WHAT IS DIGICOM:
DIGICOM is a program that involves training teachers and students across all areas of K-12 curriculum how to make videos in order to demonstrate literacy and communicate in the 21st Century.
DIGICOM empowers young people to share their learning experiences and to give voice to what they think and what they believe through the process of making videos. By developing the skills of digital storytelling and enabling students to create original products, DIGICOM fosters critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration, the cornerstone of the Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards.
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A Novel Approach
Perhaps the single most daunting challenge facing public K-12 education in the United States is the steady disengagement of youth from school and schooling. DIGICOM, a local non-profit media and educational organization, has taken up this challenge and formed a unique collaboration among Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD), a large, diverse school district in Southern California(89.2% economically disadvantaged, foster youth, and English Learners; 86.5% students of color, other than white), the University of California, Riverside Education Extension, and the University of California, Irvine Graduate School of Education, to meet that challenge.
While there are abundant examples of the recent movement away from traditional models of teaching and learning, in which classes are taught and education is delivered, the DIGICOM project reaches much further on two fronts. First, the teaching and learning delivery model for DIGICOM’s digital storytelling program uses innovative technology, curricula and training as a means of engaging at-risk and special needs students with the Common Core State Standards (CSSS) and cross-disciplinary academic content. Second, and most importantly, digital storytelling has shown significant evidence of promise across grade levels for the academic and social re-engagement of at-risk youth through its influence on the development of non-cognitive factors such as social and emotional skills, perseverance, self-regulation, self-expression, collaborative behaviors, approaches to learning strategies, academic attitudes and behaviors.
We argue that we are in what we are calling a “third wave” of technological development; one which should be seized upon in order to give all students, but particularly underserved, at-risk students, access to and engagement in a meaningful 21st century education. With the onset of digital devices and digital media, our youth relate, engage and own information, ideas and concepts that are presented or created digitally. It is our mission to help today’s students engage meaningfully as citizens, to become college and career ready, by enabling them to fully embrace the Language and Literacies of the 21st Century.
Under the direction of David Vogel, retired President of Buena Vista Productions of Walt Disney Studios and in partnership with PSUSD, DIGICOM was launched in 2009 as an educational program and a Student and Teacher Film Festival. The program was conceived to encourage teachers to provide opportunities for their students to create digital stories to share their learning experiences, dreams, and hopes with the community-at-large. From its early beginnings, DIGICOM was recognized as an innovative and model program of excellence and in 2011 it was presented with the California State Board of Education’s distinguished Golden Bell Award.
DIGICOM BUILDS CAPACITY
Over the past eight years, DIGICOM has grown into a rigorous professional development program with a reach across the region. In 2014, DIGICOM created a series of five courses certified for academic credit from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) Extension Program. The courses range from Beginning Digital Storytelling to an Applied Thesis Project. When teachers complete the course sequence they receive the DIGICOM Professional Educator Certification. The certification, issued jointly from UCR and DIGICOM, is a verification of the teacher’s digital storytelling professional credentials, increasing their marketability and prestige in the educational community.
To date, DIGICOM has successfully trained over 300 teachers across PSUSD and the DIGICOM staff has grown from three to eight education and filmmaking industry professionals. More than 7,000 K-12 students across PSUSD have been impacted across all subject areas as they are challenged to communicate and share their understanding of lessons learned in English, Math, Science, History, Special Education, the Arts, and even Physical Education.
Over the past four years, DIGICOM Teacher Leaders have been funded and supported by DIGICOM to begin DIGICOM Middle School After School Clubs across PSUSD. Together the four clubs engage over eighty 6 - 8 graders in the practice of digital storytelling. The DIGICOM After School Clubs have been instrumental in engaging students in a safe and collaborative, creative environment during those important formative middle school years.
Middle schoolers are at a critical juncture in their development. They are making decisions that will shape their future. This is when we need to engage and shape adolescent idealism and their growing interest in the wider world. Students involved in moviemaking through the DIGICOM After School Program have demonstrated that the program is working as they become empowered, and through their voice express themselves and connect with others.
DIGICOM EXPERIENCES EXPLOSIVE GROWTH IN YEAR 8!
In 2016, DIGICOM experienced important growth. First, we impacted our capability to showcase and celebrate student and teacher work with the addition of two new film festivals. Next, we provided expanded student learning opportunities through student internships as well as a new narrative film studies program. In addition, we broadened the reach of DIGICOM by opening our professional development workshops to district administrators and teachers beyond PSUSD. Also, we have deepened and strengthened our professional development program by launching the DIGICOM Fellows Program, in which we work collaboratively with teachers to create model classrooms infusing digital storytelling practices. Finally, we have partnered with the University of California, Irvine Graduate School to Education to evaluate the impact of our digital storytelling programs, including the DIGICOM Fellows Program, on student learning.
A closer examination of each of these developments is important to understanding how DIGICOM is evolving.
DIGICOM Presents THREE Film Festivals. Since 2015, the annual attendance at the DIGICOM Film Festival had reached over 1,000 a year and the quality and number of the video submissions dramatically increased. To enable the student and teacher work to be more widely recognized, an Elementary Film Festival and a “trendy” high school student short narrative film festival – DIGICOM X – was added and enthusiastically embraced by the community-at-large.
