Facing History and Ourselves New Media
“The impact of Facing History and Ourselves’ Digital Media Innovation Network has already been immeasurable. What stands out is the power of creating media rather than just consuming it. In today’s classrooms it is critically important to teach students to be responsible and literate creators and consumers of film and new media. I am excited to start incorporating these strategies in my school and to tap the creativity of my students.”
Teacher, Oakland CA
Facing History's Digital Media Innovation Network 2010
Each day, digital information pours through the lives of young people, through cell phones and iPods, through laptops and DVDs, through social media and TV. At the same time, young adults are not only experiencing that stream, but creating and adding to it, through Facebook posting and texts, through uploaded pictures and videos, through shared links and remixed YouTubes. A recent major study reports that many U.S. children spend as much time daily tuned into digital media as they spend on their entire school day.
In less then a generation, schools and teachers must transform the place of digital media in schools in order to adapt to a revolution that has already happened in students’ lives. As educators, we don’t have the luxury of waiting.
The Digital Media Innovation Network is a new initiative that Facing History and Ourselves has launched in 2010 to meet this challenge. It’s a two-year, multifaceted, professional development initiative designed to build Facing History’s capacity to integrate digital technology into our classroom resources and professional development services for educators, and to afford us an opportunity to experiment with innovative ways of using new media.
The program is made possible by support from The Righteous Persons Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and the Fledgling Fund, who are helping Facing History take a leadership role in developing new ways to use digital resources in the classroom.
The first stage of the project consists of these key elements:
- Face-to-face symposium. This event, held in Brookline in July 2010, brought together an outstanding group of experts and an initial pilot team consisting of staff from all of our offices and educators from across the United States and around the world.
- Pilot teacher projects, underway in fall 2010. Moving at full speed, educators who took part in the intensive 2010 summer symposium committed to return to their schools ready to create new student projects based on their DMIN professional development.
- Online community for workshop participants. Teachers come together as a community of practitioners, using the Digital Media Innovation Network website for pre- and post-symposium study, sharing of presentations, book groups, and in-depth conversation about classroom projects at their home schools.
- A student workshop in December of 2010 will showcase the student work and best practices from that will be shared throughout our network and in online offerings.
- Extensive evaluation that will objectively measure the impact of our work on teacher effectiveness and student skills.
Building Digital Media Teaching Tools
Even as the first phase of the project rolls out, Facing History and Ourselves is working with a much broader vision in mind: how will this project benefit our entire network of teachers, students, and partners?
The answer: our intention is to build Facing History’s capacity to weave digital technology into all our classroom resources and professional development services for educators. Each teacher in the Digital Media Innovation Network program returns to their classrooms ready to spread these skills to students and colleagues. Each learning Facing History gains gets translated into future new curricula, new educator resources, new staff development, and on throughout a widening circle.
Here are just some of the areas where we are building new media educator tools that will integrate into our training and programs.
Journalism, Photojournalism, and Documentary Film in the the Digital Age - Exploring how documentary films, crisis journalism, visual literacy, and news production have been transformed by the web.
Digital tools and near-universal access to instant online publication democratizes the ability to report and witness. Yet teachers and students need critical practices to evaluate the social and moral complexities of online journalism in the era of a networked, globalized information society.
Media Literacy Skills - Fostering students' critical thinking and analytic skills for evaluating new media.
Flooded with charismatic digital media ranging from YouTube videos to fast-moving blogs, viral social networks to ever-multiplying forms of TV, students have never so urgently needed critical skills. Teachers and students need to ask: who made this, and why? Are these images “reality,” and how do editing, framing, music, and perspective affect what we in the audience feel and remember? What are the moral and ethical questions that viewers should ask?
Our topics also include ethical aspects of students’ online activities and questions of identity and otherness as shaped by the online social sphere.
New Media Storytelling - Teaching strategies for filming student videos, creating podcasts, conducting interviews, and editing student-created projects and podcasts.
Both teachers and students in the digital era need the skills to express concepts and organize ideas through multimedia such as video and audio, photography, online discussion, and effective writing. Students’ skills in editing and presenting their ideas on screen becomes crucial to both future life opportunities, and to the ability to have their voices heard as citizens or artists.
Collaborative Educational Technologies - Developing educator resources around classroom use of co-edited wikis, chatting, blogging, online research, and other projects involving new and emerging technologies.
Teachers lead students in use of learning platforms that allow students to produce and share learning, and practice vital skills needed by knowledge workers, such as teamwork, presentation to groups and online, effective research skills, and how to assess the credibility and quality of online sources.
Copyright, Fair Use, and Licensing - Understanding copyright, intellectual property, fair use, privacy and security, and other key legal issues that complicate sharing, creation and discussion online.
Today’s students are entering an economy where open debate, creative markets, and knowledge work create an expectation that ideas will spread in rapid viral form, and where remixing and commenting on the productions of other web users plays an essential role in the culture. Our work explores the questions teachers face in helping students manage their online work.
Integrating Mobile Devices Into Learning - Cell phones and mobile devices as learning tools for contributing text posts, photos, voice recordings to blogs, podcasts and social networks.
