On February 8, 2010, the Pearson Foundation and Nokia Hosted a Second New Learning Institute Leadership Summit at YOUmedia in the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.
Attending were seventy Area 2 Chicago Public School principals and technical coordinators. The focus of this Leadership Summit was to introduce and demonstrate innovative digital media practices that are currently being employed in educational settings by both the New Learning Institute and Chicago-area schools and after-school programs.
In Chicago’s public schools there is a renewed and re-energized effort to integrate digital media approaches into the classroom. School leaders are eager to take advantage of free, Internet-based applications like blogging, Twitter, and wikis and to introduce them to students in the context of 21st century learning.
The Summit featured four speakers, interactive activities with cell phones, and short videos that illustrated digital media practices at work.
Keynote Speech: Dr. Yong Zhao — University Distinguished Professor at the College of Education, Michigan State University
Dr. Yong Zhao delivered a provocative keynote address. Starting with a slogan from the movie The Matrix, “Never let a man do a machine’s job,” Zhao asked attendees to consider carefully how and when to use technology. At what point does a technological “solution” become more effective than a human one? What are examples of technologies that are used for their own sake and are less effective than what a teacher can offer? Where has a technology application — like GPS — fully taken the place of another medium (a paper map or a gas station attendant?) Is a software program that teaches Spanish more effective than a single teacher in a classroom?
Drawing on examples of how new media has shifted the relationship between consumers and producers, Zhao challenged those present to move beyond their first impressions of YouTube, Facebook, Ebay, and Amazon and imagine what these new phenomena might mean for learning. He encouraged attendees to re-emphasize to their students the importance of ingenuity and creativity, and asked whether high-stakes testing and No Child Left Behind was placing too much emphasis on too few skills.
The Chinese-born Zhao made the case that Americans should not be worried about losing jobs to lower wage workers in his home country and the rest of Asia. He argued that in those countries, ingenuity and creativity — a hallmark of the American entrepreneurial spirit - are not prized as much as efficiency and conformity. American education should therefore support and promote the arts and other creative endeavors in order to succeed in the 21st century marketplace.
Darell Johnson — Social Studies Chair, The University of Chicago, Carter G. Woodson Middle School
Darrell Johnson teaches at Carter G. Woodson Middle School, a public charter school on Chicago’s South Side. Woodson Middle School is affiliated with the Digital Youth Network, an after-school program offering young people access to media production facilities and a social learning network. Mr. Johnson’s students regularly use digital media projects to fulfill curricular objectives.
Three of Johnson’s students, Serenity, Jalen, and Abdullay, were at the Summit, and they presented examples of some of their work in new media. The students demonstrated how they used advanced applications like Photoshop and digital video to create textile and clothing designs, and they explained the underlying complexity of the projects and how they were integrated into class work. The three students were clearly energized by digital media. Poised and confident, they were living evidence that media production, especially when coupled with sound pedagogy and clear rubrics, excites young people and profoundly engages them in learning. The presentations by Mr. Johnson and the three students was met with genuine enthusiasm by the Summit audience and led to a half hour of questions.
Dr. Nichole Pinkard — Visiting Associate Professor, College of Computing and Digital Media, DePaul University
As the founder of the Digital Youth Network, Dr. Pinkard works closely with Woodson Middle School. Pinkard believes in encouraging young people to produce media of various types — video, music, blogs — all of which reinforce critical thinking, project planning, and other learning skills that are so important to a 21st century education. Pinkard explained the uses of a private social network called Remix World, an online platform where students can share work, collaborate, and comment on the work of others. By participating on Remix World, students earn Remix Dollars, which can be redeemed for real-world items. Dr. Pinkard discussed the work of Darrell Johnson’s students and put it within a pedagogical and theoretical framework.
The central thesis of Dr. Pinkard’s talk was that media practices are increasingly central to 21st century learning. She believes that educators should integrate digital media into their classrooms with the following objectives.
To ensure that teens posses a fundamental understanding of the various modes of communication that comprise the new media landscape.
To realize that students learn the methods associated with each mode of communication most powerfully when they take on multiple tasks in the creation of new media artifacts.
To ensure that teens are able to think critically about the meaning of new media messages as both consumers and producers.
To imbue teens with a core set of values needed to become productive and prosperous citizens in the 21st century.
Jeff McCarter — Executive Director, Free Spirit Media
Jeff McCarter discussed his Chicago-based after-school program, Free Spirit Media, which offers under-served urban youth project-based learning through documentary filmmaking. McCarter, a former editor, cameraman, and producer, strongly believes that documentary filmmaking is a powerful medium that can be transformative to the lives of young people who engage in it.
Free Spirit Media partners with schools and organizations to create programs in media production. Through hands-on production of their own media content, participants build life skills in communication, critical and independent thinking, teamwork, and the use of technology.