Digital Media Pathway Expanding Student Interest During Distance Learning

--- Published on November 17th 2020 ---
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Screenshot of camera and Digital Media class on Zoom

It’s Monday at noon, and students in the Digital Media Pathway at Natomas High School aren’t the least bit antsy to get off of Zoom and head to lunch. They are intrigued and engaged in their course – Intermediate Digital Photography. “Today’s lesson is focused on a cinematic technique called the counter dolly zoom. It is also known as the Alfred Hitchcock effect. For students to fully understand why this effect works, it was important for them to see and understand how increasing focal length magnifies and compresses the background,” said Cael Kuhlman, Digital Photography/Video Instructor for the Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathway – Digital Media. 

That high level of engagement is one reason why students like Estefania chose Digital Media as a pathway. “I like that I could be part of a class that encourages students to express themselves through an art,” said Estefania. She also serves as the student board member for NUSD and coordinator for NHS’s Homework Center. Adriana, who has been interested in photography since 8th grade and immediately enrolled in the Digital Media Pathway, agrees, “It’s really just a breath of fresh air…the way we do our assignments and the way our teacher interacts with us and gives us control on our projects.”

“Ultimately, the goal in this class is for students to be proficient in using photography and video to tell a story or express their point of view.  What we include in a picture, and what we leave out, what we focus on or emphasize,” said Kuhlman, who has been teaching Digital Photography since 2001 at Natomas High. “I am trying to give my students a variety of tools and techniques they can use to elevate their storytelling ability.” And he’s been successful doing that even in the pandemic with students learning from a distance. Adriana admits that it was a struggle initially. Still, with her teacher’s support, she and her classmates have been able to make the most out of a situation beyond anyone’s control. “Learning to use the new resources our teacher has found for us, like Photo Pea and We Video, was a little overwhelming at first but now is getting comfortable. Even though the situation is not ideal, I am glad we are all able to persevere in this class as well as learn new skills every day like we usually would in class.”  

Natomas Unified School District provides 9 CTE Pathways for students to choose from. “Career Technical Education Pathways are offered at each of our high schools and provide students with real-world experience in eight different California industry sectors. Students can rely on previous knowledge in core subjects and put in place to write broadcast scripts, build a tiny-home, provide patient care, develop music productions, and understand the physics of an engine.,” said AJ Giersch, Director of CTE. High School students are encouraged to select a Pathway or any other college-readiness programs such as IB, AP Capstone, or CECA. The key is making sure that students have options when they graduate from high school, which is exactly what Adriana and Estefania will have when they graduate. “ Digital media is considered an art for many and being able to take photographs, videos, learning extra tech tips, and editing can simply make a student feel engaged to go after a career in this profession,” said Estefania.

 And that is the hope Kuhlman has for all of his students – that they will develop skills that are transferable across industries. “Being able to express yourself visually in a way that’s compelling to an audience is a 21st-century skill in the information age. So in that sense, I feel that the skills are valuable for a variety of careers, even if students are not pursuing a career in photography specifically. Artistically, being able to produce art for its own sake is good for the soul, and I hope the skills taught in class bring years of joy for my students later in life.” 

For more information on  Natomas Unified School District’s Career Technical Education Pathways, please visit https://staging.natomasunified.org/cte/.

Screenshot of Digital Media students on Zoom
Screenshot of Cael Kuhlman, Digital Photography/Video Instructor