ing space or hack­er space or mak­er space. This idea of impro­vis­ing or invent­ing through use of mate­ri­als is some­thing that is pret­ty preva­lent in under­rep­re­sent­ed eth­nic groups.

Then Kelvin being a DJ remind­ed me of this guy. This is Grandmaster Flash, who’s cred­it­ed with the inven­tion of the first cross­fad­er, or audio mix­er. He reclaimed parts from a junk­yard, he began to cre­ate some­thing now that most DJs use around the world, and is now at the Smithsonian. But once upon a time, he was a teenag­er in the Bronx. Didn’t have any mon­ey. And in his moth­er’s kitchen invent­ed some­thing that’s now at the Smithsonian.

This is years ago in the 1970s, and Kelvin is more recent, but we find that this hap­pens over and over again in groups that aren’t part of a lot of dis­course around sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and math, but they’re doing these things any­way as part of their every­day life or their cre­ative expres­sion.

I want to look at this chart. This is fair­ly recent, the last cou­ple of years. This is from the National Science Foundation, and this is look­ing at sci­en­tists and engi­neers work­ing in sci­ence and engi­neer­ing occu­pa­tions. The chart kind of speaks for itself. We can take a look at where some of the under­rep­re­sent­ed eth­nic groups are in terms of per­cent­ages. So, black men is 3%. Black women is 2%. Hispanic men, 4%. Hispanic women, 2%. And oth­er would be indige­nous groups and oth­er groups. So you can see that this is their par­tic­i­pa­tion in sci­ence and engi­neer­ing more recent­ly. And this includes, if you go to the NSF web site in the study for this, peo­ple from those groups who actu­al­ly go and major in these areas. They do not go into STEM. So it’s not just get­ting into STEM, but when they actu­al­ly have the major they don’t go into STEM. So we look at stuff like this and then we see the kind of things that I’ve been talk­ing about and real­ize that there’s a dis­con­nect between the two things hap­pen­ing.

So after I start­ed work­ing with Ron and RPI, I start­ed look­ing at his mod­el for culturally-situated design. So con­nect­ing cul­tur­al art and standards-based STEM prin­ci­ples; art-based learn­ing, which stim­u­lates the devel­op­ment of 21st cen­tu­ry skills and cre­ativ­i­ty and inquiry; and edu­ca­tion­al appli­ca­tions of new tech­nolo­gies that can be used as new open­ings for learn­ing. And I start­ed look­ing at how to map this into a way to devel­op cur­ricu­lum and to make projects.

There you can see the culturally-situated design tool we were work­ing with was very sim­i­lar to MIT’s Scratch, where you are able to stack blocks and sort of cre­ate designs or sim­u­la­tions based on cul­tur­al art forms. So that’s math and com­put­er sci­ence. And then also there’s mean­ing itself in the art­work, so the star—this is a Native American star quilt design. The math­e­mat­i­cal star or morn­ing star. We also have artists who look at this as a design in con­tem­po­rary art and how it relates to engi­neer­ing and the rest of the STEM areas. So just real­ly try­ing to find ways to merge the art, show them art on an equal lev­el with STEM.

Also, tucked away up there is afro­fu­tur­ism, because a lot of the artists that I was look­ing at are in that sort of way of—I’ll define afro­fu­tur­ism as a way of com­bin­ing the past, present, and future and real­ly sort of look­ing at ways in which peo­ple, the African dias­po­ra, how they are in the future as opposed to stereo­typ­i­cal roles or stereo­typ­i­cal things that they’re plagued with in the present or in the past.

After think­ing about Kelvin Doe, Grandmaster Flash. DJing, VJing, break­danc­ing, oth­er types of forms that I define as techno-vernacular, I cre­at­ed a tax­on­o­my to con­tex­tu­al­ize or look at how we would assess learn­ing. So this is my tax­on­o­my for techno-vernacular cre­ativ­i­ty. What this allowed me to do was begin to look at how this might con­nect to some of the STEM prin­ci­ples I was talk­ing to Ron and oth­ers about. So dia­gram­ming, map­ping, repeat­ing, loop­ing, replay­ing. The pat­terns, beats, rhythms, mea­sure. Things that we can look at that we can say this is a domain that we can look at to assess. And then trans­lat­ing all that into an actu­al design rubric for assess­ment.

So we’re look­ing at dia­gram­ming, giv­en a sam­ple or script. And I was look­ing at extent, depth, breadth, and mas­tery as areas to assess as well. So how much did they mas­ter this? One of the things I found out is that the more mas­tery you have the more impro­vi­sa­tion you have. And I’ll talk about that in a sec­ond.

Extent is designed to cap­ture par­tic­i­pants’ under­stand­ing of a tool. breadth is mea­sur­ing changes in a num­ber of con­cep­tu­al cat­e­gories an indi­vid­ual uses to describe a task. Depth is the con­cep­tu­al under­stand­ing that they have. And mas­tery gauges where the par­tic­i­pant falls along a con­tin­u­um from novice to expert.

After I did all that, I did some work­shops in Atlanta, because I was at Georgia Tech, and dis­cov­ered by bring­ing in cul­tur­al art and bring­ing in tech­nol­o­gy, this was a way to engage young peo­ple, in this case mid­dle school stu­dents, most­ly African-American, in STEM. I assessed it, and assessed basi­cal­ly, with­out get­ting into all that, which I don’t have time to do, it did show that there was an increase in engage­ment and inter­est and moti­va­tion in STEM, based on the activ­i­ties in these work­shops that were also arts-based.

Then I got offered this job in Boston Arts Academy and I wrapped up my dis­ser­ta­tion suc­cess­ful­ly, and start­ed doing work here local­ly at Boston Arts Academy.

