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Connecting the DOTS: The CyberHood Construction Project

by Dr. Joseph Bowman, Jr. and S. Neal Currie, Jr.


The CyberHood Construction Project (CHCP) is part of the Youth Construction Initiative Program (YCIP) school to work initiative designed to provide high school students with potential careers in the construction industry. Funded by the New York State Department of Transportation, YCIP identifies construction opportunities in five cities around the state (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Newburgh). Each high school site designs a program to utilize the construction industry resources in their city. The students are introduced to the construction industry and are expected to understand what education skills must be developed. The Center for Urban Youth and Technology (CUYT) in the School of Education, has been in the forefront of developing technology-based programs for several years. CUYT has created the CHCP concept as part of their technology-based program development. CHCP will link the five school sites together via the information superhighway and take advantage of the unique student populations, different school environments, and construction businesses that exist around the state. Electronic forums will allow the students to share information, receive instruction, participate in electronic field trips, create world wide web sites, and serve as electronic mentors. Students must be able to use the electronic environments that support the construction industry and develop their technology skills (computing, graphics, computer design, video production, and electronic mail).

Crossing the Dots: The CyberHood Construction Project


The school to work initiative brings industry and education together to prepare students for specific opportunities in fields related to that industry. In 1994, The School of Education and Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA) of the University at Albany of SUNY received a grant to develop a five city school to work initiative. It would prepare women and minority high school students for jobs in the construction industry that are related to the Department of Transportation. The program is entitled the Youth Construction Initiative Program (YCIP). YCIP has sites in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Newburgh, New York. Each site has one coordinator, linked to a high school, and has approximately 30 students from all ethnic backgrounds. The students are 50% young men and 50% women who range from 15 through 19 years of age. The particular construction fields that YCIP are interested in included: masons, carpenters, electricians, construction laborers, operating engineers, and iron workers.

The purpose of this discussion is to present the development process that was involved to create an electronic program design, research strand, and the instructional/curriculum design for technology.


The Center for Urban Youth and Technology (CUYT) is also interested in this project because it provides the base for development of an electronic environment that could link the five sites together. The students could exchange ideas via e-mail, develop electronic newsletters about the program, and create a common World Wide Web site from the students' perspective. It also provided the opportunity to research the use and development of hypermedia environments in educational settings. CUYT has been involved in developing technology programs for several years and is interested in hypermedia, the Internet, desk-top video conferencing, and the World Wide Web (WWW). Many programs also focused on urban youth and teachers that have little access to computer and video technology. Our goal was to have the students make materials that could be used on the WWW and then show them how to use the Internet to obtain information about jobs and other school to work initiatives around the country.

The electronic component entitled the 'CyberHood Construction Project (CHCP)', was funded under CUYT, in 1995, during the second year of the program. Our design was to develop an electronic publishing company at each site, where students were responsible for all aspects of the operation. The students are the editors, writers, photographers, and reviewers of all material coming from the sites. Each site would have this team and involve all students members in the newsletter design. As this process is taking place, we would monitor and encourage the progress by having electronic teleconferences with the students to explain any questions or concerns that they might have.

