For three years Youth Voices has been working with young people to examine and explore their community; assisting students to tell their stories and acquire digital literacy skills. In the process a curriculum has been developed that harnesses the interest, energy and talents of young people to create exciting and creative content that highlights their experiences and memories.
In an effort to extend our work with educators and increase the accessibility and sustainability of the project, Departures Youth Voices has developed a series of professional development topics and workshops for middle and high school educators. The goal is to expand multimedia literacy, technical knowledge and the confidence of educators to incorporate the New Media Literacies and digital media in their classroom.
A fundamental component of this endeavor is this blog and the nurturing of a community of educators through an on-going conversation exploring the digital media landscape. Participants in the Departures Youth Voices Professional Development workshops will be invited to write for the blog and the entire educational community is welcome to comment and provide additional insight.
We’ve entitled the blog Shifting Terrain in reference to Faith Rogow and her work exploring media literacy education, as well as to our geographical location, Los Angeles; home to physical shifts in the terrain as well as metaphysical. Perhaps most importantly, as a symbol for what is happening in the classrooms; how teachers are working with students, how students are learning, and how media and technology are being re-examined as partners in the process of education.
We look forward to your submissions and comments.
Recently Departures Youth Voices was invited to take part in an educational symposium for secondary educators sponsored by The Music Center and La Plaza de La Cultura y Artes. It was entitled Exploring Identity Through The Power of Storytelling. Presenters included notable storytellers: Barbara Clark, Paul Guzman, and OlgaToya, as well workshops by Facing History and Ourselves, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes and Departures Youth Voices.
Barbara Clark opened the day with a story of her childhood in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. when she first experienced segregation at the age of ten. The story was filled with descriptions of people and places as well routes to and from her home. She recounted the various acts of resistance, both personal and communal that eventually led to the end of segregation. Her story marked the beginning of a day where story was center stage, and exploration of identity was the objective.
Workshops were simultaneous so participants had to make the tough decision of where to go. The educators who decided on the Departures Youth Voices workshop had an opportunity to reflect on the power of place as a springboard for storytelling. The workshop was tailored after the third component of the Youth Voices Curriculum, map building. Youth Voices is a media-literacy program that engages student in a thoughtful exploration of their neighborhoods while employing innovative multi-media tools. The general goal of the program is to examine how multi-media theory and application can link students to their personal and community history, examining issues in social science and civic engagement.
Participants in the workshop were asked to reflect on their own community and their experiences and memories of the people, places and things that make up their neighborhood. They were asked to select 5 "hot spots" or locations that hold a special memory of connection for them; a place where they spend time with friends, a location they are scared to go to, a favorite place that is no longer there, etc. They were then asked to draw a map that featured their "hot spots." The next step was to place a clear plastic sheet over their map and write in the significance/memory of each location.
The physical act of adding a second layer to the map illustrates the unique and complex relationship we have with our community. The next layer was added during the presentation of the maps when participants were asked to show their map to the group and elaborate on their "hot spots." Through this process they unfolded stories and discovered new ways of seeing themselves, their identity and their community.
Within the Youth Voices curriculum, map building allows us to connect with the students on a variety of levels as we build the foundation for the overall project. Students are asked to share their experiences/memories of their neighborhood as an integral part of the larger exploration of their community. Value is given to their personal story and their understanding of their neighborhood while also exposing them to people and places that enhances their awareness of their community. The participants in today's workshops were invited to go on the same journey the students take, as they begin Youth Voices.
The educational symposium was filled with a wonderful mix of powerful content that allowed participants to reflect on how they may be able to integrate the arts, history, and storytelling into their own work with young people.
When Departures Youth Voices was invited to apply to the New Media Literacies (NML) Summer Sandbox Professional Development project earlier this year, one of the key concepts that attracted me was the value attributed to play, specifically in re-interpreting the relationship between teachers and students. I was struck by the simplicity and complexity of the idea. Simplicity because of the ease of play: The lack of stress that inhabits a task where the outcome is not primary, but where instead the joy of exploring, devising new ideas and strategies are the focal points. The complexity arises in our lack of practice and openness, as adults and educators, to jump into play and accept that the process is paramount to the outcome. The pressure on teachers for quantitative results is so extreme, it may seem a luxury to look at the quality of the process as the goal. The educators we worked with took this leap and allowed us to join in on the fun.
NML identifies play as one of the core cultural competencies that enables participatory learning to truly take hold. They define play as "the capacity to experiment with one's surroundings as a form of problem-solving. Over the course of our three Departures Youth Voices Professional Development Play On! workshops the umbrella of PLAY (Participatory Learning and You!) definitely cast a shadow on all our activities. There was an openness by the participants to try new things, make mistakes, share new insights and explore the Youth Voices curriculum. The five hours we spent together each Saturday flew by as everyone was actively engaged with exploring digital literacy in the classroom, creating power points, maps and digital murals.