After a year, so a year and half I’ve been here, I start­ed to think about how STEAM (I’m look­ing at STEAM very broad­ly) would hap­pen with­in an arts acad­e­my, but also with­in a tra­di­tion­al Common Core or standards-based cur­ricu­lum. So con­duct­ing work­shops based on these kinds of mod­ules would get us to a point where we could assess whether or not the stu­dents are more engaged, more moti­vat­ed, or more inter­est­ed. And Boston Arts Academy is 40% African-American, 40% Latino, and the the rest White and Asian and so on. So 80% African-American and Latino, from all dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods of Boston.

I thought about this in an eight-week sit­u­a­tion where we talk about fun­da­men­tals, we’re talk­ing about elec­tric­i­ty, or visu­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion, or some sort of fun­da­men­tal vocab­u­lary that young peo­ple would need to know, stu­dents would need to know. Then we talk about design­ing, we’re talk­ing about fab­ri­cat­ing, pro­to­typ­ing, and then pro­gram­ming and so on. These are artists, these are stu­dents who a lot of them are going to go into the arts. But they could also bring with them a lot of the skills that they’re learn­ing in their STEM class­es as well. So the idea of immers­ing them in a sort of STEAM expe­ri­ence is a way to help them build skills they need for their jobs or for school, and doing that in a way that isn’t sep­a­rate from art at all, but that helps them work in dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties in terms of what they’re doing. I’ll give some exam­ples.

A young girl dancing, her feet on large sheets of paper with what resemble circuit markings on them

This is a dance stu­dent, and her and two oth­er stu­dents were in a sci­ence class. They were giv­en an extra cred­it project, and they came to me and said, Oh, we like this kin­da touch­board thing you showed us, this kind of small com­put­er you showed us that makes music. So we want to know, is there a way we can make a dance floor that when we dance on it it makes music.” What you see her doing here (this is a STEAM fair at Boston Arts Academy) is her and her peers use con­duc­tive paint on paper to cre­ate a cir­cuit that when she dances on makes music. So you can see the lap­top and then there’s a touch­board on it and when she dances there’s music there. So the idea of com­bin­ing art (in this case dance per­for­mance) and elec­tron­ics and engi­neer­ing, and a lit­tle bit of cod­ing, is some­thing that was ear­ly on in the STEAM lab when made it for the stu­dents.

This is using con­duc­tive paint again and touch­boards, but this is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gy unit, part of engi­neer­ing class. These are, I believe tenth graders. And that’s Hank Shocklee who is one of the archi­tects for Public Enemy, who just got induct­ed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who came up to meet with the stu­dents pre­sent­ing their instru­ments that they made with con­duc­tive paint and paper and elec­tron­ics to Hank, who was very much into instru­ments and music. This hap­pened Spring of last year.

This is this past Fall, where we start­ed look­ing at a con­cept called tenseg­ri­ty, ten­sion integri­ty, which is Buckmister Fuller’s con­cept, and how using in this case chop­sticks and latex tub­ing they could cre­ate struc­tures that were based on graph­ic and lin­ear func­tions in math. They also tie this into robot­ics because NASA’s using a lot of this type of tech­nol­o­gy to cre­ate robots they can drop on Mars that are in the cen­ter of these struc­tures. So here we have a math/sculpture type of mix hap­pen­ing. You can see the sci­ence teacher in the back and the stu­dents doing a hands-on thing in a STEAM lab.

This is last week. This is in the Black Box Theatre at Boston Art Academy, and this is a stu­dent who is learn­ing how to do video pro­jec­tion map­ping. A video pro­jec­tion map­ping is basi­cal­ly map­ping mul­ti­ple pro­jec­tions on dif­fer­ent sur­faces at the same time. So this is for a the­ater pro­duc­tion that hap­pened this past week that was basi­cal­ly a play that twenty-three high schools had been select­ed to do in the next six months, and we’re the on high school using video pro­jec­tion map­ping, which is a com­pu­ta­tion­al think­ing skill. We’re also using Leap Motion con­trollers, which are sen­sors based on hand move­ment, and using oth­er types of tech­nolo­gies that we map graph­i­cal­ly on to walls. So the stu­dent is the­ater, but the stu­den­t’s the­ater plus tech­nol­o­gy plus pro­gram­ming plus…and so on.

So this idea of com­bin­ing or work­ing in dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties through the arts, through sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and math is some­thing that we’re real­ly look­ing to make prac­ti­cal for stu­dents as opposed to just with­in a class­room, also the world.

I could talk to oth­er projects, but I know that peo­ple might have some ques­tions. There are some terms maybe you’ve nev­er heard before. Maybe you have some ques­tions about STEAM. But I want to open it up and maybe throw it back to the mod­er­a­tor as well.


Audience 1: Thank you for this fas­ci­nat­ing talk. It’s very inspir­ing to see the work you are doing with youth, espe­cial­ly minor­i­ty and diverse youth. I won­der if you can talk more about the path­ways and the tra­jec­to­ries that these young cre­ative work­ers and learn­ers are doing after being engaged in the STEAM Lab, because they’re devel­op­ing all these kinds of skills, mak­ing the con­nec­tions between their own cul­ture and engi­neer­ing. But how do they nav­i­gate the world after the Lab, or the world after high school, and how can they con­nect with job oppor­tu­ni­ties or com­mu­ni­ties in their cities or in their state?

