At our small, project based high school I am the self-appointed Shepherd of Digital Creativity. Our computer to student ratio is 1-to-1; we put a laptop in front of every young person and nearly all of them have phones in their pockets. But while this technology is ubiquitous, I noticed there was no JOY in these tools. With the whole creative digital-pallet at their fingertips, students were almost exclusively using Word and playing Wordle.
Something had to change.
So this past year, I started the “Great Digital Media Initiative” at our school. For this year, every major product in my core academic classes and electives would be digital and distributed through a social media platform or on our district website.
- I enrolled every TCS student into the Adobe suite– a service our district offered but no one used.
- We banned, BANNED I SAY, all hand drawn butcher-paper posters from our halls. Instead, we integrated professional graphic design into all classes using Adobe CC Express.
- We launched a Youtube channel breaking down the novels we are covering in the classroom. We took our deeply nerdy and unironic literature analysis and packaged them up in a way that services a real audience. The channel has found success in and outside of the classroom.
- Following a quarter-long project focused on adversity and addiction, students collaborated to script, record and edit a group message of hope, resilience and support.
- We put together a crack squad of students to collaborate in the filming of a music video that shows off our school.
- I formed an elective class where students run our social media accounts. Student posts are professional, timely, and capture life at our school. It can be found at @the_Community_School on instagram. Everything from the past year is 100% student created.
- I put together ANOTHER crack squad of students to film, edit and deliver on-location segments for the Spokane Schools Foundation Fundraiser. They further recorded in-studio intro and outros for each segment which were then integrated into SPSF broadcast. This recording was in collaboration with Hamilton Studios– a video production company in town.
- I launched a second elective where kids collaborate to create “student voice” videos. District officials ask for student opinions on a range of issues (masks in school, internet restrictions, grading) and students capture and package those opinions in creative digital ways.
- I made “explainer videos” detailing features of our school, and demystifying Project Based Learning.
Students tell the story of our school.
This initiative started strong and is picking up steam. By putting these tools in the hands of students, and structuring classes around their use in the real world, we are fostering critical thinking backed by authentic tasks and under an honest deadline. And it’s the authentic nature that sets our programs apart. Students are not making “student videos” or “practice posts.” Everything we produce is meant for publication on YouTube, our school website, or delivered directly to key decision makers at the district. Furthermore, every product is a collaboration between students, myself, our school administration, community partners and the district.
Check out the initiative here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dMCoCVvVGiKjqw5wB_ytGsLmFhY2t4IVxLAJUg1zVaE/edit