The New Media Academy



Contact Person(s) and Details Dr. Victor Pineda
President, World Enabled

David Radcliff
Project Affiliate

Project Breaking Boundaries – The New Media Academy
Implementing Partners The Pineda Foundation for Youth/World Enabled, VSA Arts - affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Location Reseda, California
Date of Project February-April, 2011
Primary Objective Implementing an inclusive, standards-based, digital storytelling and media production curriculum under the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Target Population Learners with disabilities, mainstream and vocational schools, and the education system as a whole in the State of California


Facts: The State of California
(Source:Houtenville, Andrew J., 2006;

  • People of prime working age (21-64 years) comprise the largest segment of the disabled population in California.
  • In a recent study, 20 percent of Americans (54 million) have a mental or physical disability, but less than 2 percent of TV show characters display a disability and only 0.5 percent have speaking roles.
  • In 2005, an estimated 10.8 percent of civilian, non-institutionalized, men and women, aged 21-64 in California reported a disability
  • In California in 2005, the employment rate of working-age people with a disability was 37.4 percent in comparison to the employment rate of working-age people without a disability at 75.7 percent, creating an employment gap of 38.3 percent.

The Project

The New Media Academy” was an 8-week after-school course in Digital Storytelling offered to high school students with and without disabilities in Reseda, California. The course utilized “agency enabling instruction techniques to engage 20 diverse learners. Participants were recruited from segregated vocational training school for individuals with intellectual disabilities and a mid-sized mainstream high school. The “agency enabling instruction” operationalized localized supports and put into practice these supports in the classroom by incorporating principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL provides a set of principles to ensure that a curriculum reaches the widest range of learners. UDL challenges instructors to provide multiple means of representation (visual, oral or written instruction), multiple means of expression (allowing students to communicate their knowledge visually, or through writing, speaking or performance), multiple means of expression (tracking progress and supporting executive functions) (CAST, 2012). The program was the first to execute a UDL, standards-based digital storytelling and media production curriculum within California schools and focused on story structure, collecting digital assets, hand-on video production and post-production, captioning, and showcasing their work. Each student produced a 1 to 3 minute video based on one of four prompts. The prompts were:

"I feel strong when…" "I feel scared when…"
"I come from a place…" "I keep secrets when…"
  • This course was Pilot Program conducted in 2011 in the Los Angeles Unified School District with high school students from Grover Cleveland High School and Joaquin Miller Career and Transition Center that was designed and sponsored by the Pineda Foundation for Youth through a grant from VSA Arts, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The unique aspect of this program was that it brought together two public schools, one mainstream and one special education, in an inclusive, standards-based, digital storytelling and media production curriculum under the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This was the first time that an inclusive, standards-based, digital storytelling and media production course has been implemented in the State of California.
  • Students with and without disabilities were recruited through calls for auditions among the two schools. A certain amount of self-selection bias was expected and adjusted to through the following key performance indicators: (a) level of comfort with persons with disabilities, (b) nominal understanding of persons with disabilities and (c) experience in an inclusive classroom. Students with low levels of comfort, low understanding of persons with disabilities, and little experience in an inclusive classroom were selected to participate.

The prompts were selected to challenge the participants to critically reflect on their individual values and choices. The challenge of teaching in an inclusive environment with different learning levels was met by incorporating substantial localized supports in the form of assistive technologies, (such as modified keyboards, mice, large screens, and use of personal devices such as camera phones, or medical devices such as wheelchairs, or white canes for individuals with visual impairments), personal assistance (such as peer-mentors, buddy-system, teacher’s aids) and coping strategies (such as tips on reasonable accommodations, how to ask for help, how to stay on track) among others.



The New Media Academy program was overwhelmingly successful in that throughout the program students with and without disabilities were engaged and reported a significant increase in level of comfort, understanding of disability, and unexpectedly reported a general increased interest in learning.

By implementing UDL principles the course furthered engagement, participation and choice among all students and in so doing increased agency and mitigated barriers by supporting multiple means of representation, expression and engagement.

Findings showed that these specific agency-enabling practices, helped all participants —with or without disabilities— to engage effectively and in different ways, through a variety of types of instruction and teaching methods.

Participants noted that participating in the course improved their understanding of disability and diversity and that the experience allowed them to learn more about themselves through others. The availability of localized supports and the frameworks utilized in the implementation of the course allowed for a more authentic form of socialization to develop, one which altered perspectives for both groups of adolescents (those with and without disabilities).


  • Peer educators needed more technical skills training
  • Video Editing software not fully accessible for students with visual impairments
  • Limited staff training for UDL

Lessons Learned
Final films showed a common humanity and a dedication and passion to completing the assignment demonstrating authenticity and creativity

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