Distance Learning has taken on a different connotation here in Venice. Students travel from all over the city via public transportation or school buses, as opposed to being close enough to walk. The students in the New Media Academy come from Culver City, Inglewood, South LA, Downtown, add even Gardena to come to school, which was not the case 10 years ago. What does that do to the culture of the public school you may ask? Well, for one, it distances students from this community, as school events and clubs have a lesser impact on these students.
It will be interesting to see how this transformation from the 'neighborhood' school has changed the culture at Venice High School and its surroundings. Yet, in a networked culture, students are connected online and perhaps the neighborhood school has been replaced by Facebook.
The conversation about community perfectly transitioned into a discussion about Web 2.0 and participatory culture since students are required to create individual blogs and publish weekly posts that showcase their process of developing their project... a digital scratch pad, if you will.
We debated on whether these technological advancements have perhaps leveled the playing field for producers of content and the audience, and if Web 2.0 has been an agent of change, democratizing our culture and allowing the opportunity to hear from a diverse audience instead of a few powerful corporations. We found out that students like Andrew really enjoy personal publishing sites like Blogger or media hosting sites like iTunes, Flckr, and YouTube, which allow the not so technically savvy person to publish his own content. And of course practically everyone in the room was an expert in using social media sites like MySpace and Facebook. They were a bit surprised that these tools would be used for school to build community and collaborative work. Ironically, Venice High School (or any LAUSD school, for that matter) do not permit access to ANY video hosting or social media sites, so this type of learning is limited and the participatory gap gets expanded in the classroom - more on that another time.
This conversation proved these students' level of complex thinking and made me realize that we are working with great kids. Why wouldn't they be any less? They are from Venice HS's New Media Academy. They came into the class with a background in digital imagery and animation, using sophisticated tools like Adobe Photoshop and FLASH. I guess I can shelf my lesson on basic computer literacy techniques like saving files or naming folders.
During the first class, we jumped into creating blog accounts for each student and then they were assigned a visualization activity that focuses on using images instead of text to communicate who you are. It was a great way to get step into media production and introduce each other.
Here's a sample from Alyssa Gasca, a student who lives in Gardena.