Hear Me Kiosks at CMU start conversations about Gender & STEM

Hear Me is two months into its Gender Bias and STEM campaign. So far we have interviewed two groups of students (middle school girls in a STEM program at CMU and elementary and middle school students in an after-school program at Assemble), and their stories are on the website here (www.hear-me.net/stem). We have also trained two groups of CMU volunteers on Hear Me interviewing techniques and best practices, and will be training another group of volunteers at Penn State New Kensington in January 2016.

But we didn't want to wait to start sharing what the students are saying! We have installed Hear Me kiosks in 3 locations on CMU’s campus - one in a high-traffic corridor and two next to communal kitchens. We intentionally installed these kiosks in places people congregate, and where passers-by will be intrigued enough by the kiosks to listen and respond to the students’ stories. These kiosks will remain up at CMU through Spring 2016, and we will update the featured stories.

The following stories were featured in the kiosks in November and December -

Between November 30, 2015 and January 5, 2016, the three kiosks had a total of 963 play, and within the first week of putting up these kiosks we had about 20 handwritten responses! This has surpassed the interactions of all of the previous records for responses in a week (except maybe the kiosk outside of Square Café).

Listeners of the kiosks are prompted with the question displayed on the kiosk, “Has gender bias impacted your learning or career opportunities?” The majority of individuals have responded with personal stories of the discrimination they have faced or seen related to gender. Some of the longer responses are below. As an interesting aside, this is the first time response writers have self-identified their gender in a response.

We plan to put more kiosks up at CMU, and to transition our current kiosks displayed around Pittsburgh to feature these campaign stories in Spring 2016. If you aren’t near a kiosk, you can always write responses to the stories on our website (although you do need an account to comment). Additionally, you can sponsor a kiosks featuring stories from this project for $150.

We will be visiting more schools and organizations in January and February 2016. If you are interested in having Hear Me and the CMU volunteers visit your students, please contact Jess Kaminsky (jess@cmucreatelab.org).

Gender Bias and STEM Campaign

Does gender bias impact students’ attitudes and successes in STEM education?

Current trends and research in education emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and STEM career training. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there will be more than 1.4 million job openings in computing-related fields by 2020. As STEM training becomes more essential, it is important to recognize the gender gap in both STEM careers and education. For example, girls make up 56% of total AP test-takers but only 19% of AP computer science test-takers. At the university level, women earn 57% percent of all undergraduate degrees, but only 19% of all undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees.1 

Hopefully by now you have heard about Hear Me’s current campaign where we are asking students about the impact gender bias does or doesn’t have on STEM education and careers. As part of this campaign, Hear Me will be interviewing around 150 students from schools and community organizations, of all ages.

For this campaign, we are adding a new partnership – Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. We are welcoming volunteers from SCS to interview alongside us; ten staff, faculty, and students have already trained with Hear Me to understand our equipment and best practices.

After the winter break, they will be visiting schools and organizations with us to interview students. Stories gathered through this campaign will be shared with the CMU SCS community, superintendents, and other interested audiences.

This is new for us in several big ways:

1) We have never worked this closely with the CMU community, because it is drastically different from the research and robots surrounding us. This has been a disconnect for Hear Me since its start, and we are happy to be intentionally connecting Hear Me’s work with CMU community.

2) We have never trained adults to join us in the interviewing process! Typically, we train 1-2 adults to do interviews with students they work with. This time, a bunch of adults will be interviewing students on one topic, and visiting schools and organizations together.

3) We have never had an audience also be part of the interviewing work. For most of our work, we have an audience that only receives information at the end of the project, and commits to connecting voices to decisions. These volunteers will be much more integrated through the whole process - helping to capture students’ experiences related to STEM and gender bias, sharing their experiences as interviewers back with their peers at CMU, and hearing the final products as presented to the CMU SCS audience.

By working more closely with SCS, we are hoping that these stories will build bridges between K-12 youth in Greater Pittsburgh and the CMU SCS community.  We are also asking how adults can help young people recognize and close gender gaps, and we want your participation. 

If your school or organization is in the Greater Pittsburgh region and is interested in having Hear Me visit to interview students, please contact Jessica Kaminsky. We will be conducting do the majority of the interview visits in January and February, but it’s never too early to schedule a visit! If you are outside of this region but want to contribute, students can respond to the questions listed on our website and upload their media to the Hear Me website.

Including student voices in PPS Superintendent search

In the Fall of 2015, Dr. Linda Lane, the Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent announced that she would retire at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

Since then, community members have openly debated about the appropriate methodology for choosing the next superintendent, who has a myriad of administrative issues and changes to face at the district in the coming years. 

