Columbia College Chicago

FAQ's about the Convergence Academies

General Questions

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.

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: How does this initiative fit with schools?
The Convergence Academy model is best suited for a school that is ready for a strategic change in pedagogy and focus, but that would be able to use this initiative to build on the existing foundation in technology, arts or digital media. An ideal school would have an active community arts/technology network and existing partnership with community-based arts/technology organizations. A strong community support network with a robust backing of parents who are committed to the learning success of their child(ren) is also helpful. Convergence Academies is also ideal for staff excited to take their practice to the next level, regardless of their level of expertise in technology and digital media, who value collaboration and trying new things. 

Q: How does this affect teachers?
Please see the teachers' questions below.

Q: What additional resources are provided for schools?
Convergence Academies provides many additional resources for our schools:

  • Additional staff (full time and part time) dedicated to supporting teachers
  • Development of an instructional vision and corresponding tools (curriculum maps, vertical alignment)
  • Development of a professional learning community who’s work is driven by instruction and student achievement
  • Strategic support in revising the daily instructional schedule and courses
  • Development of media and communication tools (website, blog, marketing, PR, etc) to support work within your school and also to communicate outside of your school
  • Enhancement of existing technology infrastructure (equipment, software, etc)
  • Assistance in nurturing partnerships with community agencies to support students and families
  • Connections to Columbia resources for college readiness

Q: What additional staff will schools receive?
The grant provides several forms of support for our schools to do this work and develop classroom teachers' skills and capacity.

  • Media Specialist: Each school has on staff one full time media specialist, whose job it is to work as a partner in integrating digital media into teachers' lessons and to help develop digital media projects that support student learning. The media specialist ensures that classrooms have the resources and training needed to feel confident to try new things. This person also guest teaches in teachers' classes or connect teachers with artists who could help them strengthen their projects.
  • Curriculum Specialist: A full time curriculum specialist shared by both schools helps develop curriculum that is anchored in the Common Core and the academic standards teachers and students are held accountable for. This person focuses on helping teachers strengthen their curriculum academically and drives the development of the professional learning communities where teachers are developing, implementing and assessing their instruction through the lens of student work.
  • Teaching Artist/ Digital Media Coach: Faculty and artists from Columbia College work alongside teachers in the classroom in multi-week residencies to embed digital media projects into the curriculum in meaningful ways. They bring professional practices into teachers' classrooms and coach them in how to support their students in taking their work to the next level. These artists also provide tool-based training for teachers to learn the software, equipment, and platforms they'll use in their classrooms.
  • Professional Learning Communities: A cornerstone of this model is collaboration, which applies to teachers as much as it does students. Weekly team meetings are dedicated to a practice called Lesson Study, where teachers have a chance to reflect on a shared lesson, debrief and dig deep into what worked and why, and analyze its success by analyzing student work products.
  • Teacher Professional Development: We provide training not only in media and technology tools, but also project development, curriculum design, and other needs as they arise in teachers' classrooms. Our grant supports stipends to compensate teachers for extra time spent in training or planning meetings, beyond what’s covered in the teachers’ contract.
  • Administration Professional Development: We provide models, instructional supports, and coaching to administration teams on the process of leading a school through a change in focus. Project Directors from both CCAP and CPS are available to support the administration in the process of change.

Q: What would be required of a principal as a leader?
As principal, his/her support of this initiative, willingness to partner with us and include us as part of the school community, and how one models that for teachers is all critical to the success of Convergence Academies at school sites. Beyond that, we will work with our principals to think through scheduling, use of space, and redesigning professional development.



Q: Does a teacher need to be a techno-wizard in order to do this?
Not at all. Media integration and tools range from very simple to very complex, and Convergence Academies teachers are able to choose a level that’s right for them. Working closely with school staff and media coaches, teachers are able to determine their starting level and design a personalized development path based on their own learning goals. For instance, if a teacher is a relative tech novice, but would like to do a filmmaking project with students, we’ll work with that teacher to build their skills in using cameras, editing software, and filmmaking techniques, in addition to helping them craft the shape and sequence of the project.  

Plus, remember that teachers can take advantage of the expertise of their students. Many of our youth are tech experts, but even those who are not tend to prefer to learn new programs or technologies by playing around with them to see what they can do. And don’t underestimate the power of a really good tutorial video –there are at least 4 for anything you’d ever want to do on a computer! Teachers' most important role is that of a learning guide, not IT support.

