A number of individuals and organisations have helped me set up my study visit to New York and this chain of connections says something not only about people’s generosity, but also about our connected world and the role of networks. One of London CLC’s cultural partners, The British Film Institute, put me in touch with colleagues at DARE at London Knowledge Lab, Department of Culture, Communication and Media at the Institute of Education, University of London, who put me in touch with a colleague at Indiana University, School of Education, who put me in touch with the person leading Hive Research Lab (an applied research partner of the Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network and a project of Indiana University and New York University). Hive then put me in touch with several of the non-profit organisations which are part of this network and which are funded by the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund.
I was particularly keen to visit not for profit organisations that, like London CLC, support schools and students through a partnership which brings learning experiences using technology and culture to urban communities. Global Kids are a Hive funded organisation working with schools and out of school programmes in New York to “ensure that urban youth have the knowledge, skills, experiences and values they need to succeed in school, participate effectively in the democratic process, and achieve leadership in their communities and on the global stage.”
I visited Global Kids at the Global Neighborhood Secondary School in East Harlem. Like many New York public schools, GNSS is a school within a school, housed on 2 floors within the giant Tito Puente Education Complex. This small middle school has 150 students, over 40% with SEN, nearly 100% FSM and a large number of EAL students and new arrivals. The games design classes I visit are all electives and are taught by the Global Kids team. Although these are games design lessons using Scratch with a key focus on computational thinking, debugging, iteration and problem solving, there is as much focus on notions of global citizenship and social change as on computer science. One girl has made a game based on a recent speech on immigration made by the governor of New York. In the game characters ask a series of questions to find out about your views and opinions on the subject. Another group are creating a game about a girl navigating a hostile environment because she is wearing a hijab. A game about bullying is critiqued by the group and questions are asked about stereotyping in games when a boy has created two bully characters with darker skin colour. All of these issues are supported with sensitivity and depth. Creating games in groups focuses on teamwork and the functions to merge and share games on the web-based Scratch platform are used skilfully by the teacher to foster collaboration. One of the most touching moments of the visit was when a girl with significant challenges and behaviour difficulties in school, burst with pride to describe the event she had attended the previous week to present her game for change to other students at a Global Kids Expo.