Media Maker: A Behind the Scenes Look

As luck would have it, sitting down to my Chromebook this morning with the intention of writing this blog post, our Professional Development Coordinator got the details of her Summer Learning Challenge (#SLC2016) to participants via email. This week’s challenge: Create Content. Two birds; one stone.

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I decided that one of the first educational related blogs that I’d write this summer will give a look at the new course I’m teaching in the fall, Media Maker, with the purpose of talking about where this course came from, the readings and research behind its inception, and what the course will look like in practice. Of course, I’m writing for teachers, but as part of this course if very much about reflection for students, I hope that down the road they might see it as an open look at how an adult writer and learner engages in the process of writing and reflection.

First, Media Maker is a one-semester elective for juniors and seniors who have passed the New York State Common Core ELA exam. It’s focus is for students to write and create content for online environments. There will be four projects that students will create over the course of the 20 week semester, and they’ll be framed in the following way: Using the web to tell stories, share information and collaborate, argue and persuade. The final project will be a multigenre project using tools from the other three units. So, students will spend their time blogging, podcasting, creating web pages, screencasting, creating wikis. Basically, using a variety of Web 2.0 tools to write and work in.

Second, Media Maker is student-content driven. There is little teacher-centric content. Students will follow their own inquiry and interests. I became interested in this through reading about Project-based Learning, and Passion Projects. While the students aren’t really engaging in a true passion project, they will be guided and encouraged to explore personal interests in each of the projects, and students may even find ways to explore a single topic of exploration as they move through each of the projects.

Here is a link to the screencast of the course introduction that we use at course recommendation and sign-up time: Media Maker Promo

One caveat to this. In our argument and persuasion unit, we’re going to look at a shared set of sources around education and pedagogy, asking the question, “Do current educational practices best meet the needs of students?” While we’ll move briefly away from the student-content aspect of the class, because I want to engage students in a dialogue of critical and radical pedagogy about the education system and our experiences in in, and I want to do it in conjunction with a class that’s in a 1-to-1 technology environment and with students who are experiencing a radically different approach, I hope, to the classroom learning experience.

Let me continue to talk about the make up and approach to the class.

In each unit, students will contract for their grade. I’ll attach a draft of the contracts that I’m using for this class so that you can get an understanding. The purpose of the contract is to get the “grading” part of the learning out of the way, and to instead focus on building relationships and collaborating with students on getting better at writing, designing and creating digital content (and really just communication in general, right?). View a draft of the contracts here.

While there will be some shared texts that we’ll be using in this class, they’ll really be the mentor texts in each of the writing purposes we’ll be looking at: storytelling and narrative, information and collaboration, and argument and persuasion. The contracts that I discussed above will have the shared readings that we’ll be looking at. Because we’re looking at designing and creating digital content, all of the mentor texts were originally created for consumption on the web, again, in the purpose that we’re exploring. Originally, I had planned to give some readings and explore media that was created for print, I decided that there’s just too much good stuff out on the web these days, and to stay true to the nature of a course on digital content creation.

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The entire course will be taught in one of our computer labs, and so students will have access to computers all the time in class. I’m going to aim for a paperless environment, attempt to flip the classes, and use time in class for students to work on content production, as well as collaboration with other students and myself. I want to be there in class to make sure that students are moving through their contracts in an efficient way and to work with students on developing their writing and thinking. I’m making all best efforts to remove myself from the center of the class.

Because I wasn’t tied to a state exam, and because I believe the Common Core standards provide some excellent targets to work towards, I was able to create a class that emphasized process over content, and students gaining a depth of learning.

This course is the end result of a lot of reading over the past several years of some great books, blogs, and really people who have inspired me to taking my teaching in a new direction. A short list of these people are: Angela Stockman, Alice Keeler, bloggers at Moving Writers and Turn to Your Neighbor, the late, great David Carr (to whom the original idea for this course got its start), Hackable High Schools (on Medium), Will Richardson’s blog and book From Master Teacher to Master Learner, Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got that Way, Grant Lichtman’s blog and book The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School and #edjourney, and really, I’ll probably have to revise this blog like 20 times as I continue to add to those who have helped me become better and develop this opportunity.

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