Nettrice Gaskins: The Lab’s only a year old, so the stu­dents have only had access to it for a very short peri­od of time. And one of the things that is very interesting—an anec­dote I give about this par­tic­u­lar stu­dent is very inter­est­ing because the stu­dent was­n’t doing well aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly. But he’s very good at video games, and very pas­sion­ate about video games. As it turns out, video pro­jec­tion map­ping is very sim­i­lar to the kind of games he plays on PlayStation 4, where he has mul­ti­ple screens up at the same time, with oth­er play­ers. So the idea of work­ing with­in that kind of modal­i­ty is some­thing for this par­tic­u­lar stu­dent, he’s already doing every day, or would like to do every day.

The idea that you can tie in pro­gram­ming or tie it into a the­ater con­text is adding a lay­er of mean­ing and skills that that stu­dent may nev­er have antic­i­pat­ed until last week. And as a result of this a‑ha moment, he will now be able, along with oth­er stu­dents, to incor­po­rate this into what they’re doing in the­ater pro­duc­tion. And of course, he’s sort of in the same modal­i­ty that he usu­al­ly is in with video game play­ing.

Now, lat­er on since he’s a sopho­more, he can begin look­ing at more spe­cif­ic skills that will help him advance this type of inter­est. So if he want­ed to go into more of a com­put­er pro­gram­ming aspect of the­ater pro­duc­tion, he could do that. If he want­ed more on this idea of mul­ti­ple screens and work­ing with a pro­gram­mer, he would be able to do that and have that skill set already.

But it real­ly is kind of, now we see where these kids are com­ing in and where they con­nect. Then we can begin to make this more real and more prac­ti­cal for them as we go along. So the dancer who wants to use con­duc­tive paint and use elec­tron­ics to enhance their dance per­for­mance. They may not do that every sin­gle time, or they may do this in par­tic­u­lar ways, but the idea that they now have these tools enables them to be able to take it to the next lev­el when they’re ready. So, I don’t know if that answered your ques­tion but, for now.

Audience 2: I’m just curi­ous. To facil­i­tate these kids’ tran­si­tion to ter­tiary edu­ca­tion and to jobs, which is the ques­tion that was just posed, have you con­sid­ered a pro­gram of intern­ships where they could devel­op these skills sup­port­ed by cre­ative peo­ple, old­er cre­ative peo­ple in the arts?

Gaskins: There’s already intern­ship pro­grams in place. There’s sum­mer pro­gram­ming as well. So I think, we have a lot of video game design com­pa­nies in Cambridge, so I’m sure there’s oppor­tu­ni­ties to engage on that lev­el as well.

And one of the things I want­ed to say is not that these young peo­ple aren’t inter­est­ed in these activ­i­ties, it’s that they don’t see them­selves or see peo­ple like them doing it. The rea­son why I am com­fort­able pro­gram­ming is because my moth­er was a com­put­er pro­gram­mer. I did­n’t like com­put­er pro­gram­ming until my senior year of high school. So I actu­al­ly did­n’t do any pro­gram­ming until much lat­er in my teen years, part­ly because my art teacher decid­ed to teach com­put­er graph­ics and con­vince me after sev­er­al attempts to get me to take her first com­put­er graph­ics class, which then led to me major­ing in com­put­er graph­ics in col­lege.

It’s a very short peri­od of turn­around time, when you think about it. So I’m a junior in high school in visu­al arts, and then major­ing in com­put­er graph­ics a year and a half lat­er. There’s a port­fo­lio you have to make, so there’s a lot of work the teacher and the stu­dents have to go through. The oppor­tu­ni­ties that the teacher hoped would hap­pen, she was­n’t entire­ly sure what would hap­pen when we began. So com­pe­ti­tions began to hap­pen and the National Science Foundation actu­al­ly had a com­pe­ti­tion for art and sci­ence back then, and my com­put­er graph­ics work won a prize.

These were all incen­tives to con­tin­ue in that direc­tion. I did not antic­i­pate that I would go into com­put­er pro­gram­ming until I got to Pratt and then I felt like they had kind of snuck that in on me. So this is the stuff my moth­er does, not me, I’m an artist. But then I have to do this as part of the require­ment for the major. So a lot of this is build­ing a blue­print as you go along. You have to first fig­ure out what it is, what modal­i­ties young peo­ple are com­fort­able in, and what they feel they’re pas­sion­ate about. What is not just cul­tur­al­ly rel­e­vant or respon­sive, but what is per­son­al­ly rel­e­vant and respon­sive. What makes sense to them and what they do in their day to day.

Then you con­nect that to the world that’s for­eign to them, that’s out­side, that’s main­stream and dom­i­nant, where they’re not reflect­ed. And I think then you begin to sort of hash out the kinds of activ­i­ties out­side of school that they can get involved in. They might be entre­pre­neur­ial, or they might be with­in an exist­ing busi­ness or com­pa­ny.

Audience 3: I don’t have a ques­tion, but I have a rec­om­men­da­tion. I know you’re inter­est­ed in afro­fu­tur­ism and space and sci­ence fic­tion. There’s a pro­gram at MIT for stu­dents. It’s part of the AeroAstro depart­ment. It’s called Zero Robotics, where the kids have to learn how to pro­gram, and they upload their code to the International Space Station. And we watched dur­ing the finals, the astro­nauts while they’re not flip­ping around and hav­ing fun, they have to use these actu­al artis­tic SPHERES (that’s the acronym) to have com­pe­ti­tions. There are like nine states, and I think they’re doing it over­seas as well. And it’s great to see Texas vs. Florida, DC/Maryland vs. Massachusetts. But it’s an artis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their code. So you might want to get your kids involved in that. I’d be hap­py to let you know.

