Mad Skills - Global Kids Case Study


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In 2008-2009, Project New Media Literacies tested the Media Makers Challenge Collection, a set of 30 challenges to explore and practice the new media literacies. This collection was established as a springboard for educators to adopt the new media literacies into their own situation. Media educators from Global Kids used the materials as inspiration to develop Media Masters, an after-school program at the High School for Global Citizenship to integrate the new media literacies into a social issues learning environment. Media Masters helped learners acquire and reflect upon digital media production and analytic skills through youth engagement in participatory media and Web 2.0 tools. This presentation will explore how theory and practice merged to create a conversation, rather than a top-down transfer of knowledge, between participating researchers, practitioners and students.

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  • This is a case study of Project New Media Literacies collaborating with Global Kids in 2008-09 school year as they used the Media Makers Collection to develop an after-school program with teens called Media Makers.
  • In some ways, the process of researching new ideas about learning and putting them to work in the classroom is kind of like eating a Drumstick. First, you’ve got to get through the crunchy stuff - the actual research. Then, your research has to get filtered through the realities of classroom life - the ice cream, which might give you a brain freeze! Finally, you make it to the sweet spot, where research and practice manage to come together. Unfortunately, research about education is far more fraught than eating a Drumstick. When you get to the sweet spot, though, the rewards are much more lasting than a momentary taste of fudge!

  • NML's core goal is to help young people acquire the social skills and cultural competencies that constitute the new media literacies (as outlined in the white paper) through experiences that introduce them to emerging sites of participatory culture.

    These social skills and cultural competencies—the new media literacies—shift the focus of traditional literacy, for example, from individual expression to also encompass community involvement. The new media literacies then can be understood as offering ways of thinking and ways of doing that recruit the traditional literacies of reading and writing into new kinds of literacy practices.
  • In response to these concerns, Project NML developed the Learning Library, a new type of learning environment that embraces the characteristics of participatory culture and helps educators and learners become more proficient in adapting to today’s rich media landscape by encouraging exploration and practice of the new media literacies by developing a curricular model that takes advantage of "web 2.0" platforms, and taps into the pedagogy that has grown up around participatory culture. It is a web tool that allows students and teachers alike to build “challenges,” that is, multimedia lessons that others can access and use. These lessons can be on any subject, and they are comprised of individual “media elements” which can be remixed in any order, so that the same video can be used (for instance) to illustrate the principles of physics in one challenge, and to provide an example of 3-d animation in another. Some media elements request more interaction - for instance, one might ask a question and have a text box in which to place an answer - but students and teachers both can comment on any of them, sharing their opinions and thoughts. All of the challenges and modules in the Learning Library are publicly available, creating a literal library of learning resources.

    Project NML has seeded the Learning Library with the Media Makers Collection, a set of thirty challenges that encourage teachers and students alike to  explore and practice the new media literacies within the context of media artists and production. (See Appendix B for a list of challenges and links to the Media Makers Collection.) These challenges are media-based lessons to provide instruction or share an idea or a story. This collection provides opportunities to better understand the new media literacies, while also providing a template for contributions from members who want to use the Learning Library to develop their own challenges.

  • The process consisted of identifying the core concept, skill or idea that Project NML wanted to share, then developing a learning goal - that is, answering the question “What should people be able to do at the end of this challenge?” Once the author of the challenge had determined those basic facts, he or she moved on to find media elements that put our concept in context. Since Project NML was seeding the Learning Library with its very first media elements, they had to think carefully about what sorts of things they wanted to put in it - to determine what precedents would be set.

    So, the authors of the Media Makers Collection looked for pre-existing media and websites which they could use in the Learning Library, specifically searching for items that met three criteria. First, they wanted the media elements to be free and easily accessible. Since the Learning Library only provides links to external media elements - it does not actually host any websites or images or videos itself - they needed to make sure that any elements it referred to were fairly permanent. They also looked for media elements that could demonstrate multiple concepts. A media element that could be used in a discussion of more than one new media literacy was preferable to a media element that only applied to one. Finally, they sought out media elements that we thought would connect well to middle and high schooler’s lifestyles and experiences, since we expected the Learning Library to primarily be used and tested in middle and high school classrooms.

  • Global Kids was one of the three sites asked to to pilot the Media Makers Collection. Founded in 1989, Global Kids' mission is to transform urban youth into successful students and global and community leaders by engaging them in socially dynamic, content-rich learning experiences. Through its leadership development and academic enrichment programs, Global Kids educates youth about critical international and domestic issues and promotes their engagement in civic life and the democratic process. Global Kids uses different methods to reach different types of students, but mostly they center the learning on getting students to take action and express their ideas.  In every program meeting, Global Kids starts with three guidelines: there’s only one microphone (only one person speaks at a time); you are in a safe space; and everyone must participate. These guidelines seemed like they were fairly consonant with our ideas about the Learning Library.
  • As part of their pilot test of the Media Makers Challenges, Global Kids created an after-school program, “Media Masters.” This program combined learning about global issues with practicing media production and analysis skills. Unlike other after-school programs that were part of the organization's Online Leadership Program, Media Masters did not focus on one specific medium (ie: film production or video game design), but instead focused on the new media literacies, using different media to help students acquire an understanding of deeper principles.

