Week 3 Reading Response: DIY Media & Project Based Learning

This week we were asked to read Lankshear and Knobel (2008) Ch1: DIY Media: A Contextual Background and Some Contemporary Themes. In this chapter Lankshear and Knobel explain understanding student’s media practices can help educators create learning opportunities that students connect to, and find meaningful. Much of what was discussed in this chapter brought me back once again to the belief that knowing our students-working to understand their interests (whether that be in the form of DIY media, or something else), working to understand their communities, and their cultures, can help to activate their background knowledge and help to make learning more meaningful, and hopefully more interesting. This is what I really connected to, throughout this chapter  through my educator lense, but of course the chapter touches upon many other ideas, such as the origins of the DIY subculture.

However, Lankshear and Knobel’s chapter on DIY Media really got me thinking about project based learning. For example, on page 19 the authors cite Seely Brown and Adler (2008), “…social learning perspective, the focus is more on how we learn than on what we learn. It shifts “the emphasis from the content of subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated” (p. 18). This discussion on social learning made me think back to my UCTE classes at UC Denver, and the great discussions we had about the use of project based learning (PBL) in the classroom. The practice sounds so great-student driven learning, exploring chosen subjects in-depth, collaboration, etc.-but I have to admit I haven’t seen it done much in practice. With the current demands of data, rigor, and standardized testing, it’s hard to find time, or approval for PBL. Therefore, the DIY Media chapter inspired me to find some scholarship surrounding PBL, and I found Saturday School: Implementing Project-Based Learning in an Urban SchoolThe two researchers, Catapano and Gray, study a Saturday enrichment program in an urban school district that embraces PBL.

Photo cred: Zulama.com

The program itself was what I found most interesting. The Saturday school was inspired by a university-school partnership where pre-service teachers, and university instructors worked with students one day a week using PBL. The results found that students had positive feelings toward the program and found the lessons fun and engaging. They also found a positive correlation between attendance and student-driven curriculum. As an educator this program sounds so great to me. The idea of diving deep into topics students find interesting sounds amazing! However, as the article touches upon, this is next to impossible with school districts adopting scripted curriculum, and the pressures of school accountability and data. I wonder when it will all shift again. I feel like the world of education is always changing, the political focus shifts. After reading both Lankshear & Knobel and Catapano & Grey, I feel hopeful though. I know that I can continue to work hard to design lessons that meet curriculum demands while being as hands-on and student driven as possible. Even our coursework surrounding new literacies and digital storytelling have given me manageable technologies/ideas that I can bring into the classroom. As Lankshear and Knobel point out in their DIY Media chapter, media education and passion-based learning are important 21st century skills for our students.

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