Gaskins: Thanks for remind­ing me. We actu­al­ly met with the new Deputy Director at NASA. About a month ago we had lunch. Me and one of my stu­dents had lunch with her and her assis­tant. We talked about some of the things in terms of their Journey to Mars project. Obama ear­li­er this year decid­ed that by 2036, peo­ple will actu­al­ly be on Mars, as opposed to dri­ving by Mars, or get­ting close to Mars, or drop­ping robots on Mars. So this is a new ini­tia­tive and Dava Newman was here, and she did her lec­ture at the Museum of Fine Arts. Then we had this lunch and I start­ed talk­ing about ideas that I was hav­ing.

Then I found out, as it relates to the arts part, that the Voyager 1 space probe gath­ers data on plas­ma waves and then they have been con­vert­ing that to music, or to sounds. So we have stu­dents who com­pose music. So what hap­pens when we begin lay­er­ing in data from the plas­ma wave probe that could actu­al­ly get them involved with this Journey to Mars project. And then my stu­dent has his own vision of an inter­face that’s not based on touch but based on prox­im­i­ty and pro­jec­tion. But he was able to pitch to the Deputy Director of NASA, and folks. So this idea of a visu­al arts stu­dent being able to do that was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for him and for us as well.

Audience 4: The sto­ries are real­ly inter­est­ing. I like see­ing the con­nec­tions. How do we scale this? Are there pro­grams that you can drop into a school or to train a teacher? What do we do to have this reach more peo­ple, not just the best, but the aver­age who have these inter­ests and are mak­ing these con­nec­tions?

Gaskins: I think that in addi­tion to ini­tia­tives like Journey to Mars, there needs to be more of a focus on com­pu­ta­tion­al think­ing and teacher train­ing pri­or to them hit­ting the class­room, and then also as pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment. I think it’s a modal­i­ty, it’s a way of engag­ing with mate­r­i­al. And I think it also helps—it leads to com­put­er pro­gram­ming, of course. But it also leads into some of these oth­er things such as con­duc­tive paint and touch­boards and cod­ing. But I think it also is a way of think­ing about how you struc­ture activ­i­ties as well. Some of the STEAM pro­grams I’ve been read­ing about have real­ly focused on com­pu­ta­tion­al think­ing, and I think we need to just sort of say what that is and then cre­ate some­thing that is able to go into an edu­ca­tion­al place and train teach­ers on. But it does­n’t exist yet in a lot of pro­grams for prepar­ing teach­ers for schools.

I think that’s a first step. I also think the cul­tur­al piece is miss­ing. So I think the part that engages stu­dents that are from under­rep­re­sent­ed eth­nic groups is miss­ing. I think they don’t see them­selves reflect­ed, don’t see their inter­ests or their cul­tures reflect­ed, so they stay out­side of it even if it’s free, or even if it’s some­thing that is in their neigh­bor­hood. It just is a hard­er sell for a lot of young peo­ple who just can’t see them­selves in STEM or STEAM. So begin­ning to incor­po­rate those types of modal­i­ties and expe­ri­ences and mak­ing it respon­sive to cul­ture, respon­sive to inter­est, is anoth­er step that needs to hap­pen more in a broad­er fash­ion.

Audience 5: Sort of as a follow-up to that ques­tion, can you talk a lit­tle bit more about how the pro­gram ani­mates across the cur­ricu­lum at Boston Arts Academy? Is it a dis­crete course that stu­dents are tak­ing or a sort of drop-in lab? Is it a resource for teach­ers or is it sort of all of the above? So how does it work?

Gaskins: All of the above. So you have the tenseg­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion with math class­es. So math class­es came down, tenth graders, and did a tenseg­ri­ty activ­i­ty with an artist. But obvi­ous­ly you could take that into dif­fer­ent direc­tions, if you’d like, includ­ing sci­ence. Also, the idea of think­ing and work­ing in dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties for peo­ple who don’t do that is a chal­lenge. If you’re a sci­ence teacher and sci­ence is your exper­tise, and you’ve nev­er made art and art is not your exper­tise, it’s real­ly hard when you’re plan­ning to fig­ure out how to incor­po­rate that, or how to incor­po­rate com­pu­ta­tion­al think­ing and cod­ing and pro­gram­ming. And the same for math, and even for art. If you’re an art per­son and haven’t real­ly thought about deep engage­ment in sci­ence— So, we do have art sci­ence activ­i­ties hap­pen­ing at Boston Arts Academy where sci­en­tists are work­ing with artists, and they’re work­ing with young peo­ple in the class­room. So some­times that one per­son, it may be mul­ti­ple peo­ple. So you have an artist and a sci­en­tist will­ing to work togeth­er, or work across dis­ci­plines in order for that to hap­pen.

Audience 6: Thank you so much for the talk. I guess I was curi­ous about…well, first of all thank you for the fact that you’re giv­ing lan­guage to things that are already going on in com­mu­ni­ties. So like with the hid­den switch­es that are going on in Latino com­mu­ni­ties, or what­ev­er the case may be. So I was curi­ous did you run into road­blocks as you devel­oped your tax­on­o­my, as you were think­ing about how does the ver­nac­u­lar trans­late into what acad­e­mia already accepts or says is the ter­mi­nol­o­gy for tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion or that space?

Gaskins: One of the things that I noticed, being African-American and female in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly White insti­tu­tion in Georgia Tech in terms of fac­ul­ty, is I noticed that the cur­ricu­lum or canon did­n’t have any­one of col­or in it for dig­i­tal media. It had a few women, maybe three or four, five, for a two year span of read­ing. And then no one of col­or. So for some­one who real­ly want­ed to do some­thing that was cul­tur­al­ly respon­sive, that pre­sent­ed a prob­lem. I had to find a Ron Eglash to real­ly kick that off. Someone who was an eth­no­math­e­mati­cian who stud­ies cul­tures and who con­nects it to math.

