This series will highlight school districts that are empowering youngsters to embrace technology. Perhaps your school is bringing GAFE to the classroom, rolling out tablets, using Lynda.com or Khan Academy to introduce video supplements or you are just a Nerdy Teacher using Evernote as an experiment to engage students in a new way.
Inglewood Unified School District is southwest of downtown Los Angeles, California with a population of 100,000+ students amongst its twenty-six schools. In 2008, the district launched Game Smart Design Academy (with Think Now Education, a community-oriented business dedicated to bringing creative after school programs to SoCal) for grades 6-8 encouraging students to write, create and publish video games. This program motivates students to learn about game design, animation, critical thinking and problem solving, storyboarding, collaboration and constructive criticism all while following a STEM-enriched curriculum.
In 2011 Inglewood created Newshounds Journalism Club, a project based, common core aligned language arts program teaching students the fundamentals of blogging. Those interested use this medium to express themselves, develop a voice, and inspire others to do the same through text, video or still images published online. Students work in teams to address a theme; brainstorm ideas, conduct research and interviews, and gather multimedia resources to create a succinct blog post. The Club’s live product is available online and in school libraries.
You may ask what significance do these programs have? Who cares about these buzzwords being thrown around: STEM, Common Core, Digital storytelling, and the various Learning types (blended learning, mobile learning, project based learning, competency based learning, etc.)?
In my opinion, the Newshounds Journalism Club is an innovative after school program that inspires youth to explore the written word and hone in on their audience, voice and style. (aka great free write exercise on the tablet) What better way to do this than sharing instantly with each other? I also see how students can understand the production process to complete a project. For instance, one can learn how to create and refine content and present stories in iterations; all things that journalists, software developers and video game designers do on a daily basis. With school programs like these, students are given the skills that can be used in future endeavors.