Projects Underway

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Collaborative Media Center

Samara Smith

Project Team
  • Laura Anker, Old Westbury
  • Niev Duffy, Old Westbury
  • Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, Long Island Wins

Old Westbury


Tier One

Project Abstract:

This proposal seeks to expand a Collaborative Media Center (CMC) at SUNY Old Westbury building on a successful proof-of-concept year funded by a 2013 tier one IITG. The Center’s mission is to support digital literacy and the use of emerging media tools in teaching, learning and communicating at Old Westbury and in the community beyond. This mission is fulfilled by collaborating across disciplines and with community partners to support community-engaged and research-based student media projects. Digital projects are supported through the Center’s ongoing testing of open digital tools, the creation of online resources, and the offering of individualized, online and face-to-face, support. Utilizing the Center’s resources, students produce digital projects, such as interactive timelines and maps, audio slideshows and online portfolios, to expand or demonstrate civic and academic engagement. This model, designed to promote life-long digital literacy, provides a blend of online tutorials and individualized support until learners develop the confidence to master new technologies independently.

Digital literacy is essential for job readiness and democratic civic engagement. The Alliance for Media Literate America links these skills to critical thinking and cultural understanding:

Media literacy empowers people to be both critical thinkers and creative producers of an increasingly wide range of messages using image, language, and sound. It is the skillful application of literacy skills to media and technology messages. As communication technologies transform society, they impact our understanding of ourselves, our communities, and our diverse cultures, making media literacy an essential life skill for the 21st century.1

Unfortunately, not every student has equal access to the tools necessary to develop this literacy.

As the most diverse SUNY College, with a preponderance of students from populations reporting low Internet use and limited broadband access, Old Westbury has a unique opportunity to pilot this digital divide initiative.2 Many of our first-generation college and low-income students depend primarily on school for digital literacy development.3 In Old Westbury’s 2013 Student Opinion Survey, graduating students asked to rate the contribution “they felt their experiences at Old Westbury made to their growth and learning using computer and information technology” reported 2.9 on a five-point scale (1=poor, 5=excellent). This project presents a real opportunity for improvement and an important area of focus across SUNY as we expand online learning.

This academic year (2013-14) the Center is focusing on creating, testing and improving open educational resources to support digital media projects in five linked classes. As of February, Center staff have researched, tested and assessed thirteen online platforms, and developed screencast videos and text instructions for five platforms to support audio slideshows, interactive timelines, photography collages and web portfolios. These Open Educational Resources are hosted on the first iteration of the Center’s website (a WordPress blog) and are being tested, improved and expanded through the spring term pilot before being openly released. We are currently developing a website on SUNY Commons and a community database, IDEA SPACE; both of which will be launched at the end of this pilot year. A lab manager and four student tutors have been trained and are staffing drop-in tutoring hours four-days a week while continuing to create and improve online resources and provide individualized online support.

Building on this resource development and training the Center is supporting the following linked classes and projects this term (Spring 2014):
• Audio slideshows comparing lynching images from the black pictorial press (African American Studies II, Dr. Jermaine Archer)
• Interactive timeline exploring perceptions of gay marriage (Psychology of Prejudice, Dr. Lien)
• Online student portfolios of multimedia capstone projects (Senior Media Portfolio, Prof. Smith)
• Citizen journalism multimedia projects (New Media (two sections), Prof. Smith)
• Women & Diversity photo collage series (Women’s Center, Dr. Quirke)

The Center continues to deepen relationships with community partners by collaborating with the First-Year program, the Women’s Center, the Center for Social Policy and Community Engagement and Long Island Wins to develop IDEA SPACE, a crowdsourced database that supports community-engaged and research-based student media projects. At the end of this pilot year, IDEA SPACE will be available as a resource to support student media projects. Old Westbury faculty and the College’s community partners will be invited to contribute entries as new issues and research arises. Student media projects inspired by IDEA SPACE will be released under a Creative Commons license allowing our partners to share and distribute these projects widely.

A 2014 IITG would allow the Center to continue offering the following successful pilot initiatives:

• Maintain and improve online resources to support digital literacy across the curriculum
• Improve existing online tutorials through testing and assessment
• Provide face-to-face and online digital tutoring (approximately 20 hours/week)
• Maintain IDEA SPACE, the Center’s community issue and research database
• Partner with the First-Year program to offer digital literacy projects in freshmen courses
• Support and share community-engaged and research-based student media projects

This grant would also support the following expansions:

• Conduct an assessment with faculty on their digital literacy needs
• Create new online resources and drop in hours targeting faculty needs
• Improve online tutoring by adding synchronous online support
• Link upper division courses to further promote digital literacy projects across the curriculum
• Expand and diversify the Center’s IDEA SPACE and promote related media projects

The Center’s proof-of-concept year is demonstrating that this collaborative, train-the-trainer model empowers students and faculty to become successful, life-long media learners and to share media skills with one another, our community partners, and the public. The combined online and face-to-face resources provide support for students and faculty who wish to expand their digital literacy. Such resources are essential if we are to support all students as SUNY expands online learning. If awarded continued support, the Collaborative Media Center at Old Westbury will continue to support collaborations and to openly share open educational resources, assessments and outcomes on SUNY Commons and beyond, with the goals of:
• Helping students struggling with digital literacy to improve academic success and retention
• Encouraging the use of free and open digital tools for innovative teaching and learning
• Supporting expansion of and innovation in online and blended teaching and learning
• Encouraging the use of digital communication for creative expression and civic engagement
• Supporting a physical and virtual learning communities
• Testing, improving and documenting an iterative training model for digital literacy development
• Providing documentation and assessment data for expansion and replication of the model

Project Outcome:

Outcomes TBD