But I also had this knowl­edge of being an artist and work­ing with graf­fi­ti artists, work­ing with reg­u­lar con­tem­po­rary artists, mak­ing art myself, and my inter­est in sci­ence or my inter­est in tech­nol­o­gy, obvi­ous­ly was some­thing that real­ly pushed me to think about how I would describe the types of projects and works that peo­ple in these com­mu­ni­ties were doing that made sense in a STEM or STEAM capac­i­ty. So cre­at­ing a tax­on­o­my, a domain, say­ing this is a domain, was my first… And then how do you cre­ate a frame­work around that con­cep­tu­al­ly and the­o­ret­i­cal­ly was the oth­er piece. So before I get to the actu­al STEAM Lab, I had to cre­ate this frame­work which to work from, because it did­n’t exist. So that was prob­lem­at­ic.

But then once you do that, it starts mov­ing, and you start real­iz­ing there’s this whole world of inno­va­tion hap­pen­ing that is not often mak­ing it to aca­d­e­m­ic dis­course. But when it does, it’s this a‑ha moment or we bring a kid in from Sierra Leone and we study that, real­iz­ing that this hap­pens a lot, just in many oth­er neigh­bor­hoods around the world includ­ing in the United States, where peo­ple don’t have resources and because of that are inno­vat­ing and cre­at­ing in their com­mu­ni­ties. So the tax­on­o­my and frame­work was the basis, but then get­ting into it and mak­ing and doing was the next step.

Audience 7: Your ear­li­er slides with your tax­on­o­my got me bub­bling about the cul­tur­al brico­lage you describe. And I think you may have just answered this a lit­tle bit now, but most of your exam­ples have been stu­dents who have an artis­tic bent by nature, and they’re by virtue of this pro­gram’s efforts being like, Ohhh…,” open­ing their minds to the pos­si­bil­i­ties that the science/technology/engineering aspect STEAM rep­re­sents. But I’m very much hear­ing you say that you and your pro­gram sort of occu­py this bridge-building mid­dle ground, and I’m won­der­ing how much either of an effort you’re mak­ing or exam­ples you might have of some­one who’s a science/technologist/engineer by bent is say­ing, Oh,” and hav­ing their mind opened to the artis­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties of the oth­er stuff they’re doing. I ask because I have some friends work­ing on doing that same kind of bridge-building build­ing with respect to empa­thy and ethics and pol­i­cy­mak­ing say­ing, There’s this whole oth­er stuff you need to think about and will make you bet­ter at what you do.”

Gaskins: I think that leg­is­la­tion just passed two months ago for STEAM, so that means more sup­port from the fed­er­al lev­el. But also, when I talk to artists about sci­ence, they’re inter­est­ed. Huh. I do that all the time.” Or math, I cre­ate chore­og­ra­phy based on frac­tals.” Happens. Artists are very open to those kinds of con­nec­tions. But if you talk to, not an eth­no­math­e­mati­cian, just a math­e­mati­cian, they may not get it. They may not even see it. Ron will tell you, I appre­ci­ate low art. Not an artist. I refer to peo­ple who know that to work with when I do these projects.”

But at the same time, every once in a while you’ll find a physi­cist or some sort of sci­en­tist who has some arts back­ground or has some sort of appre­ci­a­tion for the arts. That’s the per­son you start to work with. Then at some point col­leagues begin to appre­ci­ate the con­nec­tion. But I think that has to hap­pen more often. It’s very dif­fi­cult; it can take years just for that to actu­al­ly hap­pen. So we do have an arts sci­ence type of pro­gram spear­head­ed by TERC at Boston Arts Academy right now. The focus is the micro­bio­me, so teach­ers and artists are work­ing with sci­en­tists from The Broad Institute on how to bridge art and sci­ence. It’s a three-year fund­ed project and they’re going into the third year now, but they’ve had some under­stand­ings about how dif­fi­cult the process is to bring peo­ple from dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, dif­fer­ent areas and fields of study togeth­er and how do you get every­one on the same page in order for them to begin to work on things that ben­e­fit young peo­ple, ben­e­fit stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ties. So, it’s a process is what I’m say­ing. It’s not some­thing that may hap­pen right away.

Audience 8: Hi. Thank you for this talk. This pro­gram has been up and run­ning for a year. Where do you hope it’ll be in five years and what sort of steps do you see in the future both to scale it and to make it broad­er and deep­er?

Gaskins: I think cre­at­ing struc­tures with­in for­mal set­tings that enable inter-disciplinary col­lab­o­ra­tion is a step. I think it’s a big step. So we’re not just in the sci­ence or math team, we’re work­ing in our team with mem­bers of oth­er teams, and we’re work­ing on projects where it makes sense. So it’s not forced, it’s some­thing that comes nat­u­ral­ly and peo­ple have buy-in and are com­mit­ted to it. And it’s a strug­gle because a lot of art teach­ers don’t have to face stan­dard­ized test­ing, for exam­ple, the way a sci­ence or math teacher would. So the kinds of pres­sures that are on sci­ence and math teach­ers in school will help cre­ate a chal­lenge for them to be able to say, Okay, I’m going to work on this piece for the arts,” unless they under­stand how the arts ben­e­fits the sci­en­tif­ic piece, which I think it does. But it takes some­one who under­stands both of those modal­i­ties to make it very explic­it and clear. So find­ing the peo­ple who under­stand that is a chal­lenge as well. And those are the peo­ple that can help guide folks who may not under­stand how to con­nect to the arts, who are in sci­ence or math, or tech­nol­o­gy, or art the oth­er way around.

