New Learning Institute programs are designed to create spaces for young people to engage in new media practices that redefine what it means to learn and to create. The NLI has been partnering with Frida Kahlo High School in downtown Los Angeles to design and deliver transformative, project-based digital media programs to young people and educators in an alternative school environment.
Frida Kahlo High School is part of the national network of Big Picture Learning schools. Big Picture Learning’s approach to education is based on three foundational principles:
- Learning must be based on the interests and goals of each student.
- A student’s curriculum must be relevant to people and places that exist in the real world.
- A student’s abilities must be authentically measured by the quality of her or his work.
Big Picture Learning believes that high school graduates must know how to reason, problem-solve, and be active members of the community. At Big Picture Learning schools, there is no canon of information that all students must know. The NLI and Big Picture Learning schools share the belief that in a world where available information is growing exponentially, the most important thing a young person needs to know is how to learn.
New Learning Institute programs at Frida Kahlo High School reflect this shared commitment to active “real world” learning, academic rigor, and community participation.
Day in the Life Digital Narrative Project
What role does community play in shaping an individual? What are the attributes that make my community unique? How does my community help to define who I am, what I know, and how others perceive me? These are the questions that Frida Kahlo High School students explore in the Day in the Life Digital Narrative Project. Participating students play the role of “mobile journalist,” using mobile devices and digital video production as tools to tell their story.
Equipped with mobile devices to help communicate, collaborate, and capture life in their communities, youth participants engage in a sequence of activities that promote digital media literacy and skill development:
- Idea Synthesis | Students select a central theme for their project. Possible themes may include: how your community shapes who you are, youth culture, what it takes to achieve individual goals, and the difficulty of moving past gang life.
- Mobile Media Documentation | Using mobile devices provided by the New Learning Institute, participants capture mobile photos and videos in their community to support their theme.
- Planning | Young people engage in a pre-production process that includes script-writing and storyboarding.
- Collaboration | Using the NLI social network to post, collaborate, and share their digital assets and scripts, students work with their peers throughout the course of the project.
- Digital Media Production | Participants engage in a three-day, intensive video production activity to assemble and edit their final digital narrative.
- Community Showcase | At the culmination of the program, youth share and present their digital narratives to the wider school community.
Digital Youth Leaders Program
The Digital Youth Leaders Program offers Frida Kahlo students the opportunity to “give back” to the community by creating a space for them to share their new media knowledge and expertise with students at Nightingale Middle School in the Cypress Park area of Los Angeles. Connecting students’ in-school learning experiences to a real-world context is an essential component of the program.
Core to the Digital Youth Leaders Program at Frida Kahlo High School is an internship opportunity (a fundamental aspect of the Big Picture Learning model). After engaging in training sessions provided by Alas Media, a Los Angeles-based youth media organization, and the New Learning Institute, student interns work with teachers at Nightingale Middle School to develop and implement a new media-based project in their classroom. Frida Kahlo interns (1) play key leadership roles in ensuring that both the teachers and middle school students are supported throughout this process and (2) are mentored by Alas Media, NLI, and Nightingale Middle School staff throughout this process.
As interns from Frida Kahlo High School and teachers from Nightingale Middle School work together over the course of the fall semester, they design a project that couples a specific content focus with a new media tool, such as digital video production or gaming. A guiding objective of this project is to engage Nightingale Middle School students in a learning experience that situates their understanding of the content focus, such as the scientific method or narrative writing, in the world outside the classroom.
In order to achieve this, Nightingale Middle School students experience how the digital media tools that they may use every day, such as mobile devices, video games, or social networks, can build bridges between the learning that takes place inside the classroom and outside it.
ourFKHS Service Learning Project
A commitment to learning in the real world, academic rigor, and community participation is fundamental to the shared beliefs of the New Learning Institute and Frida Kahlo High School. The ourFKHS Service Learning Project integrates all of these elements into the program model.
Using the NLI’s social network platform, students at Frida Kahlo High School work in collaborative groups to research, plan, and design a social action project that focuses on a specific need of the school community. The ourFKHS Service Learning Project is comprised of the following sequence of phases:
- Exploration | Explore and critically analyze your local community.
- Definition | Define a problem/solution in your local community.
- Research | Conduct research on the problem/solution you defined.
- Planning | Develop a plan to actualize your solution.
- Production and Publication | Produce a digital media artifact that makes your project proposal public.
At the culmination of the project, students determine which new media tools they would like to use to effectively actualize and communicate the solution to the problem/need that they defined.
Project ideas include: awareness about teen pregnancy and prevention, greening the school community, developing a more student-centered curriculum, and increasing student motivation.