The Impact: Reducing Barriers, Expanding Opportunity
Education has always been a cornerstone of opportunity, and a driver of equity. In California, the pipeline from K-12 education to college to career is broken. To equitably implement the new core standards entails providing teachers with high quality professional development and students with relevant curriculum that prepares them to excel in our technologically-based economy. DIGICOM does both, and is positioned to do more by linking what is in the classroom with what is happening in students’ communities, which are largely under-resourced. In the Coachella Valley an astounding 67.7% of the population lives below the federal poverty line.
Moreover, DIGICOM is actively addressing the digital divide by providing low-income students in school the technologies they cannot access outside of school as easily as their more privileged counterparts. As noted in a 2015 UC Riverside report [emphasis in bold added]:
Nevertheless, DST can be an effective way to bridge the digital divide because it engages multiple intelligences and utilizes aspects of digital communication that are novel to even relatively experienced and advantaged students (Gregory & Steelman, 2008). Digital Storytelling requires group cooperation in conceptualizing, composing and producing the digital stories – a process that tends to level the playing field, stretching the capacities and inviting varied contributions from diverse student groups.
Additionally, Digital Storytelling encourages capturing diverse cultural heritages and preserving community and family narratives which elicits contributions from students who have been previously on the disadvantaged side of the digital divide (UC Riverside, Gregory & Steelman, 2008; Lambert, 2006).
A review of research recently completed by UC Irvine’s Graduate School of Education provided a clear picture of the strength of digital storytelling in developing the social and emotional growth of K-12 youth, and that it is especially effective in reaching at risk youth including English Language Learners and marginalized student populations. The digital storytelling experience, done properly, develops skills in collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication, especially writing. Numerous research studies have found that students who experience digital storytelling in classrooms with trained teachers retain information longer, have a deeper understanding of content, and have a deeper mastery of digital literacy. (Mark Warschauer and Viet Vu, University of California, Irvine, 2018.)
DIGICOM is leveling the playing field by providing low-income students with digital storytelling skills that stretch their learning muscles and create a container for family and community engagement. To know what we do is to see what we do, and so we hope you will enjoy viewing two powerful student videos that highlighlight important community issues: Watch the videos above.
Collaboration is at the heart of our work in schools and the community. The Palm Springs Unified School District is our main partner and funder. We develop working partnerships with a variety of public and private entities to develop targeted programs in the community. Through “Black Voices Rising” DIGICOM is working with black youth and their allies to produce digital stores that illuminate the triumphs, tragedies, struggles, and aspirations of the Black Community in the City of Palm Springs. This is a collaborative project with the Palm Springs Black Cultural Committee, the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center, and the City of Palm Springs.
Whenever we launch a new project, we focus on building the relationships needed to ensure success. For instance, we have been approached to work on a project that will tell the story of homelessness in the Valley, designed to challenge people’s perceptions and to promote change. If this initiative goes forward, we will begin to reach out to organizations and community leaders who have been working on this issue for decades, tapping into their wisdom and networks to ensure success.
Our most recent collaboration is with the College of the Desert (our local community college), to create a Regional Center for Digital Media Education. This will allow us to leverage the resources of a major higher educational institution in the desert. The College is building a campus in the City of Palm Springs. We are in the early stages of exploring a partnership, which will enable us to expand our work into postsecondary education. Although many low-income and marginalized youth in California enroll in the community college system, many of them do not graduate. We view expansion as a way for young people in the Coachella Valley to continue building their skills in digital storytelling after high school and to ensure their engagement in and ultimate completion of their community college education. We also view this continuing education as a vehicle for connecting young people to a wealth of related digital media career opportunities.
As we strengthen our pathway approach and build the partnership essential for success, we are building on collaborative planning discussions with College of the Desert, California State University, Palm Desert, UC Riverside, private sector partners with businesses creating or using digital media, our three local K-12 Districts, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coachella Valley, and OneFuture Coachella Valley, a hub for facilitation of career pathways work in our region. These partners will both expand existing strategies in K-12 digital storytelling training, and engage College of the Desert and other partners to help create strong, articulated academic pathways for digital storytelling strategies that will link to private sector business and career opportunities.