Published: June 9, 2014

Dr. Beth Osnes trained her students in solar powered puppet theatre to create a performance about clean energy.  She also took her students all the way to the Navajo Nation, where students hosted a photo booth for traditionally underrepresented groups to make their voices heard.

Multi-modal compositions are being produced (through my course Inside the Greenhouse and Rebecca Safran’s course Climate Change and Film), yet we have not yet developed effective mechanisms for disseminating these compositions to their intended audiences, nor are there adequate methods for assessing if these compositions are effective in illuminating social issues and igniting the positive social change for which they are designed.

In this seminar, I am seeking to improve the combined teaching of creative climate communication being undertaken by myself, Max Boykoff (with whom I co-teach Inside the Greenhouse: Using Media to Communicate Positive Solutions to Climate Change) and Rebecca Safran (with whom Max and I have founded Inside the Greenhouse*).

Our problem is not in the creation of the multi-modal compositions—we are working on this and the students are responding with enthusiasm, creativity and fearlessness.

I identify our problem as being that we lack necessary experience in guiding our students in successfully disseminating their compositions to intended audiences.  Our secondary problem is not having appropriate participatory methods for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of these compositions in illuminating social issues and igniting positive social change.  I see a general lack of medium-appropriate tools for monitoring and evaluation of the impact of primarily web-based creative work that is designed for progressing positive social change.

As a teacher, I believe I can only lead where I myself have traveled.  Therefore, I wish to improve upon my Striking the Match web-based performance site to make it a model of a format that can reach multiple audiences and intended for various performance pieces on the site, and to use the website to generate multiple, medium-appropriate, creative and participatory evaluation methods of the pieces by the audience.

I will contact the folks at ASSETT, who help design websites, and ask them what possibilities exist.  I will also build upon recommendations by Dr. Mark Gammon, with whom I collaborated on a study (funded by the Philanthropiece Foundation), for improving the site with the above goals in mind.  Here is a citation for the article we wrote on this project:  Osnes, Beth and Mark Gammon. “Striking The Match: A Web-Based Performance To Illuminate Issues of Sustainability and Ignite Positive Social Change”.  Sustainability: The Journal of Record. June 2013, 6(3): 167-170.

I hope to apply what I learn from my improvements to Striking the Match to the design of our Inside the Greenhouse website, since that is the platform with which we share student work.  The reason I am not applying it to the student work first is to discover any unintended consequences or inappropriateness of methods before subjecting students to these methods.  Online responses can be quite harsh and inflammatory.  I am seeking to create methods for sharing feedback that can authentically engage intended audiences for socially engaged performance that resides online.

I have significantly scaled back my grandiose plans with which I began.  I am now very interested in learning how I can use technology to engage students in creating multi-modal communications about climate change using two primary technological methods.  The first is the Participatory Photo Booth that I began using in the Navajo Nation in March 2014 that facilitates participation by the subject of the communication and allows for self-representation, self-authorship, and self-editing of a communication. Here, I co-created a photo booth that allows the subject to write her statement on a dry erase board, trigger the camera herself, review the photo representation of herself via a computer screen and to make adjustments until satisfied.

Osnos's students used solar power to power a light for their shadow puppet performance about clean energy

Osnos's students used solar power to power a light for their shadow puppet performance about clean energy

The second is using technology to enhance the use of solar-powered shadow puppet theatre.  Here, I have already trained students in my Inside the Greenhouse how to do this form during an in-class participatory demonstration.  Select students will also get the chance to experiment further with this medium for a solar-powered shadow puppet performance of a song entitled Liberating Carbon that will be performed on April 18th at Macky Auditorium.  This will be video recorded and presented as evidence of the experimentation that was done in this course on teaching with technology.

Thanks for the support and inspiration in furthering these ideas.

What are those indicators?

  • Are women in the Navajo Nation able to use the technology of the participatory photo booth?  Does it make sense to them?  Is the process empowering?  Are the photos resulting from the use of technology pleasing to them and engaging for others?
  • Are students able to engage with the medium of solar-powered shadow puppet theatre to communicate aspects of clean energy?  Do the students engage with the use of solar-powered technology to communicate about clean energy?  Does the audience enjoy the use of the medium for the communication of aspects of clean energy?