Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

ImageOverall, I felt excited about this PBS video which “explores how exceptional educators are increasingly using digital media and interactive practices to ignite their students’ curiosity and ingenuity, help them become civically engaged, allow them to collaborate with peers worldwide, and empower them to direct their own learning.”

Five different programs are highlighted, but I was especially taken by the Digital Youth Network in Chicago. This in-school media arts program  established a partnership with the Chicago Public Library to open up  “YouMedia,” which is a space just for 9th to 12th graders. This space gives the students access to tools to create digital media based on their passions, such as music, photography, and graphic design.

I was impressed with the kind of equipment they had and all that the students were able to make from it. But what was most encouraging was the students’ enthusiasm about their work and their commitment to it. Students describe the creative process the they go through to come up with their product – in other words, their learning process. Having the ability to channel their energy into something they care about keeps them out of trouble and allows them to grow.

By using digital media, learning is going beyond the traditional school setting and the students are responding positively towards it. I’ve seen this already in the classes around here – though not to the extent of these programs since the level of technology isn’t as available. I think even those resistant to the influx of technology in education would be impressed with what students are able to do, as shown in this video.

Standard for the Semester

What standard are you using as a target of focus this semester? How can you link activities for different learning styles to this standard?

Over the course of grad school, I’ve pretty much focused in on 9th and 10th grade when creating unit and lesson plans. To change things up a bit, I chose a standard from 8th grade English for this class:

8.2 The student will develop and deliver oral presentations in groups and individually.
a) Choose topic and purpose appropriate to the audience.
b) Choose vocabulary and tone appropriate to the audience, topic, and purpose.
c) Use appropriate verbal and nonverbal presentation skills.
d) Respond to audience questions and comments.
e) Differentiate between standard English and informal language.
f) Critique oral presentations.
g) Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work.
h) Use a variety of strategies to listen actively.

This standard easily lends itself to activities for different learning styles. For either one big or several small projects (individual and group), students can have a choice of what kind of presentation to do. They can either do graphic design work, make videos, hold debates, give speeches, create cartoons, create a forum, create a marketing piece, write a song, etc. A challenge would be to make sure the presentation matches the content of their project.

The students can post their final products online or present in class. After that, students can respond and ask questions. This can be done in class, or as the “Giving Reluctant Students a Voice” article suggests, have them post comments to a forum.

Since this is a broad standard, it may need to become more targeted as the class goes on or slightly adjusted depending on the assignment.

“Giving Reluctant Students a Voice”

ImageThe article “Giving Reluctant Students a Voice” (R. Redekopp & E. Bourbonniere) reinforced many ideas I already had regarding student participation. While student teaching, I quickly learned that every class will have its guaranteed participants – for better or for worse. You can always count on these students to ask and answer questions during discussions. This does always indicate, however, the students’ understanding of the topic. In fact, through exit slips, writing prompts, and other writing assignments, there would be students who I knew could add so much to the class but would not, for whatever reason.

Throughout my high school and college careers, there were a few professors who were already trying to generate discussion in different ways outside of the classroom. The technology for this was still somewhat limited, with the teachers relying mostly on Blackboard’s discussion board – a bulky and nonintuitive device for questioning and responding. With all the tools available for online discussion these days, teachers should make use of them to give each student a chance to participate. Like the article mentions, some of the least active students can give some of the best insights.

Even so, I think it still important to encourage in-class, oral discussion. I believe students should practice voicing their opinions in a clear, concise way. They should also be able to answer questions, something they will need to do in college and job interviews. The challenge, then, is to create an environment where students feel comfortable speaking up and are respectful of others.

A Blog That Works for Me

As an assignment for my ED 554 class, I was tasked with reading and responding to a blog related to education and technology. Luckily, a list of blogs to choose from was given.

I consider myself fairly up-to-date with technology and the Internet. Social media came about when I was still in high school and the Internet was being frequently used in my classes. After college, my communications major led me to jobs working with the Internet, mass emails, online registration forms, etc. All of this has shaped me into the kind of person who seeks instant gratification when surfing the Internet. I want to find what I need to find, and I want to find it fast.

Thus, my blog of choice became Richard Byrne’s “Free Technology for Teachers.” Even without looking at the content, it already had a good chance at being chosen. After a semester of student teaching with no income to show for it, anything that is “free” grabs my attention.

The organization of this blog helps me find what I need without spending too much time reading long paragraphs of text or resorting to CTRL+F. The top menu lets me find what I’m interested in with headings like “iPad Apps for Schools,” “Google Tutorials,” “Free Guides,” and “Alternatives to YouTube.” With enough time on my hands, I could probably find all of these resources on my own. But, it’s nice to have it all in one spot.

Again, my Internet personality dictates that I first have a specific need/desire for something and THEN I go find it. But these menu headings were enough to entice me to see what I COULD find when the time comes. I was pleased to see more headings, images, and brief descriptions, letting me know where and what was available. I also like that much of the content (like the Teacher Guides or Google Tutorials) provides information that can be applied to many classes and lessons and not just in one specific instance.

The useful, easy-to-find, well organized, and FREE resources earned this blog a spot in my Bookmarks Bar.