DMA Central


How Three Days Made a Difference: On-line learning vs. DMA

Hands-on Learning with DMAMelissa Hughes is an elementary school educator and web developer in the San Diego area. She recently attended the Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs. Hear her comparison of on-line learning vs. the hands-on experience of DMA:

I have been an elementary educator for over ten years. This past year, I went on child-rearing leave from the classroom. I am concurrently using this sabbatical to earn an online masters degree in Educational Technology from San Diego State University. When it occurred to me that I was in the position to attend the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs, I jumped at the opportunity.

One of the very first details I noticed from the CUE schedule was the amount of training sessions hosted by Digital Media Academy. I had never heard of them, but was impressed by the session descriptions. One was an introduction to Dreamweaver. How timely since one of my recent masters courses was in web design. I recalled how much I enjoyed getting my first taste of Dreamweaver, yet frustrated that the online delivery method of that course had left me with more questions than answers. I had ended the semester having created my first website. However, it was all done by a written tutorial, so I didn’t feel like I had a firm understanding of what I had actually done! What if I wanted to revise my site? Customize it? The class never addressed updates or latest features in the program. Perhaps DMA would be able to clarify in three days what I had been struggling with understanding in three months.

Wow! What an understatement. Even though online learning may be the hot thing nowadays, there is something to be said about learning in a physical classroom. The teachers at DMA used their classrooms for just that: personal learning. They didn’t come across like tech geeks in teacher’s clothing. They didn’t talk down to you if you didn’t understand. Most of all, they were patient. The Dreamweaver session was not a lecture, but a hands-on workshop. The hour-long session wasn’t filled with presenter adlibs, but actual practice with the application. How often does one get to work with state-of-the-art equipment at a conference, for free?! Even the mini 20-minute sessions in the CUE exhibit hall were packed full of information. I walked away from their trainings feeling like I learned more there than I ever did in that college semester.

If or when I decide to go back into the classroom, I know I will be going back energized by what I learned at CUE 2009. It certainly will not be my last CUE conference. For me, it is only the beginning with Digital Media Academy. I am anxious to take their summer course on web design in San Diego. Through it, I hope to help my husband’s small graphics business expand his services. Down the road, I one day plan to open an after-school technology center for elementary school students. Either way, DMA has laid yet another foundation for my ongoing study of technology in the 21st century.

Melissa Hughes
Elementary School Teacher
San Diego, CA

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Technology at the forefront of Life Long Learning


Janet Armstrong is a high school teacher at Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California. She recently attended CUE (Computer Using Educators), where she learned of DMA. Seeing the importance of technology in today’s world and the importance of keeping up with and teaching the latest technology to her students, she is going to take a DMA course this summer to advance her skills. The following is her views on technology in the classroom:

Schools have seen the need to educate students to make appropriate, efficient, and productive use of available technologies. At the same time they are compelled to reduce the digital divide that exists between higher and lower socioeconomic groups of students, giving them all access to the same tools. Consequently, as the tools advance, educators must be at the forefront of life long learning.

Life long learning is a phrase that has been buzzing around academia for the last decade. It’s a mindset educators must have to stay connected to the ever-evolving technology that seems to grow exponentially each year. Teachers and administrators MUST stay abreast these advances or they will quickly find themselves fossils.

Skills once reserved only for high school students are more appropriate today for middle school students. This has created the opportunity to expose high school students to cutting edge technologies that are fun, interesting and highly engaging. At Wilcox High School in Santa Clara we are opening two new digital media courses that will employ the use of Adobe CS4 products to teach web design, digital image editing, digital storytelling, and publication design. To be a proficient teacher I must become a proficient user of these tools. This summer Digital Media Academy at Stanford will prepare me to be such a teacher. The Introduction to Web Design with Adobe CS4 – Dreamweaver, Flash & Photoshop course will enhance my current skills as I learn the latest version of these programs to design lessons and activities for my students.

Life today is complex and diverse. As never before, communication involves the constant use of visuals, sound, and action. The digital age is here and education has the responsibility to prepare our children to use the tools today and into the future. Thankfully, the Digital Media Academy is available to assist with this process.

