Radio broadcasting, television production and a fascination with how media both reflects and influences our lives started Jim Friscia towards a wide-ranging career in media, technology and education. With a master’s degree from Syracuse University in TV, radio and film, Jim started down a public broadcasting career path in snowy upstate New York before finding his way to the more temperate clime of California’s SF Bay Area and the burgeoning world of corporate video training. A chance meeting while working media production at the 1984 presidential conventions led to teaching and managing video production at Saint Mary’s College and a love for working in education.
Upon moving to Oregon in 1990, Jim became absorbed in the growing world of distance learning through a position at Portland Community College and its connection to the public Oregon ED-NET system. Seeing how this satellite-based videoconferencing network could connect locations and people throughout the state to bring greater learning opportunities to underserved areas cemented Jim’s focus on helping others to effectively employ technology to teach and extend the reach of education.
The growth of the Internet led to tools that would transform the reach and capabilities of distance learning and access to education. Asynchronous online learning rapidly replace synchronous interactive video and Jim quickly immersed himself in that world. Twenty years later, with more ubiquitous tools and a large body of research on the effective use of technology in education, Jim remains intrigued by the promise of developing even more engaging and effective learning environments. Most recently he directed the academic support and training department at University of Western States in Portland, leading a team that provided both online and campus programs with instructional design, content development, training, and management of learning technologies.
Working with Saturday Academy as an Encore Fellow looked like a perfect opportunity to share with a local non-profit his years of helping others effectively employ technology to teach and extend educational access. Since 1983, Saturday Academy has provided innovative hands-on, in-depth after-school, weekend, and summer classes and camps for grades two through 12 emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Saturday Academy connects community experts and mentors with eager and motivated students, with a mission to provide educational programming that has the highest quality and impact.
With funding provided by the Oregon Community Foundation, Jim’s role for the next 12 months will be to investigate educational technologies that might deepen the student and instructor experience, and expand Saturday Academy’s impact beyond the Portland metro area. (Interestingly, coming full circle, Saturday Academy experimented in the early 1990s using Oregon ED-NET for this very purpose.) The goal is to evaluate existing program capabilities and needs, review technologies likely to be useful in the future, and assess communities for their ability to use technology to participate in Saturday Academy programs.
The outcome of the project will be pilot demonstrations to evaluate the viability of selected ideas and tools, and a report detailing future opportunities for Saturday Academy and the cost and effort to implement. Saturday Academy Director Jeri Janowsky is excited to have him onboard and what it means to the organization. “Jim as our Encore Fellow has the potential to transform what Saturday Academy does in the future. We thank OCF for having the vision to fund this fellowship.”
Jim sees this Encore Fellowship as a wonderful opportunity for using technology to help Saturday Academy serve more students, stay innovative in their class offerings, and expand their vital role in pre-college education in the metro area and beyond.
**Article and photo republished with permission from Social Venture Partners Portland