ARCHIVED—Exemplary Practices 2008
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Technology…Straight from the Heart
Self-directed learning is a large part of Murray Bulger's program at Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver, BC. He teaches 14 different art and design courses using technology, everything from digital imaging to photography, sound recording, animation, film and television, graphic and Web design and so on. Bulger and two other teachers have 750 students running through their courses. To do the courses, students need to learn 12 different technology tools. To learn how to use the tools, Bulger and his team have created a series of self-help videos on DVD. Once the tools are mastered, actual learning takes place. Bulger likens the process to taking a driving test. Students are quizzed on their ability with each of the tools and must achieve a certain level of mastery before they can move on. "We've made these (DVDs) for almost all of the tools we use and they get past the tools efficiently and effectively so the tools get pushed aside in terms of what's really important," he says.
While the tools are important, what really matters is the project work itself. For example, Bulger's students have launched a youth culture magazine called 44 (named after school district 44). Teachers were only involved in guiding the process. The creative elements, the design, the content, were all student driven. There were some roadblocks. It took some time for the group to figure out the direction for the magazine and its message. They had to work as a team to come to a consensus. Then a member of the magazine team died suddenly in an accident and the students were devastated. They came together and decided to devote a section of the magazine to that student, a section that would reflect the light of her personality. "This was the first instance when they started to put heart into the magazine," Bulger says. "The magazine is about art, culture and music but they needed to realize they had to have heart in their magazine too."
The first issue of 44 was published and generated a lot of interest. It was profiled on a number of television programs, CBC Radio, and the magazine has been requested for review by a number of organizations including Masthead Magazine (the bible of the magazine industry) which is interested in doing a story. A number of students have won scholarships based on the work they've done with the magazine.
"What I really try and get kids to do, meaningful things, meaningful stories, to doing something that's personal and connects all the things that they are learning," Bulger says. "When you use technology meaningfully and profoundly, that's the key, whether it's science or art, it doesn't really matter to me as long as it's straight from the heart."