Application for the NCTE Media Literacy Award 2009

Fredericksburg Academy Upper School English Department

Susan Carter Morgan, 9th Grade, @scmorgan
Jennifer Clark Evans, 10th and 11th grades, @jclarkevans
Susanne Nobles, 12th grade, @snobles

Department Media Literacy Philosophy

Susanne teaching AP English Literature and Composition
Our department strives to create students who are successful communicators, creators, and thinkers. Our students know we expect them to be learners first, and the cornerstone of our philosophy of media literacy is that we are all learners in our ever-expanding world. We have developed a program that encourages students to tackle media literacy on a gradual basis, beginning in ninth grade and culminating in twelfth.

We model this learning ourselves in a variety of ways. First, we use a curriculum mapping program to map our sequential courses and assignments. We also meet monthly to discuss opportunities to use social media and other forms of technology to enhance our students' work. Finally, this past year, we participated in Powerful Learning Practice, a year-long professional development opportunity that enabled us to learn and collaborate online. Though we all had begun our journey of discovery using a variety of social media, this opportunity allowed us to cement our own use of tools such as Twitter and blogs so we could best instruct our students as they incorporate these new literacies in their own learning. The collaboration we did on the PLP ning and our group's wiki helped us prepare meaningful lessons and assessments for our students. The reflection we did on our individual blogs helped us refine our pedagogy: Susan's blog, Jennifer's blog, and Susanne's blog.

The grade-level pages in the left margin of this wiki trace how we work with our students in media literacy from ninth through twelfth grade. The ninth grade unit shows how we introduce students to the collaborative opportunities of Web 2.0 learning. By using the annotation feature of Diigo, students practice sharing their annotations both within their class and with other sections of freshmen English at our school. Students learn to be careful, deliberate annotators by learning from their peers' work. Then in tenth grade, students explore oral communication and video making by creating their own adaptations of Beowulf. By using modern technologies to access this ancient text, students connect to the universal themes of this foundational work of literature. The videos also give students some freedom (the videos are completed after class discussion of the text) to interpret the epic in groups, building on their collaboration skills from ninth grade. Juniors push this independent thought even further by working in online literature circles to dissect the modern novel Black Ice. They are fully responsible for working together on their groups' wikis to develop discussion topics then tackle these topics without direct teacher guidance. Students' understanding of and comfort with Web 2.0 tools give them a strong structure for managing this independent learning. Finally, seniors take this independent thought outside their classroom walls by working to master Othello in a ning with pre-service teachers from New Jersey. The confidence they have developed in their own intellectual abilities and in their use of Web 2.0 tools is the foundation for stretching to this next level of discourse. Our seniors, after four years learning in our media literacy curriculum, hold their own with college seniors.

Department Reflection

We have been incorporating media literacy in our classrooms since becoming a 1:1 laptop school in 2000. Therefore, we have, in a way, "come of age" in our use of technology as Web 2.0 technologies have gained prominence in education. Through our experimenting with technology in our classrooms, we have come to firmly believe in its value for helping our students learn more and more deeply. We also know there can be glitches and drawbacks at times, such as when the school server goes down therefore taking an entire Web 2.0 lesson down with it or when students resist learning in a new way. While we cannot control the server (and we have learned to have a back-up lesson just in case!), we have learned how to help students overcome their resistances. By making sure we are always overt about the purpose and value of using that day's tool, we have found that students come to understand how the tools ultimately help their own learning, and not just in the English classroom. You will see in the reflections on each of the grade-level pages of this wiki our work with developing this transparency in our own teaching.

As a culmination to our PLP year, we were chosen as an exemplar school to be featured on the support DVD to Will Richardson's second edition of his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. These videos, while they will be ultimately combined and edited for the book, are also invaluable visual histories of our own learning.

A. Introduction

B. Twitter in Education: Jennifer on her use of Twitter
C. Internet Safety for Classrooms: Susan on thoughtful online presence

We would like to end our application for the Media Literacy Award with this video. One of our seniors discusses the impact of our curriculum in media literacy on her life, both as a student and as a person. We feel there is no better evidence of our work in this area than our students.

FA Technology from Susan Morgan on Vimeo.