The rapid proliferation of cheap mobile devices has transformed the reach of the Internet and the social habits of young people. On the one hand, teachers must worry about the threat of constant distraction and the potential for social misuse that the same devices generate. On the other hand lie the benefits of connection to family and friends, ease of access to information, aid in planning and remembering, and empowering tools like cameras, maps, and calendars. And the growing world of cell phone “apps” increasingly adds software-type functionality to mobile devices, blurring the line between traditional desktop and handheld devices. Our workshops explored creative and productive uses of mobile devices into classroom projects and student creative skills.
Tying Digital Learning to Real World Moral Challenges
As the program develops, we’re designing each component so that technology is not examined in a vacuum, but is studied in direct connection to the social and civic issues that are the focus of Facing History and Ourselves’ educational scope and sequence.
In a letter to the Facing History and Ourselves community, founder Margot Stern Strom laid out the place of the Digital Media Innovation Network within the organization’s broader work and philosophy:
"It is not a coincidence that as our tools of communication become more powerful, we find ourselves increasingly questioning issues of culture and identity.
Facing History and Ourselves has pioneered the development and implementation of deep, engaging content tied to a tested, successful methodology that helps teachers and students use history to explore these key issues.
[We are] continuing the transition from an organization steeped in print-based resources and intense face-to-face encounters with educators to one that takes advantage of the changing environment in the fields of education, technology, and geopolitics. The organization is ramping up its digital and new media presence to address on a broader scale the needs of educators and community members to confront these issues in our turbulent times."
Throughout the symposium, speakers demonstrated not only how to practice new media pedagogy, but how to apply it to complex current events and human rights challenges.
Among the examples taught throughout the week:
- A workshop on the documentary Reporter led teachers through an examination of the difficult moral challenges faced by journalists trying to bring international attention to atrocities in the Congo.
- A teacher-created case study on students investigating the human rights crisis in Darfur showed how the young history class collaborated via wiki to research media articles on the tragedy, annotate and comment on their research, and build a shared bibliography with links, documents, and images.
- Demonstration of Google Earth’s powerful mapping application used as an educational tool to engage with literature and film in study of the Holocaust, linking maps, locations, historical images and biographies.
- A photojournalist’s demonstration of how to build "visual literacy" through a detailed analysis of photos created in the aftermath of the Bosnian genocide.
- Panel with documentary filmmakers who drew lessons from their experiences in creating social issue films and media tools across multiple digital platforms. Explored how students can use social media to communicate with people who are living these issues, from a displaced persons camp in Uganda, to a member of Darfuri civil society, to an intern at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
- Use of documentary film, online community, website and social media to educate about the strengths and limits of the rule of law as a means to prevent genocide and achieve justice after mass violence.
- Exploring Choosing to Participate, Be the Change, One Person, One Vote, and Not In Our Town: Facing History's own online projects to train young students in the impact made by individual moral choices and citizen participation.
As the new program emerges, the excitement and passion that early participants are feeling has been getting expressed via blogs, online discussion groups, participant evaluations, and other tools.
“If we do not meet students in the medium that they are engaged, we lose a huge opportunity to engage young learners.”
"Our lively discussion brought us back to the importance of relationship building, listening, communication, being willing to share problems/challenges in a way that invites others to help, tapping into your passion, and collaborating with others."
“It was great to be in the learner seat and experience what my students will go through. The making of the site is a lesson in itself, but I believe this is simply another tool. It is not ’the product‘ that demonstrates learning but the container or the canvas that holds the evidence of learning.”
We can’t lose sight of the human story in the midst of all the dazzle of shiny new technologies. On Sunday we talked about the emerging technology of contact lens with built-in augmented reality—perhaps it is more important to have a lens that helps us see the humanity in others, and the realities that others live with.”
Putting It All to Work
As 2010 moves on, the first group of Network members have moved directly into creating and sharing their skills with their home schools.
Each educator committed to:
- Between September and November 2010, teach a class using Facing History pedagogy and resources and pilot a series of lessons or units that bring new media into the teaching of the content and/or themes in the film Reporter.
- Document and share their project through Program Associate planning and visits, lesson plans, video, student work, and/or a reflective journal or other writing.
- Bring their students who participated in the pilot project onto an online student workshop highlighting their work (December 6-10, 2010).
As the project continues, we look forward to sharing the results and resources produced with the larger Facing History and Ourselves community.
The Righteous Persons Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Fledgling Fund are helping to make it possible for Facing History to take a leadership role in developing new ways to use digital resources in the classroom.
For more information on the complete initiative, contact Deb Chad, Program Director for Technology, Facing History and Ourselves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Symposium Agenda - See the List of Presentations and Speakers from our first DMIN event
Speakers - See the full list of our experts and scholars
In the News - "Using New Media to Enhance the Teaching of Documentary Film"
We hope you’ll follow the progress of the Digital Media Innovation Network as we report back with results and build new resources, at www.facinghistory.org/newmedia. Or join Facing History and Ourselves’ Facebook community to stay connected to our mission to teach young people to think critically, recognize moral choices, and see the impact their choices have on their community and the world, www.facebook.com/FacingHistory.