Friday, October 2, 2015

Residency Wrap and enter the DIGICOM Learning Institute.

What a difference a year makes. My residency with the Palm Springs Unified School District last year has turned into something all together different, DIGICOM Different. My residency with DIGICOM, culminating in a celebration in May at the DIGICOM Film Festival and an unforgettable week of Professional Development training with PSUSD teachers in June.
Now I find myself spending much more time in Palm Springs, now as Director of Curriculum & Professional Development, responsible for continuing the outreach to teachers following the training institutes. Also there are very exciting prospects for expanding the reach of video empowered teachers beyond the valley and at local universities. I'm still just awestruck by some of the educators I get to work with like Nancy Blair an English Teacher, DATA Academy Cathedral City High School.

Many teachers leave a DIGICOM training excited and energized to apply the new skills & ideas they learned into their classrooms. The thrill discovering a new way of communicating content and the sudden awareness of being “literate” in the language of film lead many to re-imagine the way they teach. Few have embraced their role as Teacher/Producer as completely than Nancy Blair, English teacher in the DATA Academy at Cathedral City High School.

“Thanks to multiple digital storytelling workshops and continued professional development, I’m able to integrate this visual and technical support into my curriculum and produce exciting projects, both for myself and for my students.” says Nancy. She describes a perfect moment when technology provided by the District and DIGICOM’s training and support combine to encourage her and her students to make movies about what they’re learning.  Blair continues, “While the District issued iPads to all its willing teachers, DIGICOM has given me the skills, support, and encouragement necessary to take this leap into the world of digital storytelling. “
 Nancy learning to shoot video with her iPad at DIGICOM Winter Training in January 2015

Nancy began strong & fearless last year following-up her first DIGICOM workshop with a unit in her English class that explored the themes of George Orwell’s 1984 and challenged her students to create original movies inspired by those themes, not merely a review or recreating of the original text. “It was really quite amazing and gratifying to see a teacher really pick up on this so quickly.”, said DIGICOM’s Frank Guttler. “Within a week after the training, Nancy already had a solid lesson plan, for a video unit that didn’t just test the content of the novel, it tested the ideas of the novel!” 

Nancy describes the process of turning her classroom into a mini-movie studio, “Students have formed production teams, complete with unique titles, and are brainstorming and generating ideas for their films. Students will pitch their best ideas so that they can get whole class feedback and narrow down their many ideas to one strong concept. Then, screenwriting process begins. Each production team has three to four members and at least one of them has strong knowledge of state-of- the-art equipment and software necessary for production. Other team members will be responsible for writing the script, creating the storyboard, scheduling shooting and voice over recordings, acting, etc. .”
Nancy shoots her own 1984-inspired project with the help of a student & DIGICOM mentor Frank Guttler

You can see student projects from Nancy’s unit on George Orwell’s 1984 both of which were screened at this year’s DIGICOM film Festival here:

Since Nancy’s initial success with curriculum-infused digital storytelling, she’s become an advocate of the process and of DIGICOM at her school site. We were so impressed with her energy and imagination as an educator that Nancy was invited to be a lead faculty member at this Summer’s DIGICOM Workshops in June where she co-presented the Student Screenwriter’s and she still managed to get her next video project ready to go for the Fall.

“I have to say I’m really excited about this semester’s digital storytelling project!” Blair says with barely contained excitement,  “Senior DATA students have read, analyzed, and discussed materials in Expository Reading and Writing, Module II, which explores Aristotle’s three types of appeals used in persuasion. I don’t want to give too much away, but essentially, students will use elements of digital storytelling to create a film which supports and demonstrates their understanding and effective (or ineffective) use of these appeals. The project will allow students to be both creative and analytical, while fully adhering to several priority ELA Common Core State Standards.”

Preview Nancy’s new English unit on Aristotle’s three types of appeals here:

Changing classrooms, paradigms and futures takes a special combination of Creativity, Curiosity, Conviction and Courage, traits that identify the most successful DIGICOM teachers. Cultivating these traits in educators here in the valley and beyond is what puts the gas in my tank. I'm looking forward to continuing this journey in the desert. For those of you who share the dream of Screen Ed, these are interesting times.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

At Green Gables, we believe education is a natural ‘give and take’ where we learn as much from children as they from us; that our children transform us as we transform them.
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