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Black Lives Matter figure DeRay Mckesson speaks at ASU about activism

Black Lives Matter figure stresses power of activism to ASU crowd.
March 20, 2017

Movement organizer praises the power of social media, urges students to enact positive social change in their community

A message posted outside the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom on Monday night forbade the presence of posters and signs at a student-organized talk being given by DeRay Mckesson, one of the most outspoken members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The international activist movement that began in 2013 with a Twitter hashtag in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin has been at the center of a politically and socially charged conversation concerning violence and perceived systemic racism toward black people in the U.S. criminal justice system since.

But the event on ASU’s Tempe campus where Mckesson spoke to a group of roughly 350 students, faculty, staff and members of the community was peaceful and informative, covering topics from the power of social media, to the importance of engaging others in the cause, to productive next moves. 

“As organizers, we give you the language and the tools” to enact positive change, Mckesson told the crowd, referring to himself and other influential activists associated with Black Lives Matter. “But you have to carry this stuff with you every day, at work, at home” and everywhere else.

The event was organized by students from various groups including Undergraduate Student Government, Rainbow Coalition and Black African Coalition.

Geography and urban planning undergrad and president of Rainbow Coalition Gabriel Leon said having someone speak to students about activism has “the power to deepen and broaden their perspective of the world.”

Mckesson began his talk with images from the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the shooting death of another young black man, Michael Brown, by white police officer Darren Wilson. If it weren’t for social media, Mckesson said, nobody would have known Brown’s body lay in the street for four hours before being removed by medical personnel.

Mckesson himself has more than 750,000 Twitter followers. He praised social media in general for its ability to allow everyday people to tell the story of what’s really going on around them — “telling the truth in public,” as he calls it.

In April 2015, Mckesson and fellow activists Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Sinyangwe and Brittany Packnett launched Mapping Police Violence, which collected data on people killed by police during 2014. In August 2015, the same group launched Campaign Zero, a 10-point policy plan for police reform.

He addressed the issue Monday night, saying, “There’s very little data on police.” He added that most of that data comes from an aggregate of newspaper reports, which is a problem because it can be inaccurate.

Although he preferred to avoid commenting too much about President Donald Trump (“because he’s stressing me out right now,” he said), Mckesson did speak about having met with former presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as well as former President Barack Obama, to advance the mission of Black Lives Matter.

He stressed the importance of activists having a presence and voicing their concerns both amongst each other and to people in power. 

“We have to be on the inside as well as the outside,” Mckesson said. “Us being present at the table is our attempt to make truth present at the table.”

He proved that conviction in 2016 when he ran for mayor of his hometown, Baltimore. Though he lost, the experience — during which he sometimes spoke to neighborhood crowds in living room gatherings — served as “a deep reminder of the power of organizing at the local level.”

At the close of his talk, Mckesson told the audience that they have “the power to stand up right now and do something beautiful” through protest, and that the most compelling data they have to back up their cause is their own lives.

Top photo: Educator and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson speaks to a group of students Monday in the Memorial Union on ASU's Tempe campus. Mckesson is a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, and his speech focused on campaign strategies, the origins of Black Lives Matter and the role of activism in the current political climate. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

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ASU to showcase NASA digital learning project at national conference

Infiniscope uses both NASA data, subject-matter experts for adaptive learning.
Pluto (above) is one of small worlds that can be searched for in Infiniscope.
March 21, 2017

Infiniscope makes NASA science content accessible, interactive for all ages

Less than a year ago, Arizona State University received a $10.18 million grant from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Education Community to develop next-generation digital learning experiences that incorporate NASA science content. The first component of this project, now titled “Infiniscope,” will be showcased at this week’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in Texas.

“Infiniscope provides a virtual space to connect users with cutting-edge space exploration experiences that inspire curiosity, excitement, engagement and confidence,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and Infiniscope principal investigator.

The first major Infiniscope activity, titled “Where are the small worlds?” will be featured throughout the week at LPSC. This interactive activity is a simulated exploration of the solar system in search of asteroids and other objects. Participants can use the online experience to collect data on small worlds, observe the motion of different worlds to determine their location in the solar system, and launch probes to discover “astrocaches” hidden throughout the solar system.

The key features of Infiniscope activities such as “Where are the small worlds?” are that they use both NASA data and subject-matter experts for adaptive learning. The activities provide not only feedback, but also pathways to meet the needs of individual learners.

“Infiniscope makes the vastness of space and space exploration inviting, accessible and interactive for educators and learners of all ages,” said deputy principal investigator Ariel Anbar. “It is the embodiment of education through exploration.”

Not just another internet portal, Infiniscope is part of the Inspark Science Network, a digital platform that empowers a global community of educators to collaborate, create, customize and share next-generation exploratory activities. The Inspark Science Network is a joint initiative of ASU’s Center for Education Through eXploration (ETX) and adaptive learning pioneer Smart Sparrow, to promote active learning and teaching science through exploration.

Middle-school student

Middle-school student engaged in exploring the solar system in their classroom using the Infiniscope “Where are the small worlds?” activity.

The Network was launched in 2015, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to create new digital courseware that incorporates online simulations, virtual field trips and adaptive learning analytics to help students who typically fail science courses succeed.

“The aim of Infiniscope is to help learners become problem-solvers capable of exploring the unknown, rather than just mastering what is already known,” said Anbar. “It is learning science as process and as a universe of questions rather than as a dusty collection of facts.”

The ASU team is also led by co-investigators Steven Semken and Sheri Klug Boonstra as well as ASU professor of practice and Smart Sparrow CEO Dror Ben-Naim. Other co-investigators include the School of Earth and Space Exploration's Erik Asphaug, Jim Bell, Philip Christensen, Scott Parazynski, Meenakshi Wadhwa, Sara Imari Walker, David Williams and Patrick Young.

Together with Smart Sparrow, this team will continue to develop personalized and adaptive learning experiences centered on astrobiology and “small bodies” such as asteroids and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. These are specific areas of expertise among the NASA subject-matter experts on the ASU team. 

In the near term, the focus of Infiniscope is on independent self-learners of science. In the longer term, the team seeks to expand Infiniscope to formal and informal K–12 education.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate Education Community vision is to share the story, the science, and the adventure of NASA's scientific explorations of our home planet, the solar system and the universe beyond, through stimulating and informative activities and experiences created by experts, delivered effectively and efficiently to learners of many backgrounds via proven conduits, thus providing a direct return on the public's investment in NASA's scientific research.

Top photo: NASA’s New Horizon’s flyby image of Pluto, an example of one of the small worlds that can be searched for in the Infiniscope “Where are the small worlds” star field. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager , School of Earth and Space Exploration