So I think in five years I would hope to see, because of all the STEAM ini­tia­tives— And I also want to point out that anoth­er edu­ca­tor in a half-day work­shop on STEAM had asked the two sci­ence teach­ers who were talk­ing about mak­er spaces where their art was. And that was inter­est­ing because they saw mak­er spaces as engi­neer­ing. And the kinds of fun­da­men­tals that you’re get­ting out of mak­er spaces, pri­mar­i­ly, don’t hap­pen in the art stu­dio; it’s dif­fer­ent. It’s a dif­fer­ent habit of mind. So what hap­pens when you mix these habits of mind and work­ing in prac­tices togeth­er, but not to assume that [?] you have a fab lab or a mak­er space that you’re doing art. But you have to think about what is artis­tic about what we do in a mak­er space that we can make more explic­it to peo­ple who are real­ly inter­est­ed in the arts.

So there’s lots of dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions that need to be had, and ways in which we can col­lab­o­rate that need to hap­pen in three to five years in order for us to begin to make some inroads in this field or domain.

Audience 9: Hi, thanks for your talk. It’s very inspir­ing. I was won­der­ing if you could say a bit more about how this could be scaled up and how you see your­self poten­tial­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in that beyond the school that you’re at. And if you could also just throw in a lit­tle infor­ma­tion about that leg­is­la­tion that was passed a cou­ple of months ago.

Gaskins: Yeah, I for­get the name of the Congressperson, but it’s been on the books for a minute. But if you do, STEAM leg­is­la­tion, it should pop right up in a Google search, because it just hap­pened.

Audience 9: Does it have fund­ing attached to it?

Gaskins: It will, because what hap­pens is when you say that this is an actu­al thing we are inter­est­ed in fund­ing, on a fed­er­al lev­el then you begin to cre­ate a line item for it, as opposed to not hav­ing it there. Because usu­al­ly peo­ple know about STEM but they don’t know about STEAM. Now there’s this knowl­edge about that. So one of the things I do is I cre­ate things in mod­ules. So the tax­on­o­my’s in mod­ules, this [STEAM Lab Planning and Support slide] is based on mod­ules. When you talk about scal­ing things up, you have to mod­u­lar­ize it and then just like in Scratch or Tetris or what­ev­er you have to be able to plug it in in places where it makes sense sense. But you have to make those mod­ules and then you have to make them be able to con­nect to oth­er things. So I kind of take a Scratch or com­put­er sci­ence approach to an art cur­ricu­lum devel­op­ment because I feel like there’s a lot of room for devel­op­ment in how we cre­ate these and how we put it togeth­er. How we build it may change accord­ing to the dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments we’re in. So what I do at Boston Arts Academy is going to be dif­fer­ent than what a Philly school does, or dif­fer­ent from Natick or some oth­er school or pro­gram. But there will be ele­ments that every­one can agree upon that need to be part of the pro­gram, part of the plan­ning.

Audience 9: Are you able to con­nect with like-minded col­leagues across the state and the nation?

Gaskins: I came into Boston with those con­nec­tions already. So, as part of my PhD work and being spon­sored by the National Science Foundation, I was con­nect­ed to net­works that are already kind of STEAM-based. So I did some work with the Smithsonian, I advo­cat­ed on Capitol Hill for NSF and learned how to be a lob­by­ist, in a sense, and under­stand how fund­ing works in Capitol Hill and how to talk to some­one about STEAM who may not have that knowl­edge or appre­ci­a­tion. And also there are net­works of aca­d­e­mics and folks in edu­ca­tion who are doing aca­d­e­m­ic papers and things like that who are sort of the decision-makers in some of these pro­grams that get fund­ed. So being part of those con­ven­ings has been some­thing that’s been part of my work as well.

Audience 10: How does your think­ing, your approach, relat­ed to the Emilia Romagna approach to ear­ly edu­ca­tion? This is Northern Italy. Basically, they teach the three Rs to very young kids, pre-schoolers, ear­ly school­ers, where they teach the three Rs through build­ing projects and art projects. (I can’t make a dis­tinc­tion between the two.) There was even a school, I don’t know if it’s still the King’s[?] School in Cambridge used that approach when my kids were pri­ma­ry school age. I know because I vis­it­ed the class­room at one point. So have you looked into that? I don’t know how much the­o­ry there is about the Emilia Romagna approach. I’ve seen it in action, but I don’t know the the­o­ry myself. But it’s basi­cal­ly what you’re doing, but it starts with very young kids. And it’s not an option, it’s just the way they teach.

Gaskins: Actually, I think that the idea of us fig­ur­ing out where we’re going or where we are in edu­ca­tion and where we could go and what oth­er peo­ple are doing suc­cess­ful­ly is some­thing that needs to hap­pen as well. But I also think what hap­pens with­in a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ty or group could hap­pen dif­fer­ent­ly in anoth­er com­mu­ni­ty or group. So it’s real­ly based on the inter­ests or the every­day prac­tices of the groups and where they are.

Audience 10: You prob­a­bly said but I did­n’t catch how old the youngest kids are when they come into the pro­gram.

