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A Summer to Remember + Many Exciting Projects Already Underway!

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A Summer to Remember + Many Exciting Projects Already Underway!

When I originally started sketching out a business plan for Hands On Media, I assumed, since we were working with K-12 teachers and students, that our summers would be relatively light. The months June, July & August would be time for us to decompress. 

Right?

Ha! How wrong I turned out to be... ;)

Ever since we have expanded our workshop offerings to include customized media education experiences designed in collaboration with organizations, community centres, and research projects, we have been very busy with a rich variety of Digital Literacy workshops in both Quebec and the Northwest Territories.

The beginning of the summer saw us working with 30 youth as part of the Town of Mont Royal and Montreal West's Summer Camp series.  We spent 2 weeks delivering our iPad Stop Motion Animation Camps which included a mini Film Festival, where parents and community members came from far and wide to celebrate the students' creative success. 

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Mere days after packing up our Stop Motion Animation Workshop kit, I was on a plane to Yellowknife to deliver iPad Digital Storytelling workshops as part of the SMASH and FOXY Peer Leader Retreats, which were held at the unforgettable Blachford Lake Lodge.  Sex Education, Mental Health Awareness, Leadership and Digital Storytelling skills were taught throughout each 10-day program, with swimming, sharing circles, drumming, singing, eating delicious meals, and dance parties happening throughout! These two retreats were personally and professionally huge for me, as leaders and youth shared a special connection and learned so much from each other. Friendships were made at these retreats with both co-leaders and youth that I cherish, and which I hope continue far into the future. You can read my earlier post about the SMASH retreat here.

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After a few days off in Vancouver to visit family, I was back up North to work with a new group of Dene and Métis youth, elders and several researchers from across Canada in a remote on-the-land bushcamp organized by the SRRB (Sahtu Renewable Resources Board) called Dene Ts'ı̨lı̨. Held at Bennet Field, Northwest Territories, participants at this 17-day camp learned Boat Safety, Wilderness First Aid, Hunter Education, Medicinal Plants, Sewing, and Digital Storytelling. And wow, as a supposed "leader" of the camp, did I ever learn a lot! Because the bushcamp is also an active hunting camp, fresh meat was brought in almost every second day. Beaver, grouse (or "chicken" as it's called), geese, caribou and moose were regularly on the menu. 

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Digital Storytelling was obviously where I spent most of my time with the youth. I was impressed with how seriously they took their projects. 22-year old Shannon Oudzi from Colville Lake, NWT completed her project titled "Dene Life" and was keen to post to her Facebook page early on. In only 10 days the project had garnered 3700 views and 73 shares through Facebook, not to mention the dozens of comments supporting Shannon in her new creation. I could not have been prouder as a media educator, and if we had a few more days at camp she would have completed her 2nd Digital Story, no doubt. :) 

This camp was also the first experience i had working with both youth and elders simultaneously.  Walter, an elder from Deline, completed a beautiful Digital Story about the powerful relationship between a grandfather and his grandchild, while Michael, also an elder from Deline, wove a traditional legend about the time giant beavers used to roam the land, adding photos and video of him singing a Beaver song, completing his Digital Story "Tsa".

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I have so many reflections on the Digital Storytelling workshops I delivered these last 8 weeks, lessons I learned about working with youth, adults and elders, and quotes by workshop participants about their own experience. No blog post could be long enough to describe them all, but I will carry these experiences forward into my life and work. 

I returned to Montreal 2 weeks ago, and though it's hard to believe, our workshops are already in full swing for the new school year! 

  • We have returned to Royal Vale Elementary school in NDG for another 12-week iPad Video Production & Stop Motion Animation Workshop with Grade 5 & 6 students;
  • A second round of remote Digital Storytelling workshops for the Beaufort Delta Education Council begins tomorrow with 20 students in 7 communities of the Northwest Territories;
  • A 6-month Digital Literacy Training Program for Canadian Educators tour, in partnership with MediaSmarts has begun in a variety of universities across Canada, with 11 workshops to be delivered to hundreds of student teachers;
  • Several students workshops are booked already in Montreal with both primary and secondary students!

If you are interested in learning more about the Digital & Media Literacy workshops we delivered this summer, and how we can help you, your faculty, classroom, or organization, please contact me. We are here to help you enhance any learning experience with creative, practical and critical digital learning skills.  I look forward to hearing from you!

-Jes

 

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Lester B. Pearson School Board & "The Digital Citizenship Program"

In 2011, Montreal's Lester B Pearson School Board (LBPSB)  launched an innovative new initiative called The Digital Citizenship Program, making it the first and only school board in Quebec to officially recognize the importance of media education and technology in the classroom. The program calls for all 56 of their elementary, secondary, and continuing education schools to implement media literacy training into their curricula in order to provide students with a productive experience with technology that can be very beneficial outside of the classroom and later in life. As technological interfaces become increasingly present within a child’s everyday experiences it is important to teach them that screens and interactive media are not merely a distraction or a reward, but are something that can be used to learn and create.

A school board recognizing the importance of teaching its students how to appropriately and positively interact with different technology is a major feat as many schools today not only exclude modern technologies in their schools, but ban them altogether. Instead of being treated as something dangerous and disctracting, LBPSB acknowledges that technology is a powerful teaching tool and that it is time to bring education into the contemporary era. As they explain, "Digital citizenship can be described as the norms for appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." Some incredible (and free) digital literacy resources found on the program website can be found here!

While we were very excited to find out about the Digital Citizenship program, we wanted to see if and how the schools in the LBPSB had implemented any technologies or media tools into their curricula. After some digging we were surprised to find that only 25 out of 56 (44%) of the schools had implemented the technological requirements, according to their latest annual reports. Many of the schools are using iPads, Smartboards and laptops in various classes but some have gone even further, creating a media-based program or class. For instance, Macdonald High School has a whole class dedicated to Digital Citizenship and Westwood Jr High School has a ‘Matrix’ program which has implemented technology in all core classes. Though the schools that are following the school board’s recommendations appear to be on the right track, there are still 31 schools that either have plans to incorporate the Digital Citizenship program or do not mention it at all.

Hands On Media workshops are a great start for these schools and would also benefit those which already teach with technology. Our workshops teach students how to think critically about the media we are consuming and creating, while simultaneously providing teachers with effective educational tools to continue to incorporate media into their curriculum long after we have gone.

We applaud the LSPSB’s Digital Citizenship program as a model for the education system in Canada, and are here to help other school boards across Quebec and Canada embrace media in the classroom, using these powerful tools to create a media and digital literate generation.