Summer school at Jacob Burns Film for team of middle school teachers
Monday, August 6, 2012
by Adriana Miano
In an effort to adapt the district’s classrooms to the growing importance of visual literacy and technology, at the start of summer, seven Seven Bridges teachers and one Bell teacher became students themselves.
“Teaching and Technology in the Digital Age” is a year-long course offered by the Jacob Burns Film Center, which helps teachers to channel their creativity through movie-making, and shows them how to incorporate what they’ve learned into their lesson plans.
“We live in an age where it’s really important for a child to learn how to discriminate between images and take meaning from them,” said Seven Bridges English teacher Maria Sarro, who recently graduated from the program. “In turn, they also need to be able to create meaning from images.”
Last year, Sarro worked with her students to help them create their own movies, in an effort to sharpen their visual storytelling skills.
“We want to set [students] on the path of learning to tell stories through images,” Sarro said. “People are, at our core, storytellers.”
Sarro’s participation in the program sparked the interest of other Seven Bridges faculty, and led to the restructuring of the course (originally designed to span two years), which is now offered almost exclusively to Seven Bridges teachers.
“Seven Bridges really emerged as a school that was very interested in supporting this (program),” said Emily Keating, Director of Education Programs at the Jacob Burns Film Center. “They showed an appreciation for this approach to professional development, which is that you need to focus on the teachers themselves initially before thinking about the classroom.”
Bell Middle School Library Media Specialist Sharon Wiggins is also participating in the program with the goal of extending the course work to Bell in the future.
Keating is hopeful that the tools teachers take away from the course will become a part of their teaching routines.
“I want them to understand how [visual fluency] can be seamlessly integrated into course content,” Keating said. “It’s not something extra. It’s a new mode of teaching what they already teach.”
Seven Bridges Spanish teacher Elizabeth Coward is new to the program, but is already eager to bring what she is learning back to her classroom in the fall, she said.
“Instead of writing a paper or essay on a topic, they could create a video,” Coward said. “We can use it to promote oral fluency and efficiency.”
Coward is also hopeful that using new technologies in the classroom will appeal to a wider range of students.
“It’s also to grab the kids who are not pen and paper kids,” Coward said. “Now kids are more media-centered than ever, and I think this is a really good way of connecting them to their work, and making them feel excited about what they’re learning.”
The week of June 25 served as an introduction to the course for new participants, and allowed them to become comfortable with the technology they will be using, and with their own creative styles.
In addition to covering computer basics, the course guided participants in making videos using a flip-camera, and introduced them to the process of stop-motion video.
Now having completed the introduction to the course, participants will attend class twice a week beginning in September.
“It’s nice that we can take the class at the same time that we’re teaching our classes,” Coward said. “You don’t always know what you will need until you get back to the classroom again in the fall.”
Seven Bridges teachers were encouraged to participate in the course by principal Martha Zornow, as part of an effort to foster a stronger relationship with the Jacob Burns Film Center, according to Coward.
“Technology us moving really, really fast,” Coward said. “As educators, we have to keep up with the times, and a great way of doing that is connecting with a cutting edge facility like this.”
Top row, L to R: Mike DeBellis(7B /Bell Technology, Wrestling Coach), Elizabeth Coward (7B World Language), Max Tortorello-Allen (7B Elem English/SS), Andy Sturm (7B Elem Science/SS)
Bottom row, L to R: Sharon Wiggins (Bell Library Media Specialist, Terry Koshel (7B Art), Sheila Outing (7B World Language), Karen Baker (7B Library Media Specialist)
Adriana Miano, a 2009 Greeley graduate, is a rising senior at Elon University, where she writes for The Pendulum, Elon University’s Student News Organization. This summer, she has written articles for NewCastleNOW.org and has edited pieces by Greeley writers.