Q: How is this different than what teachers are currently doing?
In many ways, it’s likely not all that different from the way teachers currently teach, as media integration is founded on the basic principals of good teaching and learning: a safe learning community, critical thinking, relevance, and active engagement.  

There is a difference, obviously, in the classroom tools and the frequency with which computers, cameras, and online platforms are used, and the degree to which students have access to them.

Below is a draft of a description of the instruction model for Convergence Academies, as it pertains to the teacher.


What the TEACHER does
  • Develop projects based on student interest
  • Provide opportunities for students to work together in a variety of ways
  • Involve students in articulating purpose and vision for projects
  • Set up safe on-line communities and manage the structures and logistics for engagement
  • Involve students in establishing expectations for how class will communicate in person and online


  • Curate a diverse transmedia selection of texts, including pop culture and entertainment
  • Build in time for rich critique and discussion for all media
  • In addition to content, ask questions about aesthetic and style, and how they enhance meaning
  • Use structures that build habits of mind for training the critical eye outside of school


  • Build in time to work through creative process as part of learning, including critique and revision
  • Assign creative multi or transmedia projects, rather than text-based assignments
  • Give students ownership of technology to create original works
  • Work with teaching artists and media coaches in planning and leading projects
  • Hold media projects to the same rigorous standards as written assignment


Q: What support will teachers receive?
The grant provides several forms of support for teachers to do this work and develop their own skills and capacity.
  • Media Specialist: Each school has on staff one full time media specialist, whose job it is to work as a partner in integrating digital media into teachers' lessons and to help them develop digital media projects that support student learning. The media specialist ensures that teachers have the resources and training needed to feel confident to try new things. This person also guest teaches in classes or connects teachers with artists who could help strengthen their projects.
  • Curriculum Specialist: A full time curriculum specialist shared by both schools helps develop curriculum that is anchored in the Common Core and the academic standards teachers and students are held accountable for. This person focuses on helping teachers strengthen their curriculum academically and provides coaching and collaborative design.
  • Teaching Artist/ Digital Media Coach: Faculty and artists from Columbia College work alongside teachers in the classroom in multi-week residencies to embed digital media projects into their curriculum in meaningful ways. They bring professional practices into the classroom and coach teachers in how to support students in taking their work to the next level. These artists also provide tool-based training for teachers to learn the software, equipment, and platforms they use in their classrooms.
  • Professional Learning Communities: A cornerstone of this model is collaboration, which applies to teachers as much as it does students. Weekly team meetings are dedicated to a practice called Lesson Study, where teachers and colleagues have a chance to reflect on a shared lesson and debrief and dig deep into what worked and why.
  • Professional Development: We will provide training not only in media and technology tools, but also project development, curriculum design, and other needs as they arise in the classroom. Our grant supports stipends to compensate teachers for extra time spent in training or planning meetings, beyond what’s covered in the teachers’ contract.

Q: How will this help teachers adopt the Common Core?
Media integration is not an add-on to what teachers already have to do; it should be an enhancement of what they're doing in the classroom. 

Our definition of media literacy is solidly based in the Common Core definition of literacy:

  • Speaking and Listening = Connect
  • Reading = Consume
  • Writing = Create

When we define all media as text, we can apply the anchor standards for each area of literacy to how students engage with media in a variety of ways. 

For math standards, we have seen successful examples of media integration improving achievement. Media practices and processes such as visualization, animation, and modeling, in addition to connecting math concepts to real world issues and stories, help students understand and apply concepts that they had previously struggled with.


Q: Does a child participating in Convergence Academies need a computer?
A: No. While a computer with internet access at home is a great tool and will support a child’s learning, it is not necessary. Computer access to students are available before and after school, and we will work with community organizations (such as libraries, community centers, and youth arts organizations) to identify alternative locations where students can access computers.   

Q: Will a child be doing traditional school work as well, or is it all movies and video games and computers?
A: While our classrooms may look very different, students are learning the same content as they would at a traditional school. We understand that young people are already exposed to a lot of screen time, so there will also be a lot of time during every day when students are not “plugged in.”  

