Education / 2013

Departures Youth Voices Mobile Classroom

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by KCETLink

How do we reach and connect students to their personal and community history, and social science and civic engagement issues, while also providing new media production skills that give them access to the global digital culture and economy? The answer is the Departures Youth Voices Mobile Classroom, a pop-up classroom that will serve local schools and community events with multimedia tools and digital literacy training. Departures Youth Voices is a multimedia literacy program for high school students that offers a structured learning experience in the history, geography, and socio-political issues of their community. Through a series of 11 workshops, Youth Voices students are exposed to digital and multimedia tools (audio, photography,video), storytelling techniques, creative mapping strategies, and a brief history of collage art and muralism. Students are encouraged to utilize these new skills to become content producers -- researching the people, places and stories of their community to create multimedia stories that will introduce and guide visitors through key locations in their neighborhood. Finally, they learn to employ social networking strategies to promote and share their productions and receive feedback from their peers. The Departures Youth Voices curriculum meets and/or addresses several of the California Common Core Content Standards, as well as build key foundational skills in the new media literacies both of which are essential for students to succeed in the 21st century classroom and in the quickly evolving workforce. The Mobile Classroom will deploy the Departures Youth Voices program at schools, youth organizations and events. Equipped with chairs and tables, cameras, editing equipment, and wifi capabilities, the Mobile Classroom is a fully functioning digital lab (housed inside a converted bus or trailer) that allows students to participate in Youth Voices workshops in a controlled and formal classroom environment, even in the most informal settings such as outdoor community events. This will allow us to provide either the full media literacy curriculum, or a single curated workshop specifically chosen for each location. The Departures Youth Voices Mobile Classroom will extend the reach of Departures Youth Voices to schools and youth organizations that have limited or no technical resources. In addition, it will allow us to reach more educators with our professional development workshops, providing an introduction to media literacy, connected learning, and a step by step training on implementing Youth Voices in their classroom, increasing the sustainability of the program.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

In the past five years Departures Youth Voices has worked with almost 200 students in schools and organizations throughout Southern California. These include the L.A. Leadership Academy in Lincoln Heights in an exploration of the L.A. River; the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale to uncover the social history of Compton’s Richland Farms; Venice High School to examine the myth and reality of Venice; the Chinatown Service Center’s Youth Council to highlight the rich and diverse history of Chinatown, and Franklin High School to share the stories of the people, places and historical events that have shaped Highland Park.

The award-winning Youth Voices program is a vital outreach component of KCET’s Departures, a multimedia documentary series, community engagement tool, and digital literacy project that explores the social and cultural vitality of Los Angeles’ diverse neighborhoods. Departures has received funding from non-profits and public and private agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Adobe Youth Voices, Boeing, the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs, and the California Council for the Humanities.

An important aspect of Departures Youth Voices is our website, where we have built an archive of all student generated media from each of our neighborhood documentaries. The Youth Voices Curriculum can be accessed through our website, allowing educators and youth advocates open source access to our lesson plans.

Specific achievements include when students from the L.A. Leadership Academy were selected to perform their songs and poetry at “Corrido of Los Angeles,” an event celebrating the bicentennial of the Mexican Revolution at the L.A. County Museum of Art. In the winning entries the students positioned themselves as agents of change in their neighborhood, working as a team looking to reclaim the streets and make them a better place.

Another student producer, Mo Rahman, traveled to Washington, D.C. and took part in a panel discussion at the Silverdocs Festival where he shared his Youth Voices experience. He presented student produced work from the L.A. River installment, and discussed how the skills he learned offered new opportunities for his future. He, along with several other Youth Voices student producers, have continued their study of media, while others have had an opportunity to intern at KCET Departures.

An on-going example of our achievements is how our work is advancing and evolving. Currently we are continuing our collaboration with The L.A. Leadership Academy, and developing new partnerships with two newly-established schools: ArtLAB and The L.A. River School at the Sotomayor Learning Academies in Glassell Park.

