5 Digital Media Education Trends from SXSWEdu 2015

Posted on: by Michael Tringe

This was my third SXSWEdu – and here are some of my top five takeaways in the world of digital media and education. There’s a lot of angst around the term digital – like it’s getting in the way somehow of learning. But to sum it all up – we might say that educators are working hard but have a long ways to go to empower new student voices with the tools they need to be heard, to be seen, and to make an impact both in the digital and real world around them.

1. Employers are asking students for digital portfolios. Jessica Handrik, who is in charge of the Lincoln Center’s Edu partnerships, helped enlighten me on this emerging trend in arts and education during my mentor session. She also raised the point that skills like storytelling aren’t just “extracurriculars” they are life skills. And in the emerging creative economy, since becoming a working creative professional requires specific training, we ought to try and provide equal access to creative careers for everyone by offering equal access to creative training in areas like digital storytelling.

2. Media Literacy is Not Being Taught in the U.S. During the panel with Kristine Collins, Matthew Johnson, and Robert Martellacci on “Medialit Research and Advocacy: Lessons from Canada,” I was surprised to learn that media literacy is more of a national priority in Canada and many other countries – but not in the U.S. I think it’s odd that we place such emphasis on critical analysis of text in the U.S.– but next to nothing is focused on providing students with a critical understanding of who makes media, why it’s made, or where it comes from. I was one of those English teachers who selected movie scenes to compare to books, and I know there are simple ways to integrate media literacy into existing classroom lessons.

3. Elementary schools are more advanced in media making efforts than many middle schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutions. In the workshop “Video Creation: Where is the Humor and Relevance?” with Brianna Rapini and Sarina Peterson- two high energy go getting teachers, I found it interesting that elementary school teachers emphasized making engaging colorful cartoon videos with simple programs like Paint and Quicktime voice-recorder. Technology wasn’t stopping them, and these ideas were just the beginning of the creativity that helped them teach young kids to make things with these tools. As long as we’re teaching coding at this level, why wouldn’t we teach media creation too? Doesn’t this go hand in hand with teaching kids how to read?

4. Teachers can use digital storytelling techniques across multiple disciplines. In our own “Mobile Video Storytelling Lab” with Sara Akhteh and Annie Bush, I was delighted to hear teachers talk about the various applications of how they could use mobile video storytelling in their classes to teach across disciplines and across levels. Everything from making inferences in second grade media watching to asking students to make video essays in English class. Teachers realized that if they can learn to make a six second Vine video in under two hours (and laugh at themselves on the big screen and with each other in the process), they won’t have any trouble teaching their students how to do it – giving them an incredibly new powerful tool to document, create, and present their ideas across any subject.

5. Media can be remade as a teaching tool. In “Using Media to Create 10,000 Jon Stewarts” with DC Vito from the Learning About Media Project (LAMP), I saw how his incredible organization “MediaBreakers” was bucking the system by allowing students to take popular media and remix and re-edit it (without the legal ramifications) in order to have fun and better understand the media they see. I remember doing this at USC Film School with Indiana Jones clips and feeling like it was the coolest thing on earth. I can imagine students who are able to re-edit SuperBowl clips have a similar feeling of understanding and empowerment when they realize they are the ones in control of the message.

Overall – I was so impressed by the efforts, thoughts, and energies of our fellow educators in how they are helping to bring digital storytelling tools into the classroom in meaningful ways. I hope that we can continue to pursue the dream of STEAM in addition to STEM and make that a cultural priority of the 21st Century in the U.S. and abroad. This to me, is what will actually make the world a more meaningful, thoughtful, unique, and peaceful place to be when we give everyone the tools they need to ethically communicate with this powerful modern language of digital media.

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Read more from us here:
Media Literacy Lesson Plans from 9 Platinum Standards
What I Learned from a 10-year-old: Diversity in Digital Media
Video is a Powerful Teaching Tool for Previously “Unteachable” Subjects

If you are an educator and would like to join our “Digital Media Club” to gain free access to our course library and training to help improve digital literacy and media literacy at your school, please apply here.

Also – be sure to check out the USC Rossier School of Education blog about their insights from SXSWEdu 2015.

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Written by Michael Tringe

Mike Tringe earned his MFA in Film Production from USC and has worked at Creative Artists Agency Film Sales (Paranormal Activity, Black Swan), Vuguru, Michael Eisner's multi-platform studio, (The Booth at the End (Hulu), Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Snag), Little Women Big Cars (AOL), and Blip Networks (300 million monthly views, Smosh, Annoying Orange, Nostalgia Critic).

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