Thanks to my recent course work in online teaching and learning at Bemidji State University, I have discovered the power and possibility of using technology in teaching. It can make my work more accessible, add dimensions I didn’t think possible and bring theater to students in remote places. During the past few weeks my TA partner, Brian Proball, and I have been working hard on a new project that merges my new skills in the technological realm with our decades-long experience teaching theater in the same room as our students.
We’ve been engaged in a series of planning sessions with teachers Sue Chase from Cass Lake – Bena High School and Nicole Peterson from Blue Sky Online Jr –Sr High School. The end result of these sessions, plus hours of planning, writing and creative processing for Brian and I, is a new arts in education endeavor which we will guide via the World Wide Web. We will be using Web 2.0 collaborative, conferencing, social media, writing and designing tools to link high schools students from two different locations in the state of Minnesota. Together, they will write, design, perform, film and edit a video piece based on the theme “Everyday Heroes in Our Lives”.
Part of the mission statement of our company, The Project, is to push the boundaries of arts in education delivery. We left “no stone unturned” in this planning process but I still feel like we are stepping off the edge of a cliff into the great technology chasm because I don’t know what the problems are going to be. After twenty-plus years of delivering theater education programs I generally know, by the end of day one, what is going to work and what isn’t, but this is brand new territory.
The process, to date, has been mind boggling from simple questions like,
“What kind of time line are we looking at?”
“Who will edit the film, and who is going to learn how to use and then teach using green screen?”
to the complicated,
“How do we schedule synchronous learning time while dealing with high school students all over the state?”
“What about the digital divide, how do we insure access to technology when needed, what programs do we need to use, and finally, how do we deliver this content completely online when we are so used to hands on delivery?”
One other question looms large on my horizon. It goes back to that old debate: Will we be spending more time on core curriculum content at a cost to the arts? Is this going to increase creativity and love of the arts in our students’ lives or are we contributing to the “great technology glut”?
I don’t know what the problems will be because we have never done this before – and there aren’t many models to turn to. I have heard that the Montana Arts Council delivers some of their writing residencies online but this is, for the most part, new territory. Next year at this time, we will have just finished this project, and, hopefully, found the answers through the process.
I invite you to start following our journey, come fall, on our Facebook page: The Heroes Project Cass Lake – Bena.