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FAQ's about the Convergence Academies
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FAQ's about the Convergence Academies


General questions about the Convergence Academy Model


The process of becoming a Convergence Academy may also raise specific questions within the school community. Please review more specific information by clicking on your position below.


Q: Will this new model affect current staffing and administrators at the schools?
 Because this is a program re-design there will be no re-staffing for existing positions at selected schools. Current staff will go through professional development over the summer to become acquainted with the new curriculum design. The Convergence Academy model will require additional full-time staff, hired and overseen by Columbia College Chicago, who be trained and prepared to go into the schools starting this spring. 

Q: Will a new school building be built for the Convergence Academy?
 No, the current facilities at selected schools will be used for the Convergence Academies. New equipment and technology may be purchased through the grant for the school to meet the needs of the new curriculum design. 

Q: What is media arts integration?
 Media arts integration uses digital media (such as photography, video, music, graphic design, social media, video games, etc) to support student learning in academic classes (reading, math, science, social studies, etc).  

It expands our definition of “reading,” “writing,” and “text” to include other types of media besides words on a page.  We can “read” a photograph, a song, or a tv commercial using the same methods and level of rigor we use to read a novel or an essay.  

In addition to learning the academic content, students are also building their skills in using technology

Check out this documentary from PBS about digital media and 21st Century learners.

Q: How does media integration benefit student learning?
There are many benefits of media arts integration, including enhanced critical thinking, increased motivation and engagement, and improved 21st century skills in technology and communication.

TEAM, the program on which the Convergence Academies was modeled, showed a substantial increase in student motivation, interest, and participation. This was especially true for students who struggle with more traditional instruction; they were the ones who typically took on leadership roles within the projects and proved themselves to be creative thinkers and innovative problem solvers.

Increased Student Engagement and Motivation 2011-2012

CPS Technology Academies have an explicit expectation to integrate digital media across their K-8 curriculum. Students within these Academies use wikis/blogs to collaborate and showcase their work to an audience outside of the classroom; learn storytelling through the creation of digital storybooks and comic strips; produce photo essays and videos to help communicate their voice. As a result of this technology integration work in literacy, four out of the five Technology Academies demonstrated significant gains in ISAT scores after the implementation of the technology program in 2009.

Tech Academy ISAT Gains

While the practice of digital media integration in schools is not new, there is relatively little sustained research on its impact on achievement outcomes (test scores).  That being said, digital media integration is based on research in learning sciences, best practices, and social emotional development.  The Convergence Academies initiative will contribute much-needed research and evaluation on the effectiveness of media integration to improve teaching and learning.  If you’re interested in checking out some of the research we’ve based our work on, click HERE for the Digital Media Learning Research Hub’s website, which has videos, reports, books, and articles on the subject.

Q: What does media integration look like in action?
There is no one single model for what media integration looks like, and teachers can choose how deeply to go in media arts integration.  It can be something as simple as assigning viewing, listening, gaming, googling, and following in addition to just reading. Or it can take the shape of an ongoing project, co-taught by a teacher and a media artist, where students go through the creative process to produce a finished product. 

Typically in a media arts integrated classroom, you would see the following:

  • Students and teachers working together as a learning community, exploring a big idea or solving a problem that they care about, often using media as a space for conversation and dialogue.
  • Students learning from various kinds of media: watching videos, listening to podcasts, playing video games, following Twitter feeds, looking at photos, and yes—even reading books.

Students making original pieces of media and distributing or publishing them to an audience (other students in the school, their neighbors, residents of Chicago, or the world).

Here are two very different examples of what media arts integrated projects can look like:

PhotoGRAPH (TEAM) was a photography and algebra integration project that focused on how important algebra is because it’s all around us, if you just look for it

PhotoGRAPH: Visual Algebra from Columbia College TEAM on Vimeo.

Beyond the Numbers (TEAM) was a design and statistics project that focused on patterns of violence in the students’ neighborhood.

Beyond the Numbers: Violence in Austin from Columbia College TEAM on Vimeo.

Bonus video of a candid moment in the “Beyond the Numbers” classroom.  

May: Engaged Classroom from Columbia College TEAM on Vimeo.