Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Podcasting the Immigrant Experience

Students in Tyler Thornburg's class interview
an immigrant about her journey to the U.S.
Eighth grade students at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Tulsa, Oklahoma spent the last month of the school year working on a podcast project to enrich the immigration theme of the school year. While many students at the school come from immigrant families, not many of them had heard their families’ stories about how they came to the United States. Teacher Tyler Thornburg seized an opportunity for authentic learning and engagement.

The idea to develop student-created podcasts on the immigrant experience arose after listening to a “This American Life” podcast on National Public Radio about an immigrant named Abdi, a Somali refugee, and his epic journey to the United States. Thornburg wanted his students to create something like this podcast, which they could then share with their families. He was hoping for students to tell the story of their family’s journey to the United States (or someone else’s they knew) and then ask the people they were interviewing if the sacrifices they made were worth it.

Many of the conclusions reached by the immigrants interviewed surprised students and helped them to develop a fuller understanding of immigrants and immigration. Thornburg’s students had often only experienced the difficulty of living in the United States and thought that life in Mexico or a country in Africa had to be better than here. However, many of the people interviewed said they would not go back if they could because of the impact that their decision has had on their children and grandchildren. These answers forced students to look at their life and the immigrant experience from a larger perspective and to see that small decisions over a lifetime can have a profound impact.   

Practice and Patience

As is often the case, new experiments in the classroom don’t always go as planned, but they offer rich learning experiences for teachers and students. Thornburg said:
Our eighth grade class was behind on our curriculum for the year, so we worked on the podcast at the same time as finishing the school year. If I were to do the project over again, I would only focus on the podcast project and not do any other content. The way the lesson plan is written is how I decided to do things, and some of the things we did, did not take an entire day, while other things took more than one day, and other tasks were somewhere in between. I tried to write the lesson with some flexibility so teachers could use their own creativity to make any and every change.
Reflecting on the project, Thornburg offered some words of advice for teachers wanting to create podcasts with students, primarily regarding practice and patience:
Practice is something both students and teachers need. Create a podcast yourself for students to listen to so you are prepared to show students how to use the software  and hardware. There isn’t a more frustrating moment as a teacher when students ask  you how to do something and you don’t know what they are talking about because you haven’t done it yourself. It’s also important to have your students practice. My students needed a lot of practice and probably could have used more when they were creating their podcasts. 
The two areas that students needed the most practice is recording and editing. The recording is picked up much faster than the editing, and this is where patience comes in. Plan more time than you think to allow students to practice. You will thank yourself later. The thing that I needed to realize is that for many of my students this was the first time they had ever created a podcast and edited audio. They know what the final product is supposed to sound like, so I advise letting them discover how to get there. This forces the teacher to allow the students some autonomy, which can be scary, but they will rise to it if you give them enough encouragement and support. 
Lastly, and this was the most difficult thing for me teaching six preps, is that feedback is essential for students. Students need to know what you are expecting of them and where they can improve. I was surprised at how much they wanted to edit and change things when I gave them feedback. The stories that arose as a result of this project were amazing and the interaction of students with immigrants and technology was incredibly inspiring to watch as their teacher.
  • Click on the link to download student-created podcasts to Music Player for Google Drive or your computer's audio device. These podcasts can serve as exemplars for project-based learning.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Meet the Student Leaders of the Teach Immigration Project

The Teach Immigration Project has selected three student ambassadors to intern this summer at Long Island-based non-profits that works on immigration issues.  The intern experience will foster the students' interest in community and civic engagement and acquaint them with community needs and resources.  The students will interact with community leaders and decision makers.  They will develop leadership skills, have the opportunity to share their experiences with the community at future events, and will present at a student forum in the fall.

Meet this year’s student ambassadors:

William Ban, 17, is an active member of his school, Great Neck South High School, and community. He is the Grand Prize recipient of the Shanti Fund “Youth for Peace” competition, the President’s Volunteer Service Award for over 150 service hours in a year, and a 2015 Deca Nationals Stock Market Game Finalist, placing second out of 1300 regional volunteers. He is an avid skit and song performer on independence movements and world peace and has served as a MC for several community events.

When asked about why he believes immigration is important to the future of Long Island, Ban responded, “when our community becomes more diversified, we gain new ideas, cultures, and perspectives.” He added that it is a civic duty to “integrate immigrants to the Long Island community and discourage racial biases or feelings of hateful nativism.”

Ban will be interning with Long Island Wins.

Shafaq Khan, 16, is a volunteer and leader in her school, Sewanhaka High School, and community. She is the President of her school’s Key Club, a nationwide community service organization, raising awareness and funds for other organizations, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation and UNICEF. She teaches Model UN debate skills to elementary students and organizes elementary and high school level Model UN conferences. She also tutors ELL students, writes for her school newspaper, and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Khan writes, “immigrants help broaden perspectives regarding race, ethnicity, religion, and culture.” Citing Justice Sonia Sotomayor as one of her role models, Khan hopes to become a lawyer or judge, specifically addressing immigration, religious tolerance, women’s rights, and racial profiling.

Khan will be interning with Caracen.

Zairel Luna, 16, is a student at Centereach High School, where she holds several leadership positions including serving as Sophomore Class President, Black History Month and Women’s History Month Committee Coordinators, and as a member of honor societies including the Music Honors Society, the Italian Honors Society, and as an Honor Student.

Luna wrote in her application that she believes “the future of Long Island is in the hands of Millenials” and that she has worked hard to encourage the voices of her peers to be heard on immigration and other issues they feel strongly about.

Luna will be interning with Jobs with Justice.