Testing a Program Experience with LUNA

Alvarez Spark Innovation Award recipient Jennifer Scarnato Miller is a Ph.D. candidate in Tulane’s City, Culture, and Community program. She used her funding to support young migrant people to participate in a Digital Narrative Therapy pilot project.

For the last several months, I’ve been working with members of Latinos Unidos de New Orleans en Acción (LUNA), an immigrant youth organizing group that is part of Puentes New Orleans, to develop a storytelling and digital media program for LUNA members. This summer, with the support of an Alvarez Spark Award, I was able to work closely with LUNA members to finalize the program design, and test out the program experience with them!

After holding several focus groups with LUNA members to integrate their feedback into the program design and budget, we had the invaluable opportunity to test out several critical components of the planned program in advance of its October launch. This pilot-testing in the field would prove crucial to the program’s success, allowing us to make mistakes and learn from them before actually implementing our program. An Alvarez Spark Award allowed us to purchase the equipment necessary to offer LUNA members a prototype of the program’s digital media experience. Throughout several summer sessions, LUNA members tested out video editing platforms, video and audio recording equipment, and storytelling activities and exercises. After interacting with these program elements, LUNA members provided feedback on their experiences that allowed us to determine the best options to include as part of our program.

In one session, we had members work together in pairs to try out two different storytelling activities, using audio recordings. Afterwards, the members reflected on their experience in each activity – both as an interviewer and an interviewee. Prominent themes that came up in evaluating these two activities were the richness of the storytelling material generated, their level of comfort, the amount of time required, and the respective outcomes of each activity. While both were found to be valuable, we knew we would only have time to include one in our workshop, and we wanted to select the one that real workshop “users” felt would offer the best experience.  LUNA members were able to come to a consensus regarding which activity they preferred, and that was the one we chose to include in our workshop agenda.

During another session, LUNA members experimented with the two leading software platforms for video editing – Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. Again, following this testing session, we had a discussion to gain feedback on their experience with each program. LUNA members compared the two experiences in terms of ease of use, software capabilities, program speed, quality of products produced, and suitability to meet varying levels of editing experience. LUNA members had a difficult time determining which program was most appropriate for our workshops and decided that it would be best to allow each workshop participant to decide which to use, based on their level of experience and personal preferences. 


LUNA members were also able to begin experimenting with video production equipment. For many of them, it was their first time using a DSLR camera, with a microphone and tripod. These early testing sessions with actual equipment allowed us to learn from LUNA members what gaps in knowledge we needed to address in the workshops so that we could tailor our workshop curriculum to their needs.

As a result of