Post written by Sara Romeyn, high school Honors Global History and AP United States History teacher and participant in the 2015 Newseum Summer Teacher Institute: “Primarily Digital: Teaching Media Literacy to Plugged-in Students,” sponsored by Annenberg Learner. Look for the #ANEW15 hashtag on Twitter.
I was fortunate to take part in the “Primarily Digital” workshop in late July. I have attended many professional development workshops in my 20-year career as a teacher, but this was one of the standouts. It was relevant, well organized, hands-on, collaborative, and exciting. Our classroom was buzzing with energy and participation. Teachers came early and stayed late. As I reflect on the experience three weeks later, I realize that the workshop organizers and leaders continually modeled best practices. My big goal for the coming school year will be to further integrate those best practices in my own classrooms.
So, let me take each of those best practices in turn and explain in greater detail how they might influence my teaching:
- The “Primarily Digital” workshop was well organized. We began each day with a review of the agenda, which was projected at the front of the room and in our notebooks. The agenda provided both a schedule for the day and the learning objectives. I usually post an objective at the beginning of my class, but I will make it a more intentional practice in the year to come. I will also include a specific time schedule. Such a practice will help frame the work, keep us on task, and give the students a sense of what to anticipate for the day.
- The “Primarily Digital” workshop was relevant. The instructors and leaders continually drew connections between the materials introduced and our own classrooms. There was a practical link to current events. In my own classroom, I think students appreciate understanding why we learn something and how it might inform or influence modern events. With the study of history, it is important to draw connections to the present day. I will continually focus on that objective.
- The “Primarily Digital” workshop was hands-on. We had the chance to physically examine historical newspapers. We created a social media campaign and designed our own buttons for a political cause. We were up and moving and engaged in the task of “doing history.” This approach was so much more engaging that a lecture. Again, I want to bring these practices into my classroom, whether it is a gallery walk where students analyze photographs or a project where they utilize artistic talents.
- The “Primarily Digital” workshop was collaborative. We worked in small groups on multiple occasions during the three days, and we learned so much given the opportunity to share our ideas and perspectives. Group work gives a voice to students who are less bold in front of a large class. The ability to collaborate is a key life skill…how does one listen carefully and respectfully?
- The workshop was exciting. The organizers made fresh and interesting use of social media, including the visit to the Berlin Wall gallery where we tweeted as an East or West Berliner. In the Vietnam exhibit, we engaged in an on-line debate about the power of the media in a time of war.
I appreciated many aspects of the workshop. I came away with valuable resources, such as tools students may use when evaluating a source. I was introduced to several new tech tools, and discovered novel ways to use familiar tools. Ultimately, however, it was the structure of the workshop that was the biggest “aha” moment for me. By using multiple best practices for the classroom, the workshop leaders provided a powerful and engaging three days. I believe the best teachers are life-long learners, and when we use the summer to grow and have new experiences, we become better teachers. I look forward to recreating these practices in my classroom in the coming year.
See what else Sara was up to this summer on her blog. After spending a week in the “Primarily Digital” workshop, she left for a teacher exchange program to South Africa. In addition to learning about the history of Apartheid, she spent several days teaching in a high school in a township.