Pulsar at Open School North: Reflection #7

Pulsar—an education program operated by the Hollywood Theatre and Portland Community Media—has created the Hollywood Theatre Studio at Open School North, a media lab that gives Open School students and teachers access to technology and professional media arts instruction, so that they may analyze, evaluate, and participate in media generation and dissemination. We project that Pulsar activities will increase students’ self-confidence, initiative, teamwork skills, problem solving, and feelings toward school; bolster engagement with students’ families and the surrounding community; and increase the expertise of educators in media arts.

Activities, Successes, and Learning Outcomes
During our first year at Open School North (OSN), Pulsar staff created a media arts lab for teachers and staff. In Year Two, we hired a staff member to train teachers to better use the media lab equipment. Additionally, we sought to host both long- and short-term artist residencies to work within the classrooms to help engage students.

During the 2015-2016 school year, Pulsar at OSN has undertaken a number of activities related to the project’s goals:
· 65 students worked with three guest artists in residence
· 3 core content teachers (science, art, and language arts) collaborated with an artist in residence
· 4 teacher trainings conducted
· 26 students took a digital exploration class that focused on media literacy

We hired Desiree Montoya to serve as OSN’s Media Arts Integration Coordinator. Desiree collaborated with both teachers and students using Pulsar lab equipment. She implemented teacher trainings and supervised the integration of media into OSN curricula across diverse subjects. OSN teachers were trained in media integration based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The lessons and units devised for language arts, math, and social studies were also based on the CCSS, with a strong focus on student engagement. Teachers were shown how to integrate media into their classrooms using Edmodo and TED-Ed, two online tools that emphasize student-centered learning with relevant 21st-century materials.

Following the teacher training using Edmodo, Desiree worked one-on-one with OSN’s science teacher, Carlos Lasuncet, to create a lesson on the impact that plastic bottles have on the environment. Together, Desiree and Carlos found a high-interest video on the life cycle of water bottles to introduce the students to the concept. After viewing the video (which they could stop and review as needed), students took a quiz and then completed a hands-on art project. The students were highly engaged and said that they liked having the ability to work at their own pace.

After the successes in Carlos’ class, David Seifert, a special education reading and writing teacher at OSN, approached Desiree in hopes of finding a resource that supplied engaging videos similar to the one shown in Carlos’ science class. Desiree introduced David to TED-Ed, an education initiative that provides editable videos, quizzes, articles, and discussion forums aimed at sparking student curiosity. Since being shown this resource in February, David now uses it in his classes weekly. David stated, “Edmodo has been helpful in the classroom in a number of ways. One, I can present content in a way that is relevant to the kids. The fact that it’s on the computer and looks similar to Facebook helps students be more engaged and motivated. It also provides a format to present multimedia content (such as TED-Ed) other than cinema-style. Second, many of our students struggle to focus and work independently. With Edmodo, each student can work at his or her own pace, and I provide help to those who are lagging behind. Third, it has saved sooo much paper. I used to have to print 5-6 page leveled readers a few times a week. Now I can just share the website.” As a result of David’s success, Desiree trained all of the teachers at OSN to use the Ted-Ed platform as well.

In addition to working with teachers, Desiree worked with OSN students in a digital exploration class giving students access to new advancements in technology. The students created comic books and digital posters and wrote six-word memoirs.  For every project, students used multiple multimedia tools. The digital exploration class eventually evolved into a media team where students used InDesign, Photoshop, and DSLR cameras to create a school-wide yearbook. Students in the class gained design and photography skills and learned photo-editing techniques.

In addition to hiring Desiree, we also hosted Open Artist in Residence (Open AiR) Bibi McGill during February 2016. (Bibi followed fall Open AiR’s INSA and Perry Pfister.) As part of Pulsar, Bibi McGill spent six weeks at Open School North. Bibi, best known as Beyoncé’s lead guitarist, is a musician, DJ, and practiced Ashtanga yogi. She integrated her philosophy on meditation and energy into her workshops during a song-writing unit in Jessie Eller-Isaacs language arts classroom.
During her residency at Open School North, Bibi worked on song-writing and mindfulness with all of the students at OSN twice a week in their language arts class.

1.  Developing Relationships: Before the song writing process began, Bibi focused on developing a strong rapport with the students to gain their trust, since they were expected to open up about their personal lives. She introduced the students to mindfulness and meditation, and they were asked to walk into the classroom in silence. During one of her workshops, she had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

2.  Telling Their Story: To make the song relevant to the students, Bibi had the students brainstorm ideas about their personal interests. She then developed a guitar riff and a few lyrics that were inspired by students’ stories.

3.  Music and Lyrics: When the students walked into their language arts classroom, there were lyrics written across the board that they wrote as a class. They used class time to complete verses and also got to write the chorus.

