MINNEAPOLIS -- When students file into Molly McCarthy's classroom at Roosevelt High School, the first thing they do is pick up a laptop computer.
"What we're going to do today is spend just a second pulling up the photos," McCarthy announces to the room.
This is Digital Media Studies Program at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, or DigMe.
It's a partnership between Roosevelt and the University of Minnesota's College of Education, which helped the school obtain technology to incorporate into traditional classes, such as English.
"We decided to focus on this very important new movement in education, which has to do with using evolving technologies in innovative and smart ways to enhance learning and student engagement," said Cynthia Lewis, Professor of English Education at the University of Minnesota.
Lewis and other researchers observe the high school students. The data they gather will be used to determine how and when technology enchances learning, and when it doesn't.
"By seeing them and the research they're doing, I'm able to reflect more about motivation and engagement and things that work and don't work in my classroom," said McCarthy, who is in her first year teaching at Roosevelt.
She uses technology to keep students up to date on lesson plans, to communicate with each other about projects, and also to enhance their creativity.
"We use laptops, new computers, video cameras and stuff," said senior Chris Hoskyn who is working on a photo portfolio for a current class project on media studies.
Senior Chavonn Williams sees it as an opportunity to put her stamp on classroom assignments, rather than take a more passive role she sees in other classes.
"We can go out and have projects like these where we can be a part of the community and take action ourselves instead of reading about other people who took action before we did, " said Williams.
McCarthy says because many students at Roosevelt don't have access to computers at home, part of the class is about learning how to utilize the internet, how to upload photos, how to blog, and other skills students will need beyond high school.
"They need to be able to use the media so they can communicate their own ideal and own idea and learn about the ideas that are occuring in the world," said McCarthy.
Lewis says another goal is to level the playing field for students who come from areas of higher poverty.
"About a third of the kids in DigMe don't have access outside of school," said Lewis.
"When they come to the University, their first year in a writing class, for instance, they'll probably be using a wiki or a blog. They need to be able to use these kinds of technologies," said Lewis.
A "wiki" is a website that allows students a common location to communicate, link their blogs, see classroom assignments and generally form an online community.
For students like Chavonn Williams, it's a way to engage her creativity, which she sees as essential for anyone in today's world.
"Even if you're not going into a digital media career, just being able to express yourself creatively through various means, whether it be a paint brush or a microphone," said Williams.
And for students who are also interested in the here and now, there is a more basic consideration.
"We have more fun in this class," says Hoskyn.
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