Org Member Spotlight: Big Picture Instructional Design

This month, we interviewed Kimberly Birbrower Founder and President of Big Picture Instructional Design based in Los Angeles. Big Picture Instructional Design creates written collateral to accompany film, television, and multi-media projects.

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NAMLE: When did your organization launch and why?

KB: In 2008, I was ready for a career change, but I wasn’t sure what it might be. At that time, I did a personal inventory, reviewed my past work experience. I had been a classroom teacher, a nonprofit administrator and curriculum writer, and, at my last position (Director of Education at Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation), I had spent the majority of my time thinking about the use of film in the classroom: how teachers could access it, how they could contextualize it, how they could assess its efficacy, and more. I realized I had stumbled upon something, and decided to have a go at it. That is when Big Picture Instructional Design was born — a company that brings films and related original content to teachers, students, and other stakeholders in the educational sector.

NAMLE: What does your organization do? What are your main goals and main projects?

KB:  Big Picture Instructional Design increases the reach and impact of issue-driven films, television projects, and documentaries by creating custom-designed campaigns and collateral materials that always put the film at the forefront. We are hired by filmmakers, distributors, and studios to write accompanying materials  (viewer guides, teacher materials, student resources, and other collateral, depending on the project), and design and implement what we call “engagement campaigns” (developing nonprofit partnerships, special educator screenings, PDs, student contests and events, etc.) to bring their films to all of the stakeholders in educational spaces. And we define education broadly – it is not just limited to classrooms, but extends to campuses, communities, families, professionals, and beyond. A few of our most recent projects have been: Fury, Selma, WE THE ECONOMY, Thanks for Sharing, ESCAPE FIRE, and Lincoln.

NAMLE: What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

KB: Our team brings a wholly unique skill set to the table — we are former classroom teachers with experience in curriculum design, film production, nonprofit administration, and film distribution and marketing. We have a network that is both broad and deep with schools, educators, universities, and nonprofits.

NAMLE: Are there any recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

KB: All of our guides are available for free download at www.bigpictureinstructional.com/sample/

NAMLE: What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

KB: We work on films that deal with every sort of subject matter – from American History to environmental conservation; from economics to genocide. We do not pretend to be experts in every subject — but what we do specialize in is the use of film in the classroom: how to create meaningful lessons using film as a source, how to evaluate and analyze film as a text, how to assess the efficacy of the medium in an educational environment, how to integrate film into Common Core-aligned lessons, and how to facilitate the use of film in an educational way. The pivotal aspects of our work deeply reflect the integral components of media literacy.

NAMLE: Why is media literacy important to you?

KB: As a teacher I learned firsthand how integrating multiple forms of media in the classroom can add to learning. As the founder of BPID, my belief is reaffirmed with every project we do: that film, as a particular form of media, has an immediacy that speaks to our sense of compassion and empathy, and therefore engenders connections, and in turn learning, on a much deeper level.

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