This past July I had the privilege of participating as a workshop facilitator in an amazing professional development (PD) experience at the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in Providence. “70% of participants rated it the BEST professional development program they have ever experienced in their entire career!”*
Though, technically, I was on the staff, I’d have to say it was the best PD experience of my career as well! Collaborating to prepare the program behind the amazing leadership of Renee Hobbs and Julie Coiro and the range of expert facilitators they assembled raised the bar for me regarding how quality PD is designed. Working with this team and immersing in the program with more than 60 K-16 media literacy educators from the U.S. and abroad deepened my understanding of project-based inquiry and research on online reading comprehension, and has expanded my approach to production-based media literacy through the idea of “creative synthesis“.
Recap: Immersive, Project-based Professional Development
Attendees first identified their motivations for teaching digital literacy at a Sunday night kick-off mixer. Monday morning they were introduced to a framework for outlining quality digital literacy learning experiences and presented with model projects from facilitators (here’s mine with the resulting DL framework layout). The rest of the week they attended daily introductions to “cool tools” which were contextualized by short presentations on “hot topics” in pedagogy, media theory or research, “digging deeper” project-based inquiry workshops lead by our team, and longer, heady keynotes from the likes of Douglas Rushkoff (seen here on Colbert), and a panel comprised of the full range of stakeholders in media literacy education in Rhode Island– from policymakers, to consultants to school staff.
At the end of each day, self-selected small groups collaborated with our staff of facilitators in the “design studio” to develop their own learning experiences to take back to their respective schools. On Friday the small groups presented a range of impressive educational plans that facilitators, leaders and their peers questioned, reviewed, and took note of how they could incorporate those ideas into their own practice (at least I did)! The projects spanned K-16, showcasing innovative pedagogical strategies blended with digital media tools reflecting what they learned through this process.
Adult learning for attendees & facilitators alike
Though some of us were leading workshops and guiding activities, the learning was reciprocal throughout the week due to the range of expertise this institute attracted.
Here is what I took away for my practice:
- Presenting a TMS school-based production to the group and having it backwards mapped LIVE by Renee Hobbs into her experimental “Digital Literacy Planning Framework” gave me new insight into how media litearcy scholars interperet a TMS production process, and was a milestone in my career (see Related Project, left).
- Co-designing and presenting a Creative Synthesis project-based inquiry session with master workshop facilitator Dr. Hiller Spires of NC State University challenged me to polish my process to engage Hiller’s framework and concepts, and be relevant to expert K-16 educators (see Related Tool – Storify, left).
- Presenting 2 “cool tool” sessions pushed me to reexamine the digital and media literacy teaching potential in the particular biases of the software I presented (see Related Tools, left).
- Troubleshooting project designs and helping frame learning experiences with my co-facilitators, and mingling with the range of expertise among the attendees left me with a full head each day, and a bevvy of ideas, links, tools, and plans to take back to my practice this year!
Thank you URI Summer Institute!
Thank you to Renee and Julie for pulling this off and inviting me, to my co-facilitators to teaching me so much, and for the attendees for opening yourselves up to this experience with us! I hope to see you next year!