However, many of these same community groups agree on one thing – that student voices can’t be excluded from the selection decision.  To do this, Hear Me was asked to partner with Great Public Schools and also with the youth empowerment champions at TeenBloc (a program of A+Schools) to capture students’ experiences and perspectives on what their next superintendent should prioritize and care about.   Great Public Schools is recruiting teachers on the ground to record their students’ stories.  Teachers are using available technology and are eligible to borrow from Hear Me’s lending library of audio recorders.  Meanwhile, TeenBloc students went through Hear Me ‘s audio recording training and created their own set of student-oriented questions, and are pursuing interviews with peers.

A sampling of the questions we are asking include:  

  • What are the qualities you want the new superintendent to have?
  • What are the most important issues facing your school or What issues should the superintendent focus on?
  • What should the superintendent know about students?

Some of the early stories talk about focusing on career training, small student to teacher ratios, representative history curricula in the classroom, and increasing teacher diversity.  You can find the collection here, and look forward to a Hear Me podcast about this in early 2016.

As always, anyone is able to submit media (www.hear-me.net/take_part) although content is moderated before it is live on the website.  Media can be written, picture, audio, or video.  For more information, contact us at info@hear-me.net.

Kiosk Responses from the Thomas Merton Center

On Friday October 2, The Thomas Merton Center hosted 10 Hear Me Kiosks as part of their gallery for Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn. 

Merton Center staff encouraged listeners to respond to 5 different questions posted on the kiosks and on the Merton Center Walls.

In his story, 19-year-old Jamal discusses how law enforcement targets juveniles. Listeners then answered the question,"How can we foster a positive relationship between police and youth?"

13-year-old Quinton's "Kids are Struggling" had 82 listens throughout the night and asked listeners, "How does having access to tutors affect academic performance?"

Responses included: 

After hearing stories on school climate, listeners were asked, "What makes our school community a positive and safe place for learning?" Kristen's "Security Guards and Teachers with Guns" had 80 plays and elicited the following responses:

Two kiosks featured stories from Somali-Bantu refugees on identity. Stories from Sangab and Saraji totaled 77 plays and asked listeners, "How do our personal experiences influence our identities?"

Overall the night was a success - the Kiosks totaled nearly 500 plays and elicited thoughtful responses from listeners.  Thanks to the Thomas Merton Center for hosting the kiosks and everyone who participated! 

To host your own Hear Me Kiosk, email kiosk@hear-me.net.

My Hear Me 101 Internship

By guest blogger and Hear Me 101 Intern, Abbey Caspar. 

Well, This is my last week at my Hear Me 101 Internship. For those who don't know about it, let me explain...

Last year, Steel Valley's Hear Me 101 group produced a short film about Stereotypes. There were 10 students who worked on it. We chose the topic and interviewed students, teachers and professionals. We then edited the film for two weeks. During the whole process, we learned so much. 

(pictured above: Abbey brainstorming ideas during early stages of film production)

Some people in our group had no idea what a stereotype was, others shared their story about being stereotyped. We learned that stereotyping goes both ways. When someone stereotypes, they make an assumption about a person or group of people and miss an opportunity to get to know them. Throughout the process of making the film, we worked with students who told us how they had been personally stereotyped and talked to experts about how stereotyping affects people.

Before we knew it, we finished the film, which was screened at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on May 14th. Our families got to come out and watch all of our hard work. We also learned about the Hear Me 101 internship at the CREATE lab at CMU. I applied and wrote an essay on why student voice is important. I got the internship. I wasn't the only one. Two other students are interns, Kyle and Antonio, from McKeesport.

During the internship, we had to market our film and get it out there for the world to watch. We also were able to help with a camp at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and we traveled to Harrisburg to speak at a rally for Fair Education Funding.

(pictured above: interns Abbey and Kyle hold fair funding signs in Harrisburg)

My capstone project was to connect my film with a specific audience to raise awareness about stereotyping. So my plan is to screen the film to the incoming 9th graders on their transition day at Steel Valley High School. I think this will get them to understand that just because someone doesn't look like you, doesn't mean they don't like the same things as you. I am excited to have them watch the film. 

(pictured above: Abbey and Kyle share their campaigns with the CREATE Lab at CMU)

So, that is what I did during my internship and I could not have asked for a better way to spend my summer. If you have not watched the short film, watch it here


Share the film with #notmytypefilm.

For more information, email abbeycaspar@gmail.com.



Kiosk Host Spotlight: Anchor and Anvil

Anchor and Anvil Coffee Bar

Meet Hear Me’s latest kiosk host: Andrew Theobald of Anchor and Anvil Coffee Bar

(Andrew Theobald)

Since buying the former “Fire Escape” coffeehouse in 2014, Owners Andrew Theobald and his wife Tracy designed Anchor and Anvil as a community gathering space with handmade food, responsibly sourced coffee and unique flavors.