  • Global Kids’ framework for the Learning Library also provided new food for thought for Project NML. A key part of the Media Masters program design was to have students develop a “Digital Transcript” and “Social Media Portfolio.” The transcript, which the facilitators of the Media Masters program updated regularly, included badges for each of the new media literacies. Each badge had three aspects, and each aspect had to be separately earned: "Do It" (the ability to utilize the skill), "Recognize It" (the ability to identify the skill in action), and "Talk About It" (the ability to articulate what a skill entails and one's relationship with it).  The portfolio gathered and contextualized all the media projects that students completed over the course of the program; then, youth could add other projects to the portfolio, created outside of the program. Project NML had not established any methods of assessment for educators to use, so the transcript and portfolio system was a fascinating idea from their perspective.

  • One of the most valuable segments of the Media Masters program for researchers to observe was the Prospect Heights Campus Wikipedia Project, which spanned five weeks. To develop this piece of the Media Masters program, Rafi and Shawna reviewed the Media Makers Collection and singled out a particular challenge, Chains of Thought. In this original Media Makers Collection challenge, learners explore the new media literacy of “distributed cognition” by playing a Wikipedia game.

  • Global Kids was inspired by Chains of Thought, but they transformed the lesson quite a bit. Though distributed cognition was the original focus of Chains of Thought, Rafi and Shawna chose to focus their lesson plan on another new media literacy, “collective intelligence” - the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal. They also worked in “networking” - the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information - and “judgment” - the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources. The media elements that Chains of Thought used all supported these three new media literacies just as well as they supported the concept of distributed cognition, in fact. In the Learning Library, the Chains of Thought challenge had already been tagged with “collective intelligence” and “networking” for this reason.

  • For instance, early in the Wikipedia project, Rafi and Shawna asked students to read three articles about the situation in the Gaza strip. These articles each had a different point of view about a particular event that occurred there. On the one hand, these articles described events that occurred halfway around the world, events that their students knew little about. However, they framed the articles with a discussion of points of view and the new media literacy of judgment.

    The articles about the Gaza strip allowed students in the Media Masters class to discuss what it means to take a biased or neutral point of view, and how one can judge whether an article is biased or neutral. They took it a step farther, though, and began discussing Wikipedia’s policies on neutral point of view - and how they might apply these concepts of neutral and biased point of view to their own work on the Prospect Heights campus page. When students began discussing the point of view of a campus administrator as opposed to the point of view of a campus police officer, a student at HSGC, or the parent of a student, they were cementing the concept of point of view in their mind and working out ways that they could make judgment calls about information stemming from all of these sources. Instead of understanding judgment as sited somewhere else, on the other side of the world, students began to understand judgment as a skill they used in their daily lives.

  • This transmedia approach to communicating concepts and ideas bears a great deal of similarity to the stories being told by major entertainment corporations. Television shows like Heroes and Lost don’t merely have storylines that are communicated through their weekly TV slot; rather, they include websites, webisodes, comic books, tie-in novels, and even games that each tell a piece of the story. Unlike old-fashioned “tie-ins deals,” shows like Heroes use each medium to communicate a different piece of the entire puzzle. Any single piece is understandable, but when you take them all as a whole - when you surf the web, watch the television show, and read the comic books faithfully every week - they add up to a much bigger story. In the same way, Rafi and Shawna used different media to tell different pieces of the collective intelligence story.

  • Indeed, barriers between “school,” “work” and “fun” were not the only barriers that began to break down. Barriers between different media began to break down as well. Traditional approaches to media literacy divide different media up cleanly, regarding movies, television, books and music as separate topics to be handled separately. In particular, computing work is almost always viewed as a thing unto itself, kept in the library (for research) and the computer lab (for programming) and not anywhere else. Furthermore, activities that involve movement are limited to physical education or sports, perhaps even a theater class; during other times, students are expected to remain in their desks, not using the media of physical movement.

  • Teacher and student each had a great deal to learn from each other. For instance, when Rafi brought in a Jay-Z music video as a piece of popular culture to think about, the collective response from the students was, “…isn’t he married to Beyoncé?” Clearly, it would have been better if Rafi had been able to tap into the students’ knowledge of pop culture and find examples from their purview, rather than using what seemed to them an outdated reference!

