Digital East St. Louis is an Innovative Technology Experience for Students and Teachers strategies project that will develop and test a model of urban place-based learning to increase STEM aspirations for minority students. Beginning in the 6th grade, a cohort of 40 middle-grade students will progress through a three-year, out of school program in which students will use information technology and computing tools to learn about their community. Supported by a team of East St. Louis teachers and project partners, the students will produce a richly annotated web-based map accompanied by a collection of text, image, audio, and video files that highlight sites and events essential to the community’s history and culture.

The project’s larger goal is to use place-based learning as an inspiring and motivational context for reshaping student thinking about STEM careers. We want to determine through research if learning to use technology through a personal and collective examination of a community’s cultural history, urban development, and environmental challenges changes how students think about STEM and points them towards information technology and computing careers.

This project is a collaborative effort of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) center for STEM Research, Education, and Outreach, School of Education, and IRIS center, with support by faculty in the Department of Historical Studies, Department of English Language and literature, the Institute for Urban Research, Virtual East St. Louis Historical Society, Harris Stowe State University, and the East St. Louis School District. The timing for this project is optimum and the need is urgent.

Current Goals and Objective?

  • We are developing an Annotated bibliography with research covering other methods used to interest women and minorities in computing.
  • We are researching other digital humanities projects of a similar focus.
  • We are looking at other NSF/NEH funded work that might relate to our project.
  • We are building an instance of Omeka that will serve as the public face for digital East St. Louis and gives students the shell from which to build their project.
  • We are also working on finding a hosting company for the web server space.
  • We are developing activities for spring recruiting events to interest students and teachers in East St. Louis.


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