“That’s the whole idea behind the name,” Theobald says. “A blacksmith makes everything by hand using an Anvil; and the shop is meant to be an Anchor in the community. Corporate businesses are all about creating mass-produced scales. And you just don’t get the individual flavor and community that you do in local shops."

Anchor and Anvil employs a local staff, buys local products when possible and otherwise supports small businesses. Their staff consists of students from the nearby Avonworth and Northgate School Districts; meat products come from Parma Sausage, and bread from Breadworks. In the winter, Anchor and Anvil serves chili from a Beaver County farm.

As for the coffee, it comes from Mad Cap Coffee, a small, high-quality roaster in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"Mad Cap works with directly with farm and mill owners and the company is transparent about the whole process. Their product is a good as anybody's in the industry," Theobald says.

Prior to starting Anchor and Anvil, Theobald worked 10 years in real estate settlement. "When I looked at what I enjoyed doing, it was interacting with people -- not being in an office.  I had recently gotten into high-end coffee and my wife suggested I do this,” he says. Within the first few months of buying the coffee house, the couple changed almost everything; from the “Fire Escape” coffee house name, to menu items, seating arrangements, vendors and aesthetics. 

The shop now serves as a coffeehouse and community gathering space. Activities include a Friday morning knitting group, sports team meetings, environmental groups, and the coffee bar is even set to host a wedding next year.

The Hear Me Kiosk is the latest addition to Anchor and Anvil, receiving 280 plays in just the first 2 months. It features stories from Hear Me's Fair Funding Campaign and is sponsored by the statewide Campaign for Fair Education Funding.

Listen to Anchor and Anvil's featured stories:

12-year-old Allie "Why art funding is important"

13-year-Taelyn "Music program at Lingelbach"

For more information about Anchor and Anvil, visit anchoranvilcoffee.com

For more information about the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, visit fairfundingpa.org

To listen to stories from Hear Me's Fair Funding Campaign, visit hear-me.net/portfolios/233.

Hear Me 101 Fourth Annual Screening and Panel

On Thursday May 14, the Hear Me 101 Project hosted its fourth annual exhibition of student-produced documentaries at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room. Students from Steel Valley High School's Hear Me 101 Club, Clairton High School's Media Class and McKeesport Technology Center's Commercial and Graphic Arts Program gathered with school administrators, family and community members for the debut of the short documentaries.

This year's theme was “Framing Forward," because the films framed youth voice conversations in a proactive way. 

(pictured above: students from the three high schools gather before the screening)

Students from McKeesport High School focused their films on topics like "Power in School," which examined student choice in curriculum, availability of clubs, messages in music, access to post-secondary resources, and celebrated the School's vo-tech center. One McKeesport film group, Yellow Notebook Productions, told school administrators, “..we need an organized student voice, but we need you to listen.”

Clairton High School explored the lack of activities for young people in Clairton, and highlighted the potential problems that arise when young people don't have access to positive resources.

Students from Steel Valley explored the effects of stereotyping in high schools and asked their peers to initiate change by "... acknowledging that sometimes you do stereotype." The film urges students admit that stereotyping is part of school culture.  

The documentaries were a result of a collaboration of schools and local organizations. For 15 weeks, the students worked on media production techniques, writing, storytelling, and critical thinking skills with Pittsburgh Filmmakers and the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project. The process allowed students to discover their voices through media, in addition to learning a valuable skillset.

Following the exhibition, a panel of experts gathered to discuss the relevancy and timeliness of the stories told in the films and to offer the first critiques of the students’ work.  Moderator Michelle King began by asking the panel whether Pittsburgh is living up to its label as a most livable city. All three panelists agreed that while Pittsburgh is a most livable city for some; others are left out, which prompted a discussion on resources and inequality.

Panelist Halle Stockton of PublicSource stressed to young people the need to further question existing structures. “Don’t be afraid to ask hard and uncomfortable questions. Those are usually the ones you really have to ask.” 

Nico Slate, history professor at Carnegie Mellon, and Professional Filmmaker Gabe Columbo closed the discussion by reminding young people that society should treat them as contributing members, and embrace their ideas.

(pictured below: the three panelists address the audience)

Four of the student filmmakers will be working with Hear Me over the summer 2015 to continue exploring the issues that they raised in their films. Stayed tuned to Hear Me’s newsletter and social media for updates!

Watch all of the films here.

Hear Me in Philadelphia for Fair Education Funding

On December 2nd and 3rd the Hear Me team traveled to Philadelphia to interview students for the Campaign for School Funding. This campaign is in partnership with the Education Law Center, and is part of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a statewide effort of 40 organizations to ensure students’ access to quality education.

