Discovering Community: Students, Digital Storytelling, and Place-Based Learning

Course Number: EDU 5625 C02
Instructor: Mary Rizos, MA; Myles Jewell, MA
Location: Vermont Learning Collaborative, Dummerston, VT
Dates and Times: August 14-17, 2017 for eight hours each day
Credits: 3 credits
Tuition: $1,250 with credit

Note: Please register directly with the Vermont Learning Collaborative (VLC). Once registered with VLC, VLC will give you the link to Castleton's online registration form. Payment of $1,250 is due and payable to the Vermont Learning Collaborative.

Course Description

Institute Purpose:
To introduce teachers to the methods of ethnographic field research and the techniques of documentary production and digital storytelling as a means to facilitate meaningful student involvement with the communities in which they live. This research model holds the potential to promote personal growth by deepening students’ understanding of themselves and others. It can also enhance students’ sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and help to ensure their future involvement in its civic life. Additionally, working with community resources and digital technology represent rich opportunities for hands-on learning—with the capacity to engage both high-performing and at-risk students—and facilitating the development of basic research and communication skills.

The Summer Institute faculty and participants will form an ongoing network of like-minded peers who will provide feedback and support for each other’s classroom and program initiatives. Institute faculty and participants will meet again in early fall to share and receive feedback on participants’ short documentaries or digital stories based on footage gathered during the Institute. The mentor relationship established during the Institute will continue as teachers return home to flesh out their projects and implement them. As part of the cost of the Institute, participants will receive 4 hours of onsite support from Institute faculty spread throughout the fall to ensure the meaningful implementation of student projects. Student work will form the basis for our expanding Discovering Community website that offers a resource of curriculum exemplars and student-generated work—providing models and inspiration for other teachers and students. Institute Participants will be encouraged to stay in touch about their projects through our Discovering Community blog.

Course Objectives

•To bring together the methods of ethnographic field research and the techniques of documentary production and digital storytelling in order to facilitate the development of projects that both draw knowledge from–and return knowledge to–students’ home communities.

• To provide a rich, hands-on learning environment that nurtures creativity, modeling ways to structure a similar environment in participants’ own work with students.
•To present a range of possibilities for student research, offering guidelines for exploring both community history and the rich tapestry of community life in the present, as well as students documenting their own lives, interests, and daily experiences.
• To support participants in developing individual curriculum plans and to offer guidance as they return to their classrooms or programs prepared to initiate local projects.
• To provide sustained support to participants throughout the fall 2016 semester in the form of in-school coaching, workshops, and technical assistance to ensure successful implementation of student projects

Secondary Goals:
• To offer hands-on experience that highlights the creative potential of digital media as educational tools.
• To introduce ethnography (specifically) and qualitative research methods in the social sciences (more broadly) as resources for classroom instruction.
• To foreground “deep listening” and “empathy” as both essential research and interpersonal skills.
• To build a network of like-minded practitioners who can offer advice, support, and inspiration for each other’s professional practice.

Course Expectations

Course Timeline:
Participants will meet August 14-17, 2017, for eight hours per day, with the expectation of individual reading, research, and planning as outlined under “Expectations and Grading.” Participants seeking graduate credit will submit a completed curriculum plan along with a post-institute reflection no later than October 6, 2017. Those seeking graduate credit will be required to attend a follow-up session in Middlebury, Vermont, (date TBD), and complete four contact hours in the form of in-school coaching, workshops, and technical assistance to ensure successful implementation of student projects.

Day one focuses on place-based education, community ethnography/research, and the power and significance of personal stories—including a practicum on the interview process.

Day two: After learning the methods and approaches of ethnographic research, participants go out into the community as participant-observer teams to literally discover the extraordinary character of everyday life.

Day three offers an introduction to video, audio, and photography as documentary media, after which media teams spread out to pre-selected field sites to gather footage to use for their own documentaries or digital stories.

Day four: The first part of the day is dedicated to learning how to produce a digital story or documentary: reviewing footage, finding the story, and editing a short piece. The second half of the day will be spent brainstorming and outlining specific classroom applications with support from VFC faculty.

Post Institute: Again, it is our vision that Institute faculty and participants will form an ongoing network of like-minded peers, providing feedback and support for each other’s classroom initiatives long after the conclusion of the Institute. This year we are trying something new by inviting participants to meet again for a half day in early fall (date TBD) to share and receive feedback on participants’ short documentaries or digital stories based on footage gathered during the Institute. The mentor relationship established during the Institute will continue as teachers return home to flesh out their projects and implement them. As part of the cost of the Institute, participants will receive 4 hours of onsite support from Institute faculty spread throughout the fall to ensure the meaningful implementation of student projects. These post-institute contact hours are required in order to receive the full 3 graduate credits for the course.

Session Topics Include:
Discovering Community Project Showcase (Mary Rizos and Myles Jewell)
Ethnography and Transferrable Skills (Kathleen Haughey and Mary Rizos)
Practicum on Interviewing (Greg Sharrow)
Ethnographic Research & Media-Making Ethics (Myles Jewell and Mary Rizos)
Field Research and Documentary Production (Mary Rizos, Erica Heilman, Myles Jewell)

Intensive Media Sessions:
• Visual Storytelling—filmmaker Myles Jewell
• The Power of Audio—audio producer Erica Heilman
• Visual Editing—filmmaker Myles Jewell
• Audio Editing—audio producer Kathleen Haughey

Assignments & Course Expectations:
1.The creation of a field journal that will consist of two parts: observations from the field sites and notes on the fieldwork experience as well as a record of inspirations, questions, resources, etc. that reflect the participant’s thinking process in the development of a plan for a school-based project.

2. Participation in field research teams and the documentary production process.

3. Curriculum Plan using a unit template that identifies framing question, community context, project overview, alignment with standards, timeline, project resources/equipment, assessment, and plan for implementation. (Due August 5)

4. Post-Institute Reflection in which the participant probes their Institute experience with regard to the evolution of their project and details the matrix of ideas that informs their final curriculum plan. (Due August 5).

Other Information Not Listed Above

Institute Overview:
The Discovering Community Summer Institute offers educators the opportunity to explore the power of field research as a means to facilitate student engagement with their home communities. Participants will receive hands-on experience learning the methods of community-based research and the techniques of documentary media making and digital storytelling within a school setting. Participants will explore how this research model develops transferable skills in their students: clear and effective communication, responsible and involved citizenship, creative and practical problem solving, and informed and integrative thinking.

Over the course of an intensive, four-day program participants will work with cultural researchers, documentary media specialists, artists, and fellow educators in a learning environment that models an ethnographic approach to community inquiry. The Institute integrates place-based education, education for sustainability, civic engagement, and personalized learning.

Each day of the four-day Institute focuses on developing a different aspect of the research and documentary process. The daily schedule is built around one-hour or two-hour sessions led by educators, folklorists, digital media specialists, and artists who have done exemplary work as ethnographers, teachers, and documentarians.
Over the course of the four days, participants will undertake a mini-field research project and explore the documentary potential of photography, audio, and video. Each day will begin and end with a peer reflection session facilitated by faculty mentors. Participants will develop individual curriculum plans based on their institute learning and experience

For additional course information

Mary Rizos
(802) 388-4964

Myles Jewell

For additional registration information

Susan Leuchter
(802) 257-8600

Register online now!