Q: If the school is using social media, how do I know that students will be safe online?
A: A child’s safety is incredibly important to us, and we take that very seriously. CPS and state policy require schools to develop digital citizenship knowledge and skills in all students. The Convergence Academies will adhere to that policy by asking teachers to dedicate time to teaching students how to be safe online, how to avoid cyber bullying, and how to protect their privacy. We want to share the amazing work the students do with a national audience, but we will not share anything from a student without written approval. We will be using closed social networks within the school community that is only accessible to teachers, parents, and students, and there will be strict guidelines for positive online behavior that students will be held accountable for. 

Para más información en español:
InformaciĆ³n de solicitud para Academias de convergencia

P: ¿Este modelo afectará al personal y los administradores actuales?
 Debido a que se trata de rediseñar un programa, no habrá renovación de personal para los cargos existentes en las escuelas seleccionadas. El personal actual atravesará el desarrollo profesional durante el verano para familiarizarse con el nuevo diseño curricular. El modelo de Academia de convergencia requerirá personal de tiempo completo, contratado y supervisado por Columbia College Chicago, que estará capacitado y preparado para ingresar a las escuelas a partir de esta primavera. 

P: ¿Se construirá un nuevo edificio escolar para la Academia de convergencia?
 No, se utilizarán las instalaciones actuales en las escuelas seleccionadas para las Academias de convergencia. Se puede comprar nuevo equipo y tecnología a través de la subvención para que la escuela satisfaga las necesidades del nuevo diseño curricular. 

P: ¿Qué significa integración de artes mediáticas?
 La integración de artes mediáticas utiliza medios digitales (como fotografía, video, música, diseño gráfico, medios sociales, videojuegos, etc.) para respaldar el aprendizaje estudiantil en las clases académicas (lectura, matemáticas, estudios sociales, etc.).

Expande nuestra definición de “lectura”, “escritura” y “texto” para incluir otros tipos de medios además de las palabras en una página. Podemos “leer” una fotografía, una canción o un comercial de televisión con los mismos métodos y el mismo nivel de rigor que usamos para leer una novela o un ensayo.

Además de aprender el contenido académico, los estudiantes también están desarrollando sus habilidades mediante el uso de la tecnología

Vea este documental de PBS sobre los medios digitales y los aprendices del siglo 21º.

P: ¿De qué manera la integración de los medios beneficia el aprendizaje de los estudiantes?
Hay muchos beneficios de la integración de artes mediáticas, entre ellos la mejora del pensamiento crítico, el aumento en la motivación y el compromiso y una mejora en las habilidades del siglo 21 en tecnología y comunicación.

TEAM (Transforman Educación Through the Arts and Media, Transformando la Educación a través de las Artes y los Medios), el programa sobre el cual se modelaron las Academias de convergencia, mostró un aumento significante en la motivación, el interés y la participación de los estudiantes. Esto resultó especialmente cierto para los estudiantes que tienen dificultades con la enseñanza más tradicional; ellos eran los que solían asumir roles de liderazgo dentro de los proyectos y demostraron ser pensadores creativos e innovadores solucionadores de problemas.

Increased Student Engagement and Motivation 2011-2012

Las Academias tecnológicas CPS tienen una expectativa explícita de integrar los medios digitales en el currículum K-8. Los estudiantes dentro de estas Academias usan wikis/blogs para colaborar y mostrar su trabajo a un público fuera del aula; aprender narración a través de la creación de libros de cuentos digitales y tiras cómicas; producir ensayos fotográficos y videos para ayudar a comunicar su voz. Como resultado de este trabajo de integración tecnológica en la alfabetización, cuatro de cinco Academias tecnológicas demostraron beneficios significativos en calificaciones de pruebas ISAT luego de la implementación del programa tecnológico en 2009.

Tech Academy ISAT Gains

Mientras la práctica de la integración de medios digitales en las escuelas no es nueva, existe muy poca investigación sostenida sobre el impacto en los resultados de los logros (calificaciones de exámenes). Dicho esto, la integración tecnológica se basa en la investigación de las ciencias del aprendizaje, las buenas prácticas y el desarrollo social emocional. La iniciativa de las Academias de convergencia contribuirá a la investigación tan necesaria y la evaluación sobre la eficacia de la integración de los medios a fin de mejorar la enseñanza y el aprendizaje. Si está interesado en ver algunas investigaciones sobre las que hemos basado nuestro trabajo, haga clic AQUÍ para ir al sitio web de Digital Media Learning Research Hub, que tiene videos, informes, libros y artículos sobre el tema.

