Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 4:06 pm | Fair 59º


Orcutt School District to Create Digital Media Academy

Orcutt students will develop 21st-century skills through a soon-to-be launched digital media academy aimed at ensuring that competency with computers and technology becomes as commonplace as crayons and scissors.

The Orcutt Union School District board of trustees recently approved Superintendent Deborah Blow’s proposal to create a digital media academy, something she had implemented successfully in her other jobs.

“This really does help students learn and apply 21st century skills,” Blow said. 

The academy will prep teachers, who will then pass along the lessons to students.

“When we talk about moving forward with 21st century skills, when we talk about moving forward with Common Core curriculum, some of the things that we talk about is the need for critical thinking, for problem solving, for having students work collaboratively, and being able to communicate,” she said.

This includes knowing how to use video and photo projects to convey ideas, she added.

For instance, students create reports on an assigned state with basic facts about the state capital, bird and flower.

“What if we ramp up the rigor a little bit and we have them deal with more difficult questions?" she asked. "Rather than just talking about what’s the state capital, what if they had to answer the question, why was Sacramento selected as the state capital of California? And if we were to select a locale for the state capital today, would it be Sacramento?”

Or, if students are struggling with fractions, the teacher can have students create a video about the concept and gain a better understanding of fractions, she added. 

Teachers in the Orcutt district can apply to be a part of the digital media academy, with up to 30 instructors to be chosen.

The academy would give teachers lessons in various software programs, and equipment to share with their students.

“As part of that, they’re going to get what too often we don’t do with professional development,” Blow said. "They’re going to get both the tools and the training to actually lead the project."

The approximately $400,000 cost of the program will come from funds set aside for technology purchases, she added. 

“This is an expenditure that’s going to have an impact on our kids for more than just this year,” she added.

Teachers would get MacBooks, and a cart of 32 MacBooks would be provided to schools with two or more participants for use by students and other teachers.

“This will give us a real opportunity to get an infusion of technology into our schools,” Blow said, adding the carts will be available to the teachers in the digital media academy but also to other educators at the school.

Blow recommended starting with a core group of teachers who are excited about technology to eventually bring other instructors on board.

The culminating event for the digital media academy will be a film festival — complete with red carpet arrival — where student projects will be shown and awards will be handed out.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for our students …,” she said, recalling students’ pride and excitement at the event held in her prior district.

Board member Rob Buchanan said he welcomed the program and the addition of new technology that will be available at schools.

“When I hear from teachers, that’s one of the things they would like is some better technology in the classroom,” Buchanan said. 

While the digital media academy promises to be an enjoyable and educational program, Buchanan said, the district hasn’t had an infusion of new computers for some time.

He added that the academy could lead to offering a computer-coding class to older students to give them a jump start for future careers, with highly needed and well-paid positions.

“I do think it’s going to be very fun and exciting for them. It’s certainly the way kids communicate,” Buchanan said.

After hearing about the digital media academy during Blow’s interview for the job, board member Liz Phillips said she was excited about starting one in Orcutt. 

“I’m equally excited now — or even more so just talking about it, especially to reach out to the children who are not traditional classroom learners,” Phillips said.

Board member Jan Zilli noted that her adult children make computer-based presentations routinely in their jobs, so the skills are definitely important.

“It’s actually the kind of 21st century skills that people do use every day,” she said.

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.

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