Motivating DJ

Motivating DJ

Thanks to a grant we received for our educational programs to purchase additional Chromebooks, the learning possibilities for our students in the Noel Education Center were endless during the fall semester.

Recording group workshops and one-on-one sessions for music production; vocational training and job discovery; website creation and sharing; presentation displays for creative portfolios; and as an assistive device for speech therapy are just some of the ways teachers are now able to use technology in the classroom at CIRCLE Academy according to Laura, a teacher and the technology coordinator.

An impressive list indeed, but what sticks out most in Laura’s mind is the impact the Chromebooks have made on DJ.

When Laura first began working at CIRCLE she was told to "watch out" for DJ, because he could be a very challenging student. And soon, Laura came to understand what that meant. In class one day when Laura asked her students to vote on a choice of topics to explore, DJ’s ballot came back empty. Laura knew she had to find a way to motivate DJ.

DJ liked using the Chromebooks but seemed to expect it as a reward for good behavior or as a break from learning and Laura made note of this. So Laura decided to only use the Chromebooks in her classroom for unique and interactive experiences for her students and perhaps this would be just what DJ needed to become engaged in class.

The lesson on how to make pixel art was a big hit with the students as was the discussion on artificial intelligence which introduced Pix2Pix. The program, run in a web browser, takes the user’s line drawing and returns a "realistic," colorized version of the image based only on the line drawing as an outline. It works far from perfect, but the students, especially DJ, were hypnotized by the lesson.

DJ became addicted to drawing a cat in the input frame, waiting feverishly for the post-processed version to materialize on the screen, each time celebrating uproariously. He created more variations than anyone else—cats with extra appendages, no appendages, cats with a single enormous eye, ghostlike cats dripping with digitally enhanced ectoplasm—just to see what the program was trained to do.

DJ was delighted to see his works of digital art printed and framed at the end of the term and Laura nearly had to pry him from the keyboard.

"It was electrifying to witness as an educator, especially since I am inclined to teach with traditional educational materials," Laura said, "but DJ undoubtedly benefitted from his experience with our technology."