P: ¿Cómo resulta la integración de medios en la práctica?
No hay un modelo que establezca cómo resulta la integración de medios, y los profesores pueden elegir con qué profundidad desean abordar la integración de artes y medios. Puede ser tan simple como asignar visualizar, escuchar, jugar, buscar en Google y seguir además de simplemente leer. O puede tomar la forma de un proyecto continuo, dictado por un profesor y un artista de medios en forma colaborativa, donde los estudiantes atraviesen el proceso creativo para desarrollar un producto terminado.

Generalmente, en un aula de integración de artes de medios, vería lo siguiente:

  • Estudiantes y profesores trabajando juntos como una comunidad de aprendizaje, explorando una gran idea o resolviendo un problema que les interesa, a menudo mediante el uso de medios como un espacio para la conversación y el diálogo.
  • Los estudiantes aprenden de distintos tipos de medios: miran videos, escuchan podcasts, juegan videojuegos, siguen feeds de Twitter, miran fotos y sí, hasta leen libros.

Los estudiantes crean piezas originales de medios y los distribuyen o publican para un público (otros estudiantes de la escuela, los vecinos, los residentes de Chicago o el mundo).

Aquí hay dos ejemplos distintos de cómo funcionan los proyectos de integración de arte mediático:

Fotografía (EQUIPO) era un proyecto de integración de fotografía y álgebra que se enfocaba en cuán importante es álgebra porque nos rodea, si la buscas

Fotografía: Visual Algebra de Columbia College TEAM en Vimeo.

Más allá de los números (TEAM) fue un proyecto de diseño y estadística que se enfocó en los patrones de violencia en el vecindario de los estudiantes.

Más allá de los números: Violence in Austin de Columbia College TEAM en Vimeo.

Video extra de un momento especial en el aula de “Más allá de los números”. 

Mayo: Engaged Classroom de Columbia College TEAM en Vimeo.

Padres interesados

P: ¿Esto significa que mi hijo necesita una computadora?
R: No. Aunque una computadora con acceso a Internet en casa es una herramienta grandiosa y respaldará el aprendizaje de su hijo, no es necesaria. El acceso a las computadoras para los estudiantes estará disponible antes y después de la escuela, y trabajaremos con las organizaciones comunitarias (como bibliotecas, centros comunitario y organizaciones de arte juvenil) para identificar ubicaciones alternativas donde los estudiantes puedan acceder a las computadoras.

P: ¿Mi hijo también hará tareas de escuela tradicional, o todo será películas y videojuegos y computadoras?
R: Aunque nuestras aulas se vean muy distintas, los estudiantes aprenderán el mismo contenido que en una escuela tradicional. Entendemos que los jóvenes ya están expuestos a mucho tiempo frente a la pantalla, de modo que también habrá mucho tiempo durante el día en que los estudiantes no estarán “conectados”.

P: Si la escuela utilizará medios sociales, ¿cómo sé que mi hijo estará seguro en Internet?
R: La seguridad de su hijo es increíblemente importante para nosotros, y la tomamos con mucha seriedad. Las CPS y la política estatal requieren que las escuelas desarrollen conocimientos y habilidades digitales para los ciudadanos en todos los estudiantes. Las Academias de convergencia se adherirán a esta política y pedirán a los profesores que dediquen tiempo a enseñar a los alumnos cómo estar seguros en Internet, como evitar el acoso cibernético y como proteger su privacidad. Queremos compartir el sorprendente trabajo que hacen los estudiantes con un público nacional, pero no compartiremos nada de su hijo sin su consentimiento escrito. Usaremos una red social cerrada dentro de la comunidad escolar que es solo accesible para los profesores, padres y estudiantes, y habrá instrucciones estrictas para el comportamiento positivo en línea, que será responsabilidad de los estudiantes. 

P: Creo que el programa será grandioso para la escuela de mi hijo, ¿cómo obtengo más información para el director de mi escuela? 
R: Para compartir este sitio web con el director de su hijo y solicitar que se dicte una sesión informativa en su escuela, escríbanos a