Janet Armstrong
Adrian Wilcox High School

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Bert Corona Charter Schools

Bert Corona Charter SchoolsToday we began the first of three days at the national conference of Computer Using Educators (CUE) in Palm Springs, CA. What makes this conference unique is the opportunity to hear stories from teachers around the country about how technology is changing education and inspiring student success. Today I had the privilege of talking with Ruben Duenas, Principal of the Bert Corona Charter Middle School in Pacoima, CA. Last year, Ruben sent 15 of his top students to DMA at Stanford University, where students took Adventures in Web Design and Flash. This year, Ruben plans to send another group of 15 middle school students to UCLA for Web Design and Flash Animation for Teens. In the meantime, the group he sent last year is trying to fund raise their way back to another DMA class!

Many of these students come from families that would not be able to send their children to a program like DMA without the encouragement and support of the Bert Corona School. Many of these students, in fact, will hopefully be the first in their family to go to college. The DMA experience thus provides a very unique opportunity for these students to experience college life while gaining new skills in a creative environment. The hope is that these young minds will be inspired and will gain confidence through discovering new interests – interests that lead to truly marketable skills. Furthermore, the college campus experience motivates students to work hard and be college-bound. Ruben’s efforts to send students to DMA for a summer learning experience is consistent with the overall mission of the Bert Corona Charter Schools. As their website explains, “the Bert Corona Charter School seeks to close the achievement gap for urban students in grades 6-8 and equip students for academic success, active community participation and life-long learning.”

What I appreciate about Ruben is that he is trying to narrow the achievement gap in several ways. In addition to providing a unique opportunity for low-income families, he is narrowing in on the gender gap as well. In both 2008 and 2009, he has sent more girls than boys, thus painting the picture to these girls that learning about technology is for everyone!

For more information about our presence at the CUE conference, go to a recent post by Phil Gibson.

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Gender Equity in Education

ggI recently read a report commissioned by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation called Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children. The report is a follow up to their first report, How Schools Shortchange Girls. While the report acknowledges that schools have made progress in providing an equitable education for both boys and girls, some concerns still remain.

The report examines several areas, including how many girls are taking math and science classes, the use of technology among girls, risk issues and preparedness for the workforce. I found the issue of technology use among girls to be particularly interesting. As the report mentions, “Girls make up only a small percentage of students in computer science and computer design classes. The gender gap widens from grade eight to eleven. Girls are significantly more likely than boys to enroll in clerical and data-entry classes, the 1990s version of typing, and less likely to enroll in advanced computer science and graphics courses.”

This concerns me, especially since more and more jobs and careers involve the use of computer technology. As the report says, “A competitive nation cannot allow girls to write off technology as exclusively male domain.”

The report makes several suggestions on how to alleviate this concern. They primarily target teacher professional development, stating “teachers need guidance on how to use classroom technologies to advance the dual goals of excellent and equitable education.” The word that stands out to me in this statement is “equitable.” While we as a society have long recognized the effectiveness of technology on learning in the classroom, how many of us see it as an issue of equity? This is a powerful idea.

Having myself taught in an elementary school classroom, I can attest to the difference between technology being introduced in the primary grades (such as kindergarten or first grade) compared to older grades (such as high school). The earlier technology is introduced into the classroom, the more equitable the access. Walk into any first grade classroom, for example, and you will find kids feeling free to participate in any activity. The later technology is introduced into the classroom, the wider the gap. Hence why there are fewer girls than boys enrolling in high school computer science classes.

However, if more middle and elementary school teachers began using technology in the classroom, imagine how the gap would narrow and how many more girls would have equitable access. To do this, we need district administrators, principals and teachers to see the value in professional development for teachers. We need to see more teachers at annual conferences like the Computer Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs or online at webinars hosted by organizations like T.H.E Journal, a publication that focuses on technology implementation in K-12 schools and districts. Or what if across the country, computer classes hosted by the Digital Media Academy became a meeting place for teachers to inspire each other with ideas for reaching students through technology?

Because our courses are offered for Stanford University Continuing Studies units, many of our locations, like Stanford University, The University of Texas at Austin, or Darlington, South Carolina, are already annual meeting places for teachers. Many are taking classes like Web Design, Digital Filmmaking and Storytelling Bootcamp, Final Cut Pro (film editing), or Digital Photography and Photoshop. What would be greatly encouraging, however, is to see our programs be not just a meeting place for some teachers, but a meeting place for all teachers. An investment in each teacher’s professional development has a multiplying effect. Imagine the power that would be unleashed every September if teachers, refreshed and retrained through the summer, walked into classrooms all over the country with new ideas on how to apply technology into their everyday curriculum. As a society, we may actually move towards equity in education. And as the AAUW Educational Foundation wisely notes, “equity is the key to excellence in education.”

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