Curriculum Design

The goal of this curriculum is to use the Internet, high speed networks and video to present a forum about the uses of hypermedia in a school to work initiative. This requires skills in Internet access, knowledge of computing techniques (word processing and graphics), video production, and photography. Training will be provided in several of these areas to support the process. The training process will be ongoing during the program and will include trainer site visits and video tape presentations.
The project provided a shared curriculum that is designed to train a community of learners to have strong basic skills as well as competent technological skills to meet the demands of the future work force. Throughout the course of the project students will be given the opportunity to develop computing techniques, word processing skills, graphics, computer design, video production, photography and electronic mail. Each sudent is required to keep a journal about project activities specifically highlighting their reflections on what they have learned, their feeling toward the program, and thoughts about employment and education options after high school. In addition, these skills will be developed through the creation of an electronic newsletter about each sites activities. This newsletter will be given to parents, teachers, state administrators, and others to demonstrates the effectiveness of the program and the excitement that this opportunity presents to students.
The students from each site will be organized into five teams, consisting of an editorial staff, a graphics staff, a writing staff, and video production and photography teams. These groups will elect one student editor from each site to coordinate all CHCP information. The site editors will be trained to utilize electronic mail accounts and will be responsible for submitting articles and information to the newsletter in a specifed time. This allows students to share information, discuss activities, plan articles and contribute to the student newsletter.
The next important aspect of the curriculum is that each student editor and project coordinator will be trained to design and develop a World Wide Web home page of their site, that will be incorporated into the CHCP web site. The idea of the site is to showcase the program activities and success of each site to other school to work programs across the country.
A video production will be created to demonstrate the diverse activities, educational opportunities, and career options that the program offers. It will feature some of the most exciting activities during the program and get reactions from the industry participants. This production will serve as a recruitment tool for future groups of students and a visual record of the accomplishments that the program made.
The final phase of the project will develop an electronic forum that provides, course development, curriculum planning, electronic mentoring, teacher training about the integration of technology into the curriculum and evaluation. This aspect of the project will be modified as the program evolves to meet the needs of the students and teachers involved.

Technical specification

On the technology side, a survey of technical needs and capabilities was sent to each site to determine what they needed for connection to the Internet. To support the concerns about connectivity, our component will provide modems and funds for Internet service providers at each site. We conducted a tele-conference with the site coordinators to see if they had any questions about the material they received. Shortly after the teleconference, CUYT held the first workshop for the site coordinators to introduce them to the capabilities of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Internet service providers for each site have been selected and CHCP is testing e-mail and regular Internet services.
We are planing to have another tele-conference with the students to discuss our plan of action and start creating the initial home page for the project. Each site has been asked to video tape and take pictures of important activities, so that they can be utilized in the electronic newsletter, video, and web site. Workshops on telecommunications and the Internet will also be provided for sites that request assistance.
Our current plans are to have all articles, pictures, video tapes sent to the CHCP office at the University at Albany via e-mail or snail mail. Our technical assistant will coordinate the design of the newsletter and web site and keep all the material obtained. He will provide regular feedback, support, and travel to any location when necessary. He will also create the work with the students to create the video production script and video documentary about the program.

Research Design

This is a question about whether this initiative is designed to create students who are laborers or are we creating a group of students that are looking at professional and engineering positions in these fields. CHCP will respond to this question during the course this project and get reactions from students.
The preliminary results of our general queries to students suggest that there interest is high but, but most have not had access to this technology. Our research will focus on the students ability to combine ideas and thoughts on line and see what the end product will be. We are also interested in how students view the electronic literacy of this hypermedia environment. Electronic literacy in this context is the attributes that make up hypermedia environments. What skills must be learned to use this media and how does it effect their ability to learn? It will be interesting to see if the component goals are met. We believe that there may be some technical problems that might hamper this process but, should not stop the sites from completing their projects. CHCP has planned a series of focus groups and interview sessions with students to get data about these research areas. Closing Thoughts
The site coordinators are very excited about the possibilities of CHCP. Marvin Battle, site coordinator of the Newburgh, New York site, feels that " the [CyberHood Project] will definitely raise the level of interest and motivation of students about the program. The possibilities are endless to increase student awareness about employment and education opportunities". Marsha Mortimore, Albany site coordinator, agreed stating "it's going to broaden the career interest of the students and expand their world. My students are very excited about the idea of interacting with students from the other sites around the state. It should be fun."
Dr. Carson Carr Jr., Youth Initiative Program Director, stated "these students must be prepared for the future. Introducing students to the Internet and the World Wide Web will show them the information resources that exist and provide an opportunity that did not exist."
CHCP will be on-line in mid March, 1996, and has already begun to schedule workshops gather information, pictures, video and written testimonies from each of the sites. It demonstrates how the use of electronic technology can enhance school to work initiatives, provide information access for research, and demonstrate the importance of this technology and it's relationship to the construction industry. These elements certainly will provide the construction industry with a skilled work force for the future.