Film and Literature: Life on the Internet
by Kathryn Turner
Good morning, CCCS family!
I’m pleased to be writing to you today about my pride and joy: Film and Literature! I’m happy to report that, as of yesterday, we successfully completed our fourth semester of this innovative course! I piloted Film & Literature in the Spring of 2019 with the goal of giving students another option for earning ELA credits, an area students often fall behind in on their path to graduation. My plan was two-fold: make an ELA class that was so fun and interesting, students wouldn’t even realize how hard they were working, and to make the ELA curriculum more accessible for our students who struggle with reading. The “bait” for all this good learning was movies! I used many forms of media throughout the semesters, even incorporating a field trip to see a live production in San Francisco of the hit musical, Hamilton, but movies have always been the centerpiece of the course. That is, until we entered a global pandemic!
When I realized I would need to start planning for a semester of distance learning, I put out the call to friends and colleagues for ideas. At first I thought I would just show the movies over Zoom. However, I was advised that I would likely run into many technical difficulties, as movies require a lot of bandwidth to stream with good quality picture and sound. We’ve all experienced the maddening frustration of audio and video that are out of sync! No fun! With feature-length films off the table, I started thinking about other forms of engaging media that would be fun, educational, and accessible for students. To minimize the chance of technical difficulties, I set some guidelines for myself:
- Optional attendance: I didn’t want technical problems to interfere with students’ ability to access the class. It didn’t seem fair to punish students for not attending a Zoom class because of Wifi issues (or the zillion other issues that can arise in our turbulent times). I constructed the class in such a way that if a student did attend class, they would have fun and an easier time getting the work done, but that if they didn’t attend, they could still access all the necessary materials on their own through Google Classroom.
- Free Media: with maximum accessibility in mind, I chose to only include videos and other materials that students could access on their own and for free. That turned out to be a lot of YouTube, but we also incorporated other resources as well, such as podcasts, articles, Kahoot quiz games, and self-directed exploration projects.
I also like each semester to have a theme to it, and since we were in a world where even more of our lives were being lived out on the internet, I thought The Internet would make a very relevant and timely theme! Our main exploration questions for the semester were:
- How can we be effective listeners and effective communicators, especially online? (And why are people often so bad at it, especially online?)
- What IS science anyway?
- How do we tell the difference between helpful science and junk science?
- How do we spot fake news? What does good journalism look like?
- How do we have a healthy, life-long relationship with The Internet?
Photography teacher Devin Bruce made a guest appearance to teach students how to recognize photoshopped or maniupated photographs on the media (read about our photojournalism class here).
It was a very different sort of semester for both myself and the students. Distance-learning had many pros and cons to it, but I’m happy to report that both the students and myself had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and grew because of the experience. Next semester, starting in January, our fabulous ELA and drama teacher, Ms. Stuckey, will be taking over Film & Lit for me, as I am expecting the birth of my first-born in April. However, I will still be helping with the planning of the class and I’m looking forward to coming up with even more fun and creative ways to keep students engaged and earning ELA credits!
Be well and be safe,
Kathryn Turner, CCCS teacher