DIGICOM Student Internships. Over the summer of 2016, five high school students and recent graduates from across PSUSD spent five weeks in the DIGICOM offices studying the art of documentary filmmaking. The students participated in theory and technique classes and received hands-on application as they produced a documentary of the Academy of Musical Performance Rock and Roll Camp. Two of the students will continue to work as interns through 2017.
DIGICOM Narrative Film and Script Development. Given that all great videos begin with great stories, a new screen-writing program focused on the short narrative screenplay will be launched at the historic Camelot Theaters in 2016-2017. The program will gather 40 students from high schools across the Coachella Valley together for a day, three to four times a year, to study, analyze, and critique short films. The program will supplement the existing student summer scriptwriting workshop to support the production of short scripts. The program was funded by the Anderson Children’s Foundation.
DIGICOM’s Professional Development Outreach. DIGICOM has expanded its reach to offer workshops to teachers across Riverside County. Teachers and administrators from five school districts beyond PSUSD attended the training to begin “raising the bar” in their school districts and classrooms as their students learn the techniques to communicate meaningful using digital storytelling formats. This outreach is opening the door to allow DIGICOM to affect the entire Coachella Valley.
DIGICOM Fellows Program. The DIGICOM Fellows program will deepen the extent that DIGICOM impacts instructional practices. Ten promising teachers representing the curriculum areas of English, Math, Science, History, Special Education, and English-Language Learners will collaborate with DIGICOM staff to develop and deliver “vetted” digital storytelling lessons that can be shared with the broader educational community.
University of California, Irvine Graduate School of Education (UCI) Partnership. UCI is partnering with DIGICOM to assess the impact of our professional development and digital storytelling programs on instructional practices and student learning. Over the course of the year the University of California, Irvine Graduate School of Education (UCI) will be assessing the programs impact on the development of students’ English Language Arts skills. As well as the impact of DIGICOM programs on overall academic achievement, as well as cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
DIGICOM provides for UCI a robust program that can add to our understanding of “what works” in education. Together, DIGICOM and UCI will use the data to secure grants to continue to scientifically research the impact of digital storytelling practices and extend best practices across the educational community. Already we are beginning to assess the program as results from the an assessment of the impact of the 2016 DIGICOM Summer Workshops on teacher’s digital storytelling self-efficacy has revealed a significant positive correlation. Teacher’s self-efficacy is a predictor of the probability of a teacher implementing the learning and feeling comfortable with applying the new skill to affect student learning in the classroom.
EVOLUTIONARY CHANGES: OUT OF SCHOOLS AND INTO THE COMMUNITY!
After eight years of developing and refining their digital storytelling skills, DIGICOM’s students have proven that they are ready for new opportunities to apply what they have learned to impact the community in a more direct way. Our “next chapter” opens the door to provide our students the opportunity to become involved and to share their voice as citizens of the community.
Learning does not take place just within a classroom with students absorbing the lessons of the curriculum inside four walls. Learning how to apply the skills they have developed, as active citizens impacting the community in a positive way, is also important to a student’s development. Therefore, in 2016-17, our community outreach programs are offering expanded “real world” partnership opportunities across the region for students. The programs include:
Elementary/Spanish Public Service Announcements (PSAs). Funded by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Palm Springs Community Block Grant, DIGICOM is working with students in English Learning classrooms to produce a series of PSAs designed to connect the Spanish-speaking community with services and programs across the region. This program will facilitate a culture of inclusion as English and Spanish-speaking families are informed and invited to participate in local cultural, community, school district, and government programs. These PSAs will be broadcast through a variety of venues, including local Spanish-speaking media outlets.
Black Voices Rising. In collaboration with the Palm Springs Black Cultural committee, the James Jessie Community Center and the City of Palm Springs, DIGICOM is working with black male youth to produce digital stories that illuminate the triumphs, tragedies, struggles, and dreams of the Black Community in the City of Palm Springs. The Goodwin Memorial Trust Foundation funds the program. The mission of the Foundation is to support the moral, physical, and intellectual development of needy males under the age of 21.
Desert X. In association with Sunnylands and the Palm Springs Art Museum, DIGICOM will be the educational partner working on a newly created biennial project featuring the artwork of thirteen world-renowned sculptors. The artwork will be exhibited throughout the Coachella Valley and DIGICOM will work with students to produce short video profiles of the artists and their work. DIGICOM students will have the opportunity to participate in this creative community, to follow the artists and “bring their stories to life.”
A FINAL WORD
Educating students to be career and college ready, and active, involved citizens ready to meet the challenges in the 21st Century requires we give them the opportunity to fully develop the life skills necessary to be successful. An educated person is not one that just absorbs information, but rather is one that can find and critically evaluate the reliability of information, collaborates to solve problems and complete tasks, and communicates and creates stories to facilitate shared understanding and experiences. Communication now extends beyond the written and oral word to include visual mediums and video. Providing our youth with the skills and opportunities to build these important life skills is DIGICOM’s mission.