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Discussion Guides

Download the Parents Discussion Guide

PARENTS

At home:

  • Henry Jenkins says: “A kid who stays up late reading a book is rewarded and recognized as having had dedication. A kid who stays up late trying to beat a video game is called addicted.” How do you feel about this statement?
  • What types of digital media are currently used within your home? Are these tools used for entertainment, work, or both?
  • Do the children in your home use different digital media than the adults? If you use the same media tools as your children, do you use them in the same or different ways?
  • What is your own “digital media IQ?” Do you feel that your aptitude with new technologies meets or exceeds that of your kids? What have your children taught you about digital media? How do you feel about your current level of digital media expertise?
  • How has digital media enhanced your family life? How has it challenged it?
  • The film notes that to produce the new learners of the 21st century, parents and educators will have to find “the right balance between the perils of being ‘always on’ and the necessity for young people to creatively use the gadgets and digital media tools of everyday life.” Discuss this idea of “balance.” Can it be defined? What are steps you’ve taken toward achieving balance in your home?
  • Do you have any ideas for cool family projects based on digital media, such as creating and disseminating “video holiday card,” complete with original music and editing, rather than sending traditional paper-based greetings via through snail mail?

At school/in the world:

  • How (or are) new technologies currently incorporated into your child’s classroom?
  • How does this differ from your own classroom experience? How do you feel about this difference (i.e. grateful, skeptical, etc.)?
  • How is your child’s classroom-based use of digital media helpful or positive for him or her? In what ways might you consider the use of in-class digital media a potential liability for your child?
  • How does the presence and use of digital media in the classroom impact your school choice? Would you consider choosing a school based on its integration of 21st century technologies?
  • How can parents advocate for their child’s school to become more digitally relevant?
  • Shani, who participates in Chicago’s Digital Youth Network, claims that this experience has offered her “a voice,” while her peer Malcolm claims it helps him “stay out of trouble.” As a parent, can you identify other benefits this kind of afterschool programming might have for your child, or for kids in your community?
  • Can you offer your fellow parents any advice, insight or even cautionary tales around seeking afterschool enrichment opportunities that utilize digital media? In other words, do you feel that there are specific kinds programs to seek, and those to avoid? Why?

 

Download the Educators Discussion Guide

EDUCATORS

For formal educators:

21st Century Learners

  • Christopher Lehmann says: “How can we leverage digital media in schools? We can stop being driven by fear. We can start to understand that this is the world that kids live in, and that our schools can reflect that.” What skepticism, reluctance, fear, or other barriers exists within your school around digital media use? How can schools/districts address or remedy this?
  • (How) did your own education and training prepare you to instruct 21st-century learners? Did or do you need to improve your own digital media literacy? If so, how? Where did or will you go for support? What barriers exist?
  • John Seely Brown says: “In a world of rapid change, the need to memorize something is a 20th century skill.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? In what instances might memorization, or other more “rote” methods, still play a vital educational role? In what ways can approaches complement each other?
  • The film’s experts often reference the potential of leveraging digital media practices to help students become more engaged citizens. In what ways do you agree or disagree with this concept?
  • Two of the film’s featured programs were afterschool initiatives. How does your students’ participation in these informal educational settings impact or enrich their classroom performance? Do you see any connection?
  • Integrating digital media into a classroom, and certainly into a larger structure like a school or a school district, can be a big undertaking. What kind of changes (e.g. in mindset, professional development, resources, finances, etc.) would need to occur within your educational setting to meaningfully integrate digital media?
  • The film often addresses the idea that learning content is a 20th-century idea, while learning how to produce the content is a 21st-century skill. Diana Rhoten takes this concept a step further, saying that “more important even than going from consumption to production, is going from production to participation,” which includes being able to assess the quality and/or validity of online sources. Do you agree or disagree? Discuss this concept.
  • Christopher Lehmann says, “We built schools today as an industrial model. Eight-period day, 45 minutes a class, assembly line, modeled after the factory… Society has evolved past that. Schools haven't yet.” How similar or dissimilar is this model to your school? Would you like it to change? If so, how?
  • Can you offer an example of a local educator, school or district that makes excellent use of digital media resources, and is focused on teaching 21st-century skills? Why does it work?
  • Conversely, what doesn’t work in terms of digital media in the classroom?
  • Dr. Joan Hughes of the University of Texas at Austin created a framework for educators employing digital media called RAT: Replacement, Amplification and Transformation. The model asks educators to consider the following questions about their digital media use in the classroom: Do you employ technology to replace (but not change) text and other traditional materials? Do you use it to amplify traditional methods, making them faster, stronger, richer, or more engaging? Or do you use it to transform the classroom experience, changing, restructuring or reorganizing it in a novel way for learners? How do all of these methods impact your students? Is transformation truly possible within your current classroom, school or district structure?

 

Gaming in Education/Power of Play

  • Katie Salen addressed a common parental concern around digital gaming in the classroom: excessive competition. How might competition within gaming be problematic, and what benefits might it have in a school setting?
  • James Paul Gee claims that games are “analogs” or constructs in which students can explore larger academic concepts or systems. Do you agree or disagree, and why? What games exemplify this concept?
  • Nichole Pinkard says, “Media work builds on top of traditional literacy. And if a kid hasn't had art, they don't understand color. If they don't understand shapes and circles, then it's very hard for them to... to say, "Oh, we want to do graphic design." What other forms of traditional instruction aid students in game creation, and why?
  • When a kid is learning a game, a great deal of perseverance is required for success. How can educators help students take this tenacity and transfer it into other academic and life pursuits?

 

Mobile/Place-Based Learning

  • Jim Mathews says, “What’s important about place-based learning is really the idea that it is mobile. You're not tethered to a classroom. It's pervasive in the sense that you have it with you all the time. “ How might this 24/7 access impact your students? How could you incorporate it into your current instructional methods?
  • How might mobile or place-based learning effectively address the challenge of teaching students with diverse learning styles?
  • What place-based or mobile projects can be designed to enrich students’ sense of civic responsibility and engagement? How about their communication skills?
  • Jim Mathews says that civic engagement programs may benefit the young people who participate in them, but they're really designed to benefit the community itself. Discuss.
  • How do social networking sites or virtual communities broaden and/or otherwise change your students’ sense of community, and/or interaction with others? How do students communicate differently using technology than they might in person? What benefits do these digital tools offer, and what challenges might they present?

 

For informal educators:

  • Diana Rhoten says: “In this day and age, the responsibility of libraries, museums, schools, after-school programs -- the type of institutions we work with -- is to help kids identify interests, and then progress through their interest -- become more advanced. It's just the same job as a tennis coach; the same job as a football coach. It's the academic coach.” Do you agree with this statement? In what ways do you see yourself in this “coaching” role?
  • Digital Youth Network participant Shani says, “I think my involvement with DYN affects everything that I get accepted to; it looks so good on my application because it's so extensive, and since I've been with them so long it shows such a big commitment.” What does this statement mean? Why is it relevant? How can (or have) you encouraged your students to leverage their digital literacy and experience with digital media in their higher education or career goals?
  • Knowing that there is no “one size fits all” answer, what are important features might parents should consider when choosing digital media-focused enrichment opportunities in the community (e.g., instructor-to-kid ratio, collaborative group work, kinds of media used, safety assurances, instructor expertise, artistic value, civic engagement, etc.)? Are some more important than others?
  • How does participation in afterschool digital media-based programming enhance or impact students’ classroom experiences?
  • What is a great example of an afterschool digital program in your community, and why is this program a winner?
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