Powerful Voices Summer Institute Overview

POWERFUL VOICES FOR KIDS LEARNING COMMUNITY. RBCS Educators are participating in a small learning community, beginning November 2010.

POWERFUL VOICES FOR KIDS OPEN DOORS PROGRAM 2010. Open to the public this 25-hour program of professional development was offered by Renee Hobbs and the Powerful Voices for Kids team during the week of July 19 - 23, 2010. Participants shared ideas at our online community blog.

POWERFUL VOICES FOR KIDS SUMMER INSTITUTE, 2009. Our 2009 program offered a 40-hour intensive professional development experience developed by Renee Hobbs and taught by a diverse faculty including leading scholars, experienced classroom teachers, media professionals, and educational technology specialists. Participants learn about the theory of media literacy, engage in model lessons to deepen their understanding of the use of critical media analysis and media composition in the K- 8 classroom, strengthen technology skills, and explore the complex role of media and technology in the lives of children and young people.  Each participant received a Flip video camera to take home.  Essential questions included:

  • Introduction to Media Literacy. What knowledge, skills and competencies are essential to become a powerful communicator in contemporary society?
  • Understanding Today’s Learners. How can learning about children’s interaction with media texts and technology tools help educators become more effective in the classroom?
  • Authors and Audiences, Messages and Meanings, Representations and Realities. How can we best help children to become critical thinkers in responding to media messages that shape their personal and social identity and their understanding of the world?
  • Who’s Telling the Stories? Understanding News and Advertising. How can children’s engagement with storytelling, news and advertising support reading comprehension, text analysis and composition skills?
  • The Future of Literacy. What role do teachers and parents play in developing a learning environment that meets the needs of 21st century learners?

The program combined discussion, small group activities, and composition with media and technology. Participants engaged in three model lessons during each day of the program, helping them expand their repertoire of instructional strategies.

Participants gained experience with media composition activities using video and online writing collaboration tools. Each day of the program, teachers engaged in a production activity. As part of their learning, teachers interviewed an elementary student from the PVK summer camp using a video camera, and edited a simple video, uploading it to YouTube. Teachers created a basic web page to compose and to share their writing. These practical skills prepared teachers to re-enter their classrooms in the fall with a repertoire of exciting new skills with which to connect with their students.

 ABOUT THE 2009 Program: Evidence of Teacher Learning

We measured teacher learning through a pre-test post-test questionnaire using a mix of both qualitative and quantitative questions. We asked teachers to self-assess their competence in key learning outcomes, reporting their responses on a 10-point scale. Teachers demonstrated significant gains in key learning outcomes, as shown below.

We asked 24 program participants to compare their experience with Powerful Voices for Kids to all the other professional development programs they have experienced in their career. Using a 10-point scale, teachers offered their evaluation of the overall program quality.
Mean score: 9.50 on a 10-pt scale                    

We asked teachers to self-assess their competence on a 10-point scale on the first day of the program and at the end of the week. Table 1 shows the results.

table 1 teacher learning

Over the course of the week, teachers developed marked enthusiasm and increased their interest in continuing to learn more – and in sharing what they learned with others. Teachers also ended the week with greater confidence that they could integrate media literacy, media composition and online media tools into their educational tool-kit.

Teacher Perceptions of Program Value

By the end of the week, teachers understood the value of media literacy as an essential life skill that contributes to the development of literacy and citizenship skills.

When asked to explain why media literacy is important, one teacher wrote: "It empowers students to think critically based on informed ideas and varying viewpoints. It builds upon what students already know and enjoy, engaging them in new concepts. It prepares them to be respectful citizens in a democratic and consumer-based society."

We asked teachers to assess the value of the program on a 5-point scale at the end of the week. Table 2 shows the results.  Teachers gave very high marks to the program in assessing the quality of content, the faculty and instructional activities.  They rated the program as highly relevant to their work.


The lowest score—for technology—reflects the challenges we experienced in using wireless access available at the Russell Byers Charter School. When 24 teachers attempted to use the Internet through the wireless for a production activity, the service was often slow and unresponsive. For the 2010 program, we have dramatically upgraded the wireless capacity available to participants.

Teachers’ written comments reveal the relevance and transformative value of this professional development program to their work in the classroom:

•    "I learned how to use new technology and internet sites in my classroom. I wish I had known this 8 years ago when I started teaching."

•    "I liked interacting with students and using the flip cameras. I like the varied presentation styles and the many interactive activities. I learned to look at my teaching in a deeper way and to be more comfortable with technology." 

•    "I liked how much we participated in hands-on activities to validate our learning."

•    "Up until this point, my educational strategy to improve student literacy has been mainly text media focused. I am now going to make strategic attempts to teach literacy through a variety of media such as video and the Internet. 

•    "I will use multiple media to teach fact and opinion, audience, purpose, etc. I will teach media literacy along with my core subjects."