4.  Record: Once the lyrics were completed, Bibi printed them out for the class. She took individual students and groups into a small empty classroom where she set up her recording equipment. Students had the opportunity to practice singing and rapping several times prior to recording. They received feedback from Bibi throughout the entire process.

5.  Music Video: Reina Salunaya, Multimedia Project Facilitator at OSN, produced and edited a music video for “Believe” using the photographs that she took of the residency.

The students’ confidence grew immensely throughout their time with Bibi. 7th- and 8th-graders Karl, Malia, and Kaitlynn, all of whom flaunt their rapping and singing chops on the song, agreed that spending time with Bibi, making music, and learning about her work as guitarist, DJ, and yogi was a pretty amazing experience—an opportunity they would not have had at a public school. OSN parent Andrea even credits Bibi with helping her daughter Madeline overcome her stage fright and allowing her to “spread her wings. Whenever she talks about meeting with Bibi, she just totally lights up.”

Once the song and video were completed, an End of Residency Celebration was held on April 8 at Open School North. Students and their families gathered together with community members and Bibi to commemorate students’ successes. Friends, families, and the greater OSN community were moved to tears by the debut of the “Believe” music video. Song-writing became a medium for self-expression that extended well beyond the classroom.

Evidence of Success
Surveys collected during the spring 2016 semester of Pulsar at Open School North demonstrated that our programs made a significant difference in students’ leadership development and teamwork (75% of students reported feeling more connected to their classmates), media literacy (100% of students expressed that after a lesson with Pulsar they were always or sometimes eager to create more art, and 100% of students were inspired to make art outside of class), community engagement (50% of students feel a greater sense of connection to their community), and sense of pride and accomplishment (100% of students always or sometimes felt proud of their accomplishments after a Pulsar lesson).

As a complement to quantitative data, we also collected qualitative information from students about the impact that media integration has had on their education at OSN. Students reported feeling much more open and positive about their abilities. Maddy reported, “I learned new things in Photoshop in yearbook class” and mentioned she could absolutely bring the skills she learned in Pulsar into her future. Larry’s self-confidence improved over the year as well, and he commented, “I learned that I could do all the things I said I couldn’t.”

Most importantly, students envisioned how their newly acquired skills could translate into their futures. Overall, 30% of students said they would absolutely bring the skills they learned in Pulsar activities into the future, and 50% said they could maybe bring the skills into their future careers.

OSN teachers and staff were also administered surveys to access their thoughts on the effectiveness of teacher trainings and support in the classroom during media integration projects. Pulsar and OSN staff also met to debrief on the successes and shortcomings of the collaboration and to examine overall effectiveness and areas for improvement.
· 75% of teachers and staff said they now feel comfortable integrating technology into their classrooms.
· 100% of teachers and staff are excited about the technology tools that they have been trained on.

Michael Navarro, OSN principal about Artist in Residence Bibi McGill:
“At an event like this, you can feel and see the kids’ pride in what they’ve accomplished. And it’s funny, there’s a whole lot of discomfort, because this is a new feeling for them. So this is also an important lesson, getting used to success, to accolades, and feeling like they deserve it. We want this to be a regular experience for the kids, so it can be repeated over and over again throughout their lives.”

Jessie Eller-Isaacs, language arts teacher about Artist in Residence Bibi McGill:
“Having someone special like Bibi, someone who has street cred and pop cred and artist cred, come in and be in their midst and choose to be with them makes the students see that this is a place worth being and that they are worth being with. It makes them feel so big and valued that somebody who could be playing at an international pop festival somewhere across the world instead says, ‘I want to be in this middle school in North Portland with you.’ It’s really powerful—especially for kids, who, like our kids, live on the margins.”

Spring 2016 Challenges
· Although our teacher trainings were successful in two classrooms, we didn’t have every teacher experiment with the material provided.
· One-on-one collaboration time with teachers was difficult to schedule. Teachers would benefit from more repetition and one-on-one follow-up.
· The yearbook class was a success, but we only targeted those students who showed a strong interest in media literacy rather than the entire school.

2016-2017 School Year Goals
We made huge strides at OSN this year and had many incredible successes; however, the teachers didn’t feel incredibly confident using the technology resources without our help. Next year we are focusing on creating a more sustainable program. We will do this by providing more one-on-one training. In the surveys we administered to staff members, one question asked was, “What is your dream project?” Pulsar is going to work with individual teachers to try to make those dreams a reality.

In addition to providing more teacher training, we are bringing in multimedia artists to work with OSN students. OSN teachers will have the opportunity to collaborate with our Media Arts Integration Coordinator to create a curriculum that supplements their workshop with the multimedia artists.

Overall, we hope to challenge the teachers of Open School North to dream big by giving them the tools and resources needed to create dynamic lessons!