The team’s first stop was the Education Law Center's Philadelphia office, where Hear Me interviewed nine young people from various Philadelphia High Schools.

(Photo credit: Jay Frye)

The students discussed closing schools, adjusting to school mergers, budget cuts, class size, and the benefits of well-funded schools. Listen to these stories here. The night concluded with a group conversation over pizza, where students talked about empty classrooms, transportation, and school administration. 

19-year-old filmmaker Jay Frye, who visited Pittsburgh for last year’s Hear Me 101 screening to showcase his own documentary, photographed the visit and shared his stories.

(Photo credit: Jay Frye)

The following morning, the team split up to go to Palumbo High School and Lingelbach Elementary. At Palumbo, Ryan met with Eileen Duffy, a school nurse and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Eileen shared Media Mobilizing Project's video, "Our Schools Are Not For Sale," which documents the schools funding crisis in Philly. 

The three students interviewed at Palumbo echoed the view of the documentary - Something must be done to save public education in Philadelphia. 

Jess and Alex interviewed eight students at Lingelbach Elementary about the effects of budget cuts on their education.  Lingelbach had recently been in the news for having an annual discretionary budget of only $160 for the 2014-2015 school year, which equals about 40 cents per student.

The Hear Me team regrouped in the afternoon at South Philadelphia High School to interview 11 students about resources and funding at their school.  Throughout the interviews, many students talked about the importance of their guidance counselor and stressed the need for additional counselors. At SPHS, there is only one guidance counselor appointed to both the junior and senior classes. 

In total, Hear Me covered over 600 miles and visited four collection sites in just over 36 hours.  Look for all of the stories to be on the Hear Me website soon.

We would like to extend a big thanks to our partners at the Education Law Center and Philadelphia Public Schools for making the trip possible and a special thank you to all of the young people who shared their stories in an effort to ensure fair funding in education.

To sponsor a kiosk on Fair Education Funding, email kiosk@hear-me.net and help support these young people.

- Ryan

Students Talk Empowerment and Action at M.E.S.S. on November 8

On Sat Nov 8, Hear Me and CREATE Lab hosted the Media Empowerment Student Summit at Carnegie Mellon University to connect youth-serving organizations and youth using media for empowerment and education.

Over 100 people attended the event, including artists, media artists, youth organizers, student councils, youth-adult allies, teachers, parents and 70 students from Pittsburgh Public School District, McKeesport, Quaker Valley, Propel Andrew Street, North Hills, and Steel Valley, among other districts. 

Tad Wissel from Saturday Light Brigade broadcasted live from MESS on SLB’s on-air broadcast during breakfast and registration. 

The day kicked off with an icebreaker from Learning Instigator Michelle King @LrningInstigatr, who asked participants to use their “superpowers” to connect with each other, both in-person and on social media. Check out https://twitter.com/hashtag/messpgh.

(pictured above: one group spells "YOUTH" for a superpowers challenge)

Participants then broke off into individual sessions.

Students packed the room for the Saturday Light Brigade’s Audio Production workshop, which included radio broadcasting and podcasting. (Listen to their work here!) Afterward, Pittsburgh Filmmakers hosted a skill-based workshop on Animation.

As the day continued, participants learned about youth leaders in civil and educational movements and listened to stories from peer student leaders, like TeenBloc youth or first-time-filmmaker Alexis Werner. In a series of 10-minute talks hosted by Teen Change-Makers, students learned how to organize themselves to challenge school board policies, promote innovative idea-sharing and collaborate with the mayor of Pittsburgh.

During the resource fair at lunch, youth connected with resources providers from:

Attendees also contributed self-portraits to Color Me Pittsburgh’s Race Map (@INCLUDEpgh).  

Afternoon sessions gave students the opportunity to have safe, in-depth conversations about youth issues like the transition to college, ISM's and hidden prejudices, and bullying. Professional filmmakers wrapped up the day with a two-hour panel discussion on using documentary filmmaking for a cause, featuring Julie Sokolow, Kirsi Jansa, and Chris Ivey. 

(pictured above: The Urban League’s workshop,“Combatting the ISM's” posed critical questions about hidden prejudices and challenged youth to create their own media plan)

(pictured above: 1Hood Media performs at the end of MESS)

The Summit served to empower youth in SWPA to have a voice on big issues, and to build friendships across geographical and institutional borders. Ultimately, building media skills is crucial to teens who see media as a strategy that they can use to create community and school change.

“I have a lot of ideas now (on) how I am going to start making changes in my school,” said Nadirah and Nayelle from McKeesport High School.  “I was motivated to make a change to my community. I now know that through media and effective strategies, I can have my voice heard."

Watch some highlights from the MESS here!