Digital and physical don’t have to be opposites. Rather, they can inform and mold each other. EdLab Innovation Fellow Veronica Black taught this concept to a group of high school students and English teachers who participated in Teachers College’s Literacy Unbound Summer Institute in 2017, where they worked together over an intense two weeks to create an interactive performance based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

The summer institute took place in the Smith Learning Theater, where Black made use of the mobile space and tech for her workshop. The group originally organized the Learning Theater into separate spaces for dance and discussions, but Black encouraged them to reappropriate the space by transforming part of the theater into the Congo River. She gave participants iPads, projectors, lighting, and sound to produce digital elements, and props and theater curtains to ground these digital features in the physical space. By the end of Black’s workshop, the Congo River came to life through a fusion of digital and physical artifacts as well as body movements.

Veronica Black has an MFA from Parsons School of Design in Design and Technology. She has worked at the American Museum of Natural History as a technology and media educator and as an Adventures in Science program leader at a middle school. Currently, Black volunteers for the non-profit Girls Write Now, where she encourages young girls to explore how the digital and the physical can interact to create new ideas. Through her teaching, Black shows that whether the setting is the Congo River or a science project, the line between physical and digital can dissolve and the two can become one experience.

Music: Mutations by Small Colin