Urban Innovation

Urban Innovation

Lofty ideas float abundantly within the halls of academe, but Dr. Louis Gomez takes his lofty ideas directly into Chicago urban schools.
Gomez, an associate professor of computer science at Northwestern University, is co-director of the Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools (LeTUS). The center, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is a partnership among Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, Chicago Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools. The program helps provide the latest computing and networking technologies to schools as well as designing science curriculums that are project-based.
“We build curriculums through which students participate,” Gomez says. Students may have questions about health issues or about air or water quality or global climate changes. They choose a project, such as global climate changes, and learn more through sets of the latest data. “It’s the very same data that professional climate scientists use in their work,” Gomez says.
Gomez says LeTUS, in its fourth year, is the achievement he is most proud of. But he also co-directs the Learning Through Collaborative Visualization Project at Northwestern, which helps local schools develop curriculums that connect to other communities. Gomez also helped establish math and science academies at several urban schools, and saw excellent results among students who had participated compared with those who did not.
Gomez, a professor of Learning Sciences at Northwestern, is a longtime member of the Institute for African American E-Culture.
“It’s been important for me as a professional researcher to interact with others. I’ve learned from a lot of powerful and insightful technologists,” he says. “I’ve also been able to point young scholars of color to IAAEC. They get their horizons expanded by seeing a lot of scholars of color doing important cutting-edge work.”
As for the digital divide, Gomez says it’s more of an idea divide.
“I think that (African Americans) have not had access to powerful uses of day-to-day technology as others have had. But a big part of technology is having access to powerful ideas. The digital divide is grounded in not having powerful ideas that are personally meaningful, being able to do things with technology,” he says. When commitments are made to provide technology to schools and communities, Gomez says, there also should be a commitment to training and understanding. 
— By Eleanor Lee Yates



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