The Youth Voices curriculum offers an opportunity for participants to reflect on their community and critically examine how they see and understand their neighborhood; what memories, experiences, people, places and history define their sense of place. As our small crew of workshop participants/educators were engaged in this they were also encouraged to consider the smaller community of their classroom and students. How could Youth Voices, media literacy, digital technology and participatory learning be further integrated into their classrooms? How can it motivate students to be participatory learners; creating and circulating original content, collaborating and connecting with people to extend and distribute the project(s) in the digital and physical landscape.
Participants voiced ideas such as: using maps and mapping as a way to dig deeper into a novel by tagging key locations and events, or documenting a field trip taken to learn more about the Occupy Movement. They also posed questions such as: what if the founding fathers used Twitter to spread news about the American Revolution? how would they exploit the limit on characters?, or what would Benjamin Franklin's Facebook page look like?
Two of the workshop participants were from Operation Street Kidz, a non-profit grassroots organization working to promote learning and creative opportunities for disenfranchised youth. Their interest in digital media and media literacy is as a tool for connecting with and inspiring young people. As an organization that often works in informal settings, they see the potential for Youth Voices to help build confidence and provide valuable skills for young people, ultimately fostering positive connections to their neighborhood while placing a value on their stories and experiences.
Our plan, as we continue to work with educators and develop our professional development component, is to take the feedback we've received and grow our curriculum in a way that utilizes and promotes the characteristics of participatory learning and play, all the while continuing to support our new found partners, inside and outside of the classroom.
Below is a video by the NML showcasing the experiences of the educators who participated in the Summer SandBox Professional Development at the RFK Community Schools.
For the second session of Youth Voices PD the participants had an opportunity to explore maps, mapping and a variety of researching and archiving strategies.
We looked at a few historical maps to understand the context under which maps have served to define communities and the people who live there. One key map we discussed was a 1930s Residential Security Map of Philadelphia, created by the Home Owners Loan Corp (HOLC). These maps, often referred to as redlining, were made of cities throughout the United States between 1935 and 1951. They categorized specific areas in cities according to four color-coded categories based on racial and economic desirability of residents and potential home buyers. We explored the question, "how did these maps and classifications continue to affect the neighborhoods and residents defined."
What became clear by reading these maps was the power of maps and map-making to lock a community into a time a space that dictates one understanding of what it means to live and work there. Whether it was maps detailing the "New World" in the 1500's or maps marking the ethnic breakdown of a city in 2010, each told a story about the place and the people who live there.
Having explored these series of maps, the next step for each participant was to reflect on their own community and their experiences and memories of the people, places and things that make up their neighborhood. They were asked to select 10 "hot spots" or locations that hold a special memory of connection for them; a place where they spend time with friends, a location they are scared to go to, a favorite place to play sports, etc. We then asked them to draw a map that featured their "hot spots." This section of the Youth Voices curriculum prompts students to think critically about their neighborhood and their relationship to it, while placing a value on their perspective as we see their community through their eyes.
A slide show of the maps is below. Note how the second layer of each map provides a greater understanding of each hot spot and the community as a whole.
Participants then moved to the next part of mapping, Mapping 2.0 - building a collaborative and interactive Google map utilizing the hot spots they selected and media assets they will acquire through on-line research or personal collections. Students' individual contributions to the map enhance the totality of the map providing a deeper understanding of the community. In this case, because the educators taking part were from different parts of the Los Angeles area, we did not get that overlaying of hot spots in one neighborhood but rather a broader view of what makes a neighborhood special and unique.
Below is the collaborative map from the Professional Development workshop, and one made by students involved in Departures Chinatown Youth Voices.
Play On! Departures Youth Voices PD Google Map
View My Community - PlayOn! Departures Youth Voices in a larger map
Departures Chinatown Youth Voices Google Map
View Departures Chinatown Education in a larger map
Departures is proud to be working with educators from the Los Angeles area on the implementation of the Youth Voices Professional Development series for middle and high school educators. Our newest community initiative, launched in collaboration with the USC New Media Literacies Project, seeks to provide educators with the confidence, knowledge and resources they need to nurture and guide their students into the digital world. It will support teacher/student interactions that will spark creativity and exploration, both in and outside the classroom.
The media literacy program is designed to connect students and teachers to their personal and community history, examining issues in social science and civic engagement. Creating a process where they become knowledgeable in the history, culture, geography, and socio-political issues in their community, while developing life and professional skills, and learning technology and multimedia production. Educators will gain the skills and confidence to integrate Departures Youth Voices and other multimedia activities into their curriculum and enhance their professional networks with new resources and like minded educators exploring and applying digital media and the New Media Literacies
The project held its first workshop on October 15th at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and will continue once a month for the next two months. The next sessions is scheduled for Saturday, November 19, followed by the final workshop in the series on December 10.