Fox Chapel Area multimedia teacher encourages students to embrace change
Fox Chapel Area teacher Ryan Devlin knows his curriculum will change — a lot — in coming years.
That’s a given for anyone teaching multimedia and technology.
Keeping up with the times is part of the reason Devlin was awarded the inaugural Young Alumni Award from Waynesburg University.
The newly created honor is presented to young graduates, under 35, for accomplishments and service, and for having distinguished themselves as a leader among their peers and in their profession.
Devlin said to teach his course, he must stay a step ahead of technology used by students and know what is coming down the road.
Instead of getting stressed about it, he jumps at the chances.
When Devlin sets a task for the students, he wants them to consider the audience, purpose and content of video or audio productions. He teaches, then lets them practice quality techniques including editing, storyboarding and green screen.
The 34-year-old teacher wants students to use their talents to post high-quality, creative and engaging multimedia.
“This is a broadcast generation,” Devlin said.
The products of one class are available on YouTube at the Swift Fox Media site. Viewers can see videos ranging from the gritty “Students Reflecting on the Tree of Life Tragedy” to the light-hearted “Visual Dance Movies.”
“We’re living in a media-centric time. I don’t see it scaling back,” Devlin said.
Devlin earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary English education at Waynesburg University in 2007, and a master’s degree in educational leadership at California University of Pennsylvania.
He recognizes our culture has changed, which requires education to change.
“We can’t obsess about memorizing information,” he said.
Teachers have to assess skills rather than grade memorization of lists, he said.
Devlin joined the district only three years ago and has worked to change the direction of the media program, which previously was built primarily on journalism and television news.
Now his classroom is getting updated equipment. Students’ projects can be “silly, sublime or powerful.”
And their teacher is having fun, too.
Devlin has always wanted to be a teacher. He had perfect attendance as a youngster and loved school. After attending Waynesburg University, he taught in Brockway, Pa. He also taught elementary school in Canberra, Australia for about a year.
In 2013, he was named Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year; in 2014, he was honored at the White House by President Obama as a finalist for national Teacher of the Year. In the summer of 2017, he traveled to Ethiopia on a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship, where he wrote curriculum and produced an educational documentary on Ethiopian folklore.
He talked about these accolades but is focused more on the duties that go hand-in-hand with the recognition. These honors require him to be a spokesperson for education, Devlin said.
“Keep making little changes, bit by bit. Embrace it and don’t be afraid of [change],” he said.