    This question of collaboration goes further, though, than simply “everyone knows a different slice of pop culture, and teachers usually lag behind their students.” The Wikipedia project showed why. The Media Masters class divided up the research for the page they were working on, sometimes working on multiple aspects.
  • Rafi and Shawna, however, were not the only people “telling the collective intelligence story.” Rather, they were pooling their knowledge with the students’ knowledge, collaborating and actually using collective intelligence to build the best possible classroom experience, including always asking students what they want to do.
  • Collaboration, as a practice, often leads to emergent learning: when unexpected occurrences lead to greater insights. Unfortunately, unexpected occurrences are not a very large feature of most classrooms.
  • The Wikipedia page about the Prospect Heights Campus was a place for students to document information about the campus, its schools, history, and whatever else the students decided was important to include in an entry - and a place for them to do so publicly and neutrally. There are many examples of a structured learning environment of

    wikis or wiki pages being created; however, Global Kids chose to use Wikipedia and not develop a pbwiki or something similar for just their group of students to view.

    Trying to replicate Wikipedia through pbwiki, or some other wiki software, certainly has its benefits. It is what might be termed a “walled garden” approach, allowing students to tinker with wiki software and yet not be exposed to the potentially disruptive larger internet. However, choosing a walled garden approach also has many costs. Students who already use the internet know very well what is actually “out there,” and the walled garden runs the risk of losing their interest - because, after all, a walled garden isn’t the “real world.” Even if students are unfamiliar with the internet, using a walled garden approach precludes the possibility of emergent learning.
  • By the end of the year, researchers had become a normal fixture in the Media Masters classroom. One researcher, Flourish Klink, attended all but one class where researchers were present. As a result of that familiarity, students did not seem nervous in the presence of cameras, particularly by the end of the course. That sense of calm routine is clear in later interviews: instead of being awkward and concerned, students are able to articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and coherently on the fly, not suffering from 'stage fright' or being overly worried with how they would sound or appear. To achieve that level of comfort was a major victory.

  • The typical classroom is balanced between the needs of the teacher and the needs of each individual student. With researchers present, another set of needs had to be balanced: the needs of Project NML’s research. In an ideal world, these goals would not conflict. However, we do not live in an ideal world. One ongoing conversation about these goals was about emergent, collaborative learning. Project NML espouses a dream of extremely unstructured classroom time, often discussing how students should be free to explore many different routes to their end learning goal. On the other hand, the Global Kids afterschool classrooms are often very structured, keeping students on task and moving from one goal to another. This was a regular topic of discussion for the MIT researchers and the Global Kids facilitators. From the MIT point of view, could the pilot study be effective if it did not fully reflect the pedagogical positioning of the Learning Library? But from the Global Kids point of view, could the pilot study be possible if it took classroom control away from Rafi and Shawna? In the end, researchers get to walk away from a classroom - but teachers must return to it day after day.
  • Entirely apart from the occasionally conflicting teaching methods present in the classroom, there are further constraints on any research project that takes place in a classroom - constraints placed by state law and school administration. For example, many classrooms have limited internet access, hidden behind strict filters. This problem, which anyone who works in primary or secondary education knows well, can become a major problem indeed when the class is intended to be about media. In one memorable case, Rafi was unable to bring up the videos he had planned to show the class: they were blocked by the school’s filtering software. He asked the class to help him circumvent the filters, but after trying several proxy servers at their suggestion and not succeeding, they had to use an MIT laptop that could connect through the phone network and not the school’s wireless.

    These practical concerns are the stumbling block that every research project runs up against. How could a student use the Learning Library if the media elements the Media Makers Challenges reference are all blocked?
  • To review other case studies of how the Learning Library’s Media Makers Collection has been used by other teachers, please join
  • Mad Skills - Global Kids Case Study

    1. 1. Mad Skills Making New Media Skills Accessible to Students and Teachers Alike Erin Reilly Research Director Project New Media Literacies USC Annenberg School for Communication ebreilly @twitter and Flourish Klink Research Assistant / CMS grad student Project New Media Literacies MIT
    2. 2. • Play • Collective Intelligence • Performance • Judgment • Simulation • Transmedia Navigation • Appropriation • Networking • Multitasking • Negotiation • Distributed Cognition • Visualization
    3. 3. © 2009 Project New Media Literacies
    4. 4. A tool that houses multimedia learning “challenges” to explore and practice the new media literacies and provides a platform for creating user-generated learning activities by teachers and students. © 2009 Project New Media Literacies
    5. 5. Challenge Framework 1. Concept 2. Concept in context 3. Your turn 4. What do you think?
    6. 6.
    7. 7. Are you A... Remixer? Gamer? Media Master? Blogger? Social Networker? Think you've got skills with a Laptop? Want to build your tech Resume? Are you creative Using a mouse? Become a Media Masters Intern! • build your "Digital Transcript" to help get you into college • earn some pocket Money (there's a $tipend!) Cell • address Global Issues • create a portfolio of DIGITAL creations Phone that displays your Media MASTERY Addict? Every Friday from 3:30-5:30 Don't miss this great opportunity. Applications are due on October 29th, space is limited! To get an application
    8. 8. Learning is situational rather than universal.
    9. 9. Learning is transmedia rather than unified and self-contained.
    10. 10.
    11. 11. Learning is collaborative rather than hierarchical.
    12. 12.
    13. 13. Learning is emergent rather than pre- structured.
    14. 14.
    15. 15.
    16. 16.
    17. 17.
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