Supporting Digital Media Projects at Seneca

By Jennifer Peters, Ewan Gibson, and Darcey Dachyshyn

On any given day at The Sandbox, you will find students, staff and faculty getting creative: filming videos, experimenting with photography, and recording music. The Sandbox has become a space for our college community to play with and explore technology,  and to access resources to help navigate digital concepts and tools.

How did this happen?

For the past two years, Seneca Libraries and Seneca Teaching and Learning has been supporting digital media skills at the college through The Sandbox. This initiative includes a suite of face-to-face workshops for faculty and students on various topics. For example:

  • creating animated and live action videos
  • designing info graphics
  • creating presentations
  • building websites
  • creating digital stories

We currently deliver over 80 workshops a semester. To date we have had over 10,000 participants.

The Sandbox also includes a suite of online modules that faculty can use on their own with their students, as well as a group of studio spaces for students completing digital media assignments.  In the past year, our studios have been booked out over 3300 times.

Collaborations with Faculty

The direction of the Sandbox program has been completely driven by faculty requests. Typically the process is:

  • Faculty develop a concept for a project for their students (e.g., a project that incorporates videos or infographics)
  • Faculty are encouraged to consult with Seneca’s Teaching and Learning unit for assignment design and curriculum fit etc.
  • The Sandbox then meets with faculty to go over the skills needed to facilitate the project. Faculty are encouraged to attend a workshop or do some one-on-one training with Sandbox staff.
  • Faculty then assign the project to their students, The Sandbox often delivers a face-to-face workshop to the students or faculty will use one of the online modules from The Sandbox with their students.
  • Students then book out the studios to work on their projects and/or consult with Sandbox staff for troubleshooting and technical guidance.

Our ultimate goal is to help prepare faculty to eventually deliver workshops and support student digital media projects on their own. Until that time, the Sandbox is happy to serve as a support system for both faculty and students.

In collaboration with Teaching and Learning, we also hope to support the mapping of digital media skills to specific programs of study so that the right students are getting the right digital media skills at the right time, all the while avoiding duplication.

Example: The Sandbox and the Bachelor of Child Development

Digital media skills and the Bachelor of Child Development program are a perfect match. Graduates of the program will be using digital media skills throughout their careers and may even be teaching them as well.

Many faculty in the program have approached The Sandbox to do workshops on various topics, but this past year we have begun to map skills through the program with Professor Darcey Dachyshyn, starting with entry-level technologies, then  progressing to increasingly complex technologies. Currently we are piloting this structure:

First semester

  • Using PowerPoint to create a short animated video infographic (no voiceover or music)
  • Using iMovie or Movie Maker to create a short animated video public service announcement with voiceover and music

Fourth semester

(Diploma students are also entering the degree program at this stage, so this is review for the degree students and new skills for the diploma students.)

  • Using iMovie or Movie Maker to create an animated video with voiceover and music

Seventh semester

  • Using iMovie or Movie Maker to create a life writing (memoir) digital story that could include animation, live action, voiceover, and/or music etc.

Comments from Darcey about this approach:

“As a faculty member I have benefitted greatly, as have my students, from the support of our Seneca Sandbox team. My own digital skills have been enhanced and as a result I am able to bring innovative curriculum approaches into the classroom.

Student feedback indicates that the choice and creativity available to them through the use of digital assignments is a welcome change from the typical testing and term paper writing. Students still learn course content and the necessary research and writing skills, while engaging with digital technologies that form a foundation for continued use in their future professions.”

The Future

The Sandbox initiative is still fairly young at less than three years, but there has nevertheless been a tremendous response from students, faculty and administrators. Not only are they happy to be receiving assistance to gain these new skills, but they are also excited to have the chance to use digital projects to increase creativity and engagement in the classroom.

Our next step will be to develop a sustainability strategy. We are exploring new ways for our already very busy faculty to develop strong digital skills so they can support digital projects with their students. Working with Teaching and Learning, we would like to strengthen every faculty member’s ability to design an amazing digital assignment that is engaging and dynamic, all the while using appropriate technology that is feasible to support.

If the demand for The Sandbox during the last three years is any indication, digital media represents the next generation of assignments for many programs and the only way we can make this happen logistically is if faculty are empowered to facilitate them on their own.

A Tour of the Sandbox

Watch this video for a look inside the Sandbox:

Jennifer Peters is a Teaching & Learning Technologies Librarian at Seneca Libraries. Ewan Gibson is the Instructional Technologies Specialist at Seneca Libraries. Darcey Dachyshyn is a professor in the Bachelor of Childhood Development program at Seneca.

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