Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 7:29 am | Fair 47º


Orcutt Schools Roll Out the Red Carpet in Celebration of Inaugural Digital Media Academy

Tuesday awards night to showcase range and creativity of students’ new technology skills

Orcutt Academy Charter School participated in the district’s first digital media academy, which will hand out awards Tuesday night. Among the students in the program are, from left, Domeneque Ramirez, LIana Clark, Leticia Ruvalcaba and Thomas Cardona.
Orcutt Academy Charter School participated in the district’s first digital media academy, which will hand out awards Tuesday night. Among the students in the program are, from left, Domeneque Ramirez, LIana Clark, Leticia Ruvalcaba and Thomas Cardona.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Complete with red carpet arrivals, paparazzi and stars — aka students and teachers —the Orcutt Union School District will celebrate the first digital media academy with a Hollywood-style event.

The sold-out event set for Tuesday evening at Pacific Christian Center, 3435 Santa Maria Way, will include showings of student-made productions for the first Educational Media Innovation — dubbed EMI, it’s pronounced “emmy” — Awards.

The academy, led by 30 teachers on campuses in the district, aims to provide the digital literacy skills that today’s students need.

“This is where education is moving,” Superintendent Deborah Blow said. “It’s Common Core standards and it’s 21st-century skills.”

EMI Awards will be given in 10 categories. Six People’s Choice nominees will be chosen by those at the EMI Awards with voting via text messaging at the end of the night. Two Grand Recognition Awards also will be presented.

In all, 18 student productions will be shown, trimmed from a field of 110 submissions.

The 30 participating teachers applied for the district’s inaugural program last fall.

“It just seemed like a really neat opportunity to integrate technology in the classroom,” said first-year Olga Reed Elementary School teacher Nick Spaht, from a classroom with sixth  and seventh grades.

Orcutt Academy Charter School teacher Michelle Clayton said she applied because the program sounded like an exciting opportunity — both for her and for her students.

“It can never hurt to build technology skills in today’s educational world,” she said.

Clayton said students worked in groups of four to create public service announcements.

“The collaborative piece for them was amazing because I really saw kids working together on a final product and it was something they had never done before …,” she said. “There were kids who ended up being the main videographers and the main editors, but they all had a hand in every part of it, which is great.”

Spaht agreed.

“They did a fantastic job with their videos,” he said, adding that his students’ productions centered around character words such as perseverance, trustworthiness, honesty and integrity.

Clayton’s students’ topics run the gamut but center on “kid issues” — belonging, bullying, making a difference in the world.

Spaht and Clayton were able to collaborate since Orcutt Academy and Olga Reed share the Los Alamos campus. They said they plan to make educational videos to benefit both schools.

From camera angles to voice overs to all kinds of software, eighth-graders Liana Clark, Domeneque Remirez and Thomas Cardona, along with seventh-grader Leticia Ruvalcaba, said they learned assorted skills while working on their productions.

The students said they came away with more than technological lessons.

“Teamwork — definitely teamwork,” Thomas said in describing what he learned.

“Trying to listen to others to see everyone else’s ideas,” Leticia added.

“And being more open to other ideas,” Liana said.

It also boosted students’ confidence with technology, they agreed.

“I think, overall when we were making these videos, I think that we got closer together as friends,” Domeneque added.

Their teacher taught them how to use the hardware and software, but otherwise let the students create without interference.

“It was really nice how she made it our video, instead of a teacher video, and how she let it be a reflection us,” Liana said. “It was learning by experience.”

The students also gained an appreciation for longer productions after seeing how much work went into their one-minute shows.

Some of the students confessed to nerves and excitement for the awards night.

“I’m excited to see what all the other students have done throughout the district,” Leticia said.

When she was hired last year, Blow cited the digital media academy as one her goals for the district.

Teachers were equipped with technology and attended training sessions before taking the lessons into their classrooms. Schools also received carts that carry laptop computers for classroom use across the campus.

Not only does the program give some students and teachers new skills, it also provides infusions of technology for campuses, which often had relied on donated — also known as older — computers, officials noted.

“I think that’s why this program has been such a shot in the arm because the teachers and students were ready for some new technology,” Blow explained. “While we’ve done a great job with what we’ve had, it’s nice to get some current equipment in place.”

Next year, more teachers will be equipped and prepped to lead the academy, with the inaugural group serving as mentors while expanding their own skills.

Approved by the Orcutt school board in October, the $300,000 program was not really launched in classrooms until January, so this year’s academy is abbreviated compared to future versions.

Knowing that, Blow said she’s impressed.

“They’ve just blown me away with what they’ve been able to accomplish in a short amount of time,” she said.

Spaht is already looking ahead to having a full year and expanding his lessons in 2015-2016.

“I’m super excited to see what else we can do with this technology,” he added.

Blow also expects next year to hold two shows since the venue is expected to be standing-room-only with this year’s group of participants Tuesday.

“I think it’s going to be a great evening,” Blow said of awards night. “I know the films that are going to be shown, and it’s going to be such a nice variety of inspirational videos, educational videos, a lot of innovation and special effects and some humor.

“We’re going make people laugh and we’re going to touch their heart.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Superintendent Deborah Blow brought the digital media academy to the Orcutt Union School District to boost students' technology skills. “This is where education is moving,” she says. “It’s Common Core standards and it’s 21st-century skills.” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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