In the Bay Area, the New Learning Institute has developed a rich community of educators at schools, community-based organizations, and institutions of higher education that are dedicated to incorporating learning models that embrace collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills. The 21st century learner takes the opportunity to deepen her understanding of content by participating in authentic learning experiences made possible by complex projects that sensibly integrate digital and mobile technologies. Our Bay Area projects have focused on the use of digital arts programs that reinforce writing skills, promote civic participation, and use place-based activities as a way to organize and present what young people have learned and produced. As Paul Jacobsen, Principal of Horace Mann Middle School in San Francisco describes, “We’re really tapping into an asset that does exist in most of our students but is going untapped without this approach.”
KQED: Place-Based Learning and Media Making in the Field
KQED, the San Francisco PBS affiliate, and the New Learning Institute are offering a series of workshops combining place-based education, media making in the field, and mobile learning as part of the outreach for Frontline’s Digital Nation. Underwritten in part by Boston’s PBS station WGBH and its program funding partner, the Verizon Foundation, this local Bay Area initiative between KQED and NLI has been designed to support the show’s inquiry into the way technology is transforming the way we work, learn and connect with each other.
The San Francisco initiative began in the fall of 2009 when KQED convened a brain trust of educators and students, administrators, interested community members, and local media production organizations to students, educators and program envision possibilities for place-based learning with providers in the Bay Area. Following this session, participants were invited to participate in a training session at NLI’s Innovation Center at Burton High School adjacent to McLaren Park, a site that provided an ideal mapping environment for the workshop.
Youth participating in NLI and KQED’s ongoing place-based learning programs use Nokia Sports Tracker to record their GPS route for digital mapping and post their conclusions online to a variety of platforms, such as EveryTrail.com and Google Maps. Working as citizen journalists and equipped with mobile devices, youth collect data in their local neighborhoods and capture media -- from photos to short video clips to mobile interviews — and share their learning via NLI’s Student Social Network, Remix, on issues ranging from local community issues to civic engagement to environmental concerns.
SEfL: Social Enterprise for Learning with UC Center for Cities and Schools
Social Enterprise for Learning, or SEfL, is a civic engagement project model created by UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools, under the direction of Dr. Debra McKoy and Dr. David Stern. SEfL is a form of School-Based Enterprise (SBE) where students engage in activities producing goods or services for sale or use by other people. SEfL projects are distinct from traditional student internships or school-work programs as they are designed to create a social benefit rather than financial profits.
For the past two years the New Learning Institute has provided professional development support and in-class coaching to bring technology tools and technologies to the SEfL programs in SFUSD in partnership with the district’s Career Technical Education Department, UC Center for Cities and Schools, the National Academy Foundation and the Bay Area Writing Project.
Following NLI workshops, participating students use technology tools to document their communities and share their findings with real world partners. Some examples of recent work include:
Students in Galileo’s Hospitality & Tourism Academy collaborated with the San Francisco Hotel and Tourism Association to create web-based audio walking tours of local neighborhoods;
The Finance Academy at Burton High School has developed a series of outreach and training video projects to support their annual tax preparation support program through the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for local residents in the South San Francisco neighborhoods;
The Academy of Information Technology at Lincoln High School mapped their neighborhood, interviewed residents and hosted a community gathering to address local concerns around the interactions between students and local residents.
These SEfL activities help students develop their natural creativity and deepen their insight into their school and neighborhood while providing services for a real client, e.g., local community leaders or public officials. In the process they confront and contend with authentic challenges and learn how to meet clients’ needs or particular interests in order to succeed. In doing so, students are empowered and inspired to be active citizens and change agents in the future.
Life Academy & the Bay Area Writing Project: Digital Storytelling
The New Learning Institute and the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP) first worked together in August of 2005 during BAWP’s Summer Institute. Sponsored by the National Writing Project, this summer intensive was part of a nationwide program designed to support lead writing project sites around the country as they focused on writing and literacy in a digital age. During this one-week intensive, NLI provided coaching and professional development to a dedicated group of BAWP Writing Project teacher-consultants who developed their own digital stories and together reflected on definitions of literacy and the opportunities and challenges of bringing technology tools into the classroom.
From this initial engagement, NLI continued to support interested BAWP teacher-consultants around the Bay Area, including the exemplary instructors Clifford Lee and Yumi Matsui from Life Academy in Oakland. Life Academy is a small school with a focus on the Health Sciences; it’s currently one of ConnectEd’s lead sites in California, serving as a model for an effective implementation of a rigorous interdisciplinary academic pathway program. Over the next several years, NLI had the chance to support Life Academy teachers and students in classroom residency situations and in two summer professional development sessions sponsored by BAWP and facilitated by Cliff and Yumi.
The Digital Storytelling Immigration Project featured in the video was developed initially as a unit to support ELL and the largely immigrant population at Life Academy. Under Cliff and Yumi’s direction, the project unfolded in stages with students working in teams, conducting interviews with relatives, developing outlines and scripts, then synthesizing, editing and presenting their work in a digital story.
This kind of authentic, project-based model presents an ideal platform for community engagement and the effective integration of literacy and technology in a traditional classroom environment. For more information on Clifford Lee’s curricular objectives with the Digital Storytelling Immigration Project and ELL— and a look at other teacher practitioners from the National Writing Project with similar concerns and experience — see Profiles in Practice: Digital Storytelling, a web resource presented by the Pearson Foundation and the National Writing Project.