Home STEM/STEAM TCEA Responds: Teaching Digital Media

TCEA Responds: Teaching Digital Media

by Miguel Guhlin
customer service

Dear TCEA Responds:

Earlier this week, my high school principal told me I would be teaching digital media. School is starting and I’m not sure what to do next. Can you get me started? This is an area I have little or no experience in.


Dear Jan:

“Breaking your own mold can only make you stronger and more confident to reach higher levels in your professional and personal life,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of “Better Than Perfect” as cited by Thomas Oppong. Thomas suggests that the only time you are actually growing is when you are uncomfortable. Certainly, your situation qualifies as an opportunity to break your own mold. “Seek out discomfort. Be deliberate about doing things that push your limits magnificently. Difficulty helps you to grow,” advises Thomas.

Pushing your limits does not mean you have to be alone. You can push your limits in collaboration with a vast network of fellow educators. Let’s explore some tips and ideas to get you started.

tcea responds

Tip #1 – Grow Your Network

If you are not using Twitter as a professional learning network (PLN), then begin now to follow teachers who are concerned with teaching digital media in high school. To get you started, I have compiled a list of twenty-three folks on Twitter you can follow and connect with. Or, if you prefer, just view the Twitter list “HSDigitalMedia” that I have prepared for you. I will add to this list over time, and you are encouraged to contact people on Twitter to grow your network to facilitate just-in-time professional learning.

Tip #2 – Champion the Value of Teaching Digital Media

Teaching digital media and video in a classroom is important for several reasons. Here are a few from Brown University:

  • Increase student engagement: Students working on digital media assignments feel a deeper sense of empowerment as they act as producers–rather than just consumers–of meaning and knowledge.
  • Help students work through difficult concepts: If students are making media, digital tools help them express concepts using multimodal representations.
  • Promote critical awareness: Students must be prepared to critically understand and interpret meaning presented in various forms.

“Research has shown that connecting educational experiences to real-life opportunities is an effective way to get students excited about tcea respondswhat they’re learning,” say Kristin Houser and Karla Lant (Futurism). Digital media combined with project-based learning and STEM topics can engage students. Engaged students learn more and do more in class. In addition to PBL activities, Stephen Solomon urges you to consider these strategies:

  • Adopt inquiry-based strategies. One example includes Genius Hour , which encourage students to engage in passion-based learning aligned to specific learning goals.
  • Adapt service-based learning for class projects: Foster a service mentality and a sense for real-world effectiveness by building service learning into lesson plans and units.

These three strategies (PBL, Inquiry-based Strategies, and Service-Based Learning) offer great learning opportunities. They provide fodder for creative digital media projects.

Tip #3 – Use a Range of Technologies

While you may be tempted to embrace expensive technologies to teach digital media, aim small. You can model the use of mobile device technologies (e.g. green screen apps) that can have a big impact. These small creations can get your class started, then be incorporated into more expensive production tools.

Online curriculum

Software Resources

  • Free Adobe Alternatives
    • Scribus: Create great-looking, print-ready posters, newsletters, and magazines
    • GIMP: Refine your photos or create your own artwork from scratch; includes support for Photoshop plugins
    • LightZone: A digital darkroom for converting, editing, and managing photos in batches or individually
    • Inkscape: A versatile open source vector editor that’s ideal for hobbyist illustrators and web designers
    • Unsplash: Professional-quality stock photos in the public domain – totally free to download and use

Some more audio and video editing tools:

Image Editing Tools

Worried that you have too much to learn? Remember that there are many resources available online for free. Your job is to curate those resources, create situations that engage student learners, and assess growth. You do not have to be the expert in everything! Let the students learn from each other as they grow.

Tip #4 – Build Towards Certification

In a TCEA interview with Mark Simmons (Sabine Pass ISD Director of Technology), he advocates a continuum of learning opportunities that lead towards certification. It’s not enough for your students to learn digital media tools. They need to be able to make a living with these tools.

Graduates should qualify for employment as web designers, graphic artists/designers, multimedia specialists, web developers, web content specialists, media specialists, information specialists, digital media specialists, animation specialists, interface designers, and many new jobs yet to be defined in this expanding field. (Source)

Consider establishing a partnership with a local college/university. Begin with the end in mind and then build your digital media course with assistance. Here are some examples:

And, finally…

Tip #5 – Embrace Digital Media as a Tool for Digital Storytelling

Learning to use digital media tools is only one aspect. Another component, perhaps more important than technical expertise, is learning how to tell a compelling story using digital media. Rely on resources like these below to have your students start telling and showing their own powerful stories.

It can be daunting to begin a new class. Remember that you will need to start with relevant TEKS and design a syllabus. Then, set up specific projects that solve an overarching problem or are service-based learning oriented. You’ve got this!


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