In addition Departures Youth Voices has partnered with The HeArt Project, a non-profit arts organization that has been utilizing the Youth Voices curriculum to engage students at L.A.-area alternative and continuation schools through the arts.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

In 2013 we will cultivate partnerships with schools and organizations in communities along the Los Angeles River and the San Gabriel River, and South L.A.’s Leimert Park. Currently the Youth Voices curriculum is being taught at three high schools in Northeast Los Angeles as part of the community outreach efforts of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative, a project set to run through 2014.

The Mobile Classroom will allow Youth Voices to establish new partnerships as well as nurture existing partnerships. We will continue to work with The HeArt Project, as well as the Los Angeles Leadership Academy and The Sotomayor Learning Academies. We will also re-engage “alumni” programs with past participating schools.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

The Departures Youth Voices Mobile Classroom will be evaluated through surveys, and short and long term assessment markers.

Short term markers include: increased number of students and educators participating in Youth Voices; the objectives and the goals of the program being met by more student producers; and more educators implementing and sustaining the program on their own.

Long term markers–increased academic achievement, graduation rates and college entry–will be more difficult to track, but necessary to establish the overarching benefits of the direct delivery of the media literacy curriculum. We will work with our educational partners to develop an effective system to follow the progress of participating students.

We will also track the ease and interest in replicating this model of a mobile media literacy classroom locally and nationally.

The program will implement an established pre- and post- evaluation with participating students. A questionnaire is given to the students to identify their digital capabilities, from their confidence in multimedia equipment, to their knowledge of community history, geography, civic engagement and life skills. The questionnaire influences the speed at which the curricula is imparted to the students and informs where expansion or reduction of particular elements in the curricula are needed.

The on-site educator is encouraged to share their experiences and provide an on-going evaluation of the program on the Education Notes Blog on the Youth Voices website. The blog helps to mediate between plan and reality by looking at the weekly workshops from the educator’s perspective. They write about how the implementation of the program is functioning, the successes, challenges and best practices that are emerging.

At the end of the eleven workshops a post-assessment questionnaire is given to the students to identify if their media literacy skills, digital capabilities, and knowledge about their community has increased, and how they plan on using this new knowledge and skills. This allows us to see where the program was successful and where it needs to be refined. A post evaluation is also offered to the on-site educator in an effort to gain more of their insight on the program, the students participation and the likelihood of sustaining the program on their own.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

According to the LA2050 Report, education in Los Angeles is “a significant impediment to human development.” A harsh reality for the almost 2 million students in L.A. County. The facts are abundantly clear that a high percentage of students are not receiving the kind of education that engages and nurtures their interests, or offered the support they need to identify and connect their interests to academic success and career opportunities. This is one reason for the large number of disengaged students and dropouts (i.e. lost students) in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD.)

Departures Youth Voices knits together these crucial elements in its media literacy curriculum. The program uses digital media as an engagement and creative tool that empowers today’s youth to become civically engaged and active participants in their community. The development and launch of the Youth Voices Mobile Classroom will increase the number of participating students from schools and organizations lacking in digital media resources.

Youth Voices students will gain access and insight into the new 21st century digital culture and economy, in which Los Angeles plays a major role. They will become prepared for an increasingly media-centric higher education programs in the world class universities and colleges in the Los Angeles area, as well as for taking on multiple roles in the growing media and technology industries in the city.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In just 37 years we will arrive at 2050. Life, ideas, and technology are moving at quicksilver speed, so we must act fast to ensure that changes are made to the education system and students are encouraged to be active participants in their own education, able to define their own paths to success with the support and resources provided by their schools. Taking a cue from “Literacy in the 21st Century,” greater achievements by students will occur when schools and classrooms are transformed from storehouses of knowledge into gathering places for students and teachers to explore, to question, to experiment, and to discover.

In order to achieve this ideal by 2050, media literacy will become a fundamental component of the educational system from K-12. Students will be given broader opportunities to develop a wider set of literacy skills to both interpret the messages being received and effectively utilize these tools to become content creators and distribute their own messages.

This process will foster students who are critical thinkers, contributing members of a more engaged and active citizenry capable of analyzing, evaluating, and communicating messages in all aspects of public life.