Gaskins: At Boston Arts Academy? They are ninth graders, so thir­teen years old. And there can be an argu­ment for things like com­pu­ta­tion­al think­ing and pro­gram­ming should hap­pen younger, so that they have time to be in that modal­i­ty before they get to high school, and I would agree with that. But also, when they don’t, then we have to sort of meet them where they are. So I think the idea of work­ing ele­men­tary and mid­dle school, much younger ages, I think real­ly pre­pares them. My expo­sure to com­put­er graph­ics and com­put­er pro­gram­ming came from my moth­er, even though I did­n’t engage that skill or get into that until much lat­er in my youth. But hav­ing that expo­sure and know­ing that my moth­er could be a com­put­er pro­gram­mer meant that I knew I could do that, too. So I saw some­one, it was reflect­ed in some­one I knew and that was close to me. A lot of these kids don’t have that at all. So I think the expo­sure, access, oppor­tu­ni­ty, but also expo­sure to peo­ple who are from their com­mu­ni­ty or from their neigh­bor­hood or what­ev­er doing this type of work is also a moti­va­tor to stay with these types of dom­i­nant, main­stream types of things that we’re not involved in.

Audience 11: This may sound like heresy, but I believe that if a lot more math and sci­ence teach­ing took place in this sort of con­text where it’s actu­al­ly con­nect­ed to the things that you use it for, that we would have a much more edu­cat­ed pop­u­la­tion by the time they fin­ish what­ev­er study, or in fact they would nev­er fin­ish. Because cur­rent­ly the math and sci­ence that we teach is often so detached from where it came from and what it’s used for that this is one of the rea­sons why so many peo­ple are walk­ing around who have been turned off by their school edu­ca­tion. Comments?

Gaskins: In my case, I always knew I was going to be an artist. That was actu­al­ly my moth­er’s doing. I knew from a very young age that art was going to be it, but I like sci­ence. And I did real­ly well with tech­nol­o­gy. So there were things that were also fos­tered and pushed for­ward, but my moth­er’s not an artist. She does­n’t under­stand the arts, maybe has an appre­ci­a­tion for it. And I think that her train­ing, her edu­ca­tion, was devoid of that. And I think a lot of folks today are also devoid of that in their edu­ca­tion. So the appre­ci­a­tion may be there, or maybe not at all. So that needs to be cul­ti­vat­ed in the edu­ca­tion­al process, mean­ing acad­e­mia or… So as an under­grad­u­ate or grad­u­ate, you actu­al­ly have some inter-disciplinary con­nec­tions, oth­er­wise you’re not real­ly going to know where to con­nect, or how to con­nect, with­out pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment. It cre­ates a chal­lenge, but I think it’s a chal­lenge that we can meet because we do have this idea of a STEAM edu­ca­tion and now there’s leg­is­la­tion and all this inter­est in it.

It’s also inter­na­tion­al. So there are peo­ple com­ing from Colombia and oth­er coun­tries who are doing STEAM ini­tia­tives as well. So I think in terms of we’re in a moment. I talk about afro­fu­tur­ism a lot, and when I talk about afro­fu­tur­ism, I talk about it from the stand­point of some­one who’s used to vir­tu­al dig­i­tal spaces, who not just works in visu­al arts but also works in cod­ing and pro­gram­ming and how do I cre­ate dif­fer­ent types of art­work that are afro­fu­tur­is­tic using code. That kind of lan­guage isn’t talked about a lot. We talk about spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, we talk about writ­ing. But see writ­ing also as cod­ing. But that’s me and my inter­ests. So the more we have expo­sure of folks, we have writ­ers, we have folks who are artists, who are doing cod­ing for cre­ative expres­sion, for exam­ple, then we are able to bridge that and get it to a point where we can give access and oppor­tu­ni­ties to young peo­ple who need it the most.

Audience 12: I have just a cou­ple of com­ments and stuff, and then a ques­tion. I love that we’re just start­ing off the con­ver­sa­tion as STEAM and not how to get the A back into STEM, which is where in the arts edu­ca­tion space, that’s been a lot of what the con­ver­sa­tion I feel like has been focused around for the past sev­er­al years. So I just love that that’s just ini­tial­ly where we’re just start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.

I also love you bring­ing in things like the tenseg­ri­ty sculp­tures and stuff, and bring­ing in Buckminster Fuller, who’s a great exam­ple of this blend­ing of art and tech­nol­o­gy and design and all that sort of stuff and came out the Black Mountain School which also spawned a num­ber of oth­er of this sort of think­ing.

So my ques­tion, though, is are we just talk­ing about some­thing else oth­er than just the tra­di­tion­al acad­e­my of depart­ments? There’s the math­e­mat­ics depart­ment, there is the arts depart­ment, there is the sci­ence depart­ment. How do we actu­al­ly get past that sort of rig­or that’s already been estab­lished with­in edu­ca­tion, to bring in this more inter-disciplinary thing? Is it that the eas­i­er wins are inject­ing more art into math, or inject­ing more math into art? Which direc­tion do you see the big­ger wins and the eas­i­er ways to make this more suc­cess­ful in cre­at­ing an inter-disciplinary struc­ture?

Gaskins: My fear about STEAM is that arts were not on the same lev­el, that they were just an addi­tion as opposed to actu­al deep engage­ment in the arts. I also think that deep engage­ment in the arts means that you have some­one who’s used to being in that sort of space as part of the con­ver­sa­tion. So if you’re not plan­ning with some­one who is an artist, who is used to that expe­ri­ence, then you’re going to be miss­ing out. And also I find that some­times when you’re talk­ing about STEAM and you’re talk­ing about math, for exam­ple, you’re real­ly talk­ing about fun math, not art and math. Which is great. I think it’s great. But it’s not deep engage­ment in the arts. So I think some peo­ple, sci­ence or math teach­ers, may say, Oh, this is art,” when it’s not. It’s fun. And I think the asso­ci­a­tion between art and fun…sure, but now we’re talk­ing about some­thing that’s not real­ly STEAM.

So I think we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to begin to look at the kinds of ways we can— And sure we can bring in human­i­ties, writ­ing, we can bring those things in. But I think it still is the same chal­lenge. It’s how do we find a com­mon lan­guage? So, when I did get fund­ed by the National Science Foundation, I brought in an astro­physi­cist, a math­e­mati­cian, and an artist, a Native American artist, African-American artist into the room to talk about what’s our com­mon lan­guage. How do we begin to work togeth­er and under­stand each oth­er, even though we come from dif­fer­ent ways of work­ing, ways of cre­at­ing? And I think that’s a first step. And I think the more we do that and the more con­ven­ings we have that do that, then we start get­ting to what you were talk­ing about in terms of it’s not just art added, we’re talk­ing about more of a sort of inter-disciplinary space or exper­i­men­tal space for learn­ing this kind of stuff. But right now we have to cre­ate those spaces and we have to cre­ate those oppor­tu­ni­ties for these folks to come togeth­er where they feel like they belong or feel like they have a voice.

Audience 13: Just kind of show­ing my igno­rance, I was just curi­ous if a stu­dent loves your pro­gram and they grad­u­ate, are there high­er edu­ca­tion pro­grams that would be pre­pared to engage them and let them con­tin­ue with this kind of thing? Are they few and far between or…what is the land­scape?

Gaskins: I think high­er ed, there are lot of oth­er chal­lenges beside that, such as finances, that I think are real pro­hib­i­tive for stu­dents who don’t have those resources. Once you’re into a pro­gram, you might find some pock­ets of that kind of work hap­pen­ing. But first you’ve got to have the mon­ey or the resources to be able to get there. And a lot of the young peo­ple are going to be faced with a lot of debt and a lot of prob­lems of even get­ting to that point, which is get­ting worse by the day. But at the same time, I think hav­ing a sort of entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it helps to boost moti­va­tion to go in that direc­tion but now you build that blue­print, you build the resources, as you go along and you have what you did­n’t have before going into the pro­gram so maybe you don’t have as much debt. And maybe you do have a lit­tle side busi­ness, or maybe you are col­lab­o­rat­ing in a lit­tle pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny with your friends and you’re doing this kind of inter-disciplinary work and hav­ing your own game com­pa­ny or things like that. And some young peo­ple do that, and that’s how they get through. But a lot of the young peo­ple that I’m talk­ing about don’t do that yet. And I think that is some­thing that needs to hap­pen more, where we pro­vide the spaces but also pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ties for these types of col­lab­o­ra­tions and incu­ba­tors, where they’re actu­al­ly cre­at­ing the blue­print and then the finan­cial struc­ture to be able to do these kinds of things that are a lit­tle more hard to do like going to school after twelfth grade.

Shannon Dosemagen: Some of us are in a work­ing group at Berkman, the Inclusive Innovation Working Group. We talk a lot about dif­fer­ent tech­nol­o­gy projects for civic engage­ment and civic par­tic­i­pa­tion. And I’m won­der, from what you have here around pro­gram design, if you have thoughts on the under­pin­nings or the under­ly­ing ideas that real­ly help stu­dents work through the process. So one might be hold­ing up fail­ures and talk­ing about fail­ures open­ly rather than push­ing them aside. So I would to hear if you have thoughts on that, just from the last year that you’ve been work­ing on this.

Gaskins: Saturday, we did five per­for­mances in the the­ater using the video pro­jec­tion map­ping. We had one par­tic­u­lar stu­dent who was very good at it, and then the pro­gram glitched dur­ing a per­for­mance. So I’m pulled from the audi­ence when the stu­dent is pan­ick­ing because…it’s not a full fail­ure, but for him it was because it’s not doing what it’s sup­posed to do. So I said it’s work­ing to some degree, so let it roll to inter­mis­sion, and then I’ll come up and fix the issue. And that’s kind of how it is. That’s what hap­pens when you work with new tech­nol­o­gy. My behavior…I did­n’t panic…you know, the stu­dent was pan­ick­ing. We have to get used to the fact that it does­n’t always work, and we have to make it work in the best way we can and then keep mov­ing. And I think this idea has been mod­eled by the adults who are in the young per­son­’s life, the teach­ers, the artists. And I think that fail­ure, the more times you— It’s not that you fail all the time, you fail and learn. But you have to fail, because you can’t real­ly suc­ceed until you real­ize where…areas that you don’t go into. But I think that a lot of kids have been sort of indoc­tri­nat­ed in this idea that if you fail you’re a fail­ure. And I think that has to change. I think these types of projects will require stu­dents to get used to the idea that it’s not always going to work. And the behav­ior of just toss­ing a project and say­ing, I can’t do it,” or, It’s not going to hap­pen,” is not how you get to com­ple­tion. And so I think see­ing folks, adults, artists, who are doing that, who are fail­ing, get­ting up and fig­ur­ing out, going in and fix­ing it and rolling with it, I think is a good les­son and I think helps young peo­ple’s under­stand­ing that it’s part of the process.

Dosemagen: Do we have last ques­tions? Alright, then. Thank you very much, Dr. Gaskins. I think it’s been a won­der­ful ses­sion.

Further Reference

Event page at the Berkman Center web site.

There are many posts at Dr. Gaskins' blog on both the techno-vernacular and STEAM.

Techno-Vernacular Creativity, Innovation & Learning in Underrepresented Ethnic Communities of Practice at SlideShare, the slides for Dr. Gaskins' dissertation defense. These predate this presentation, but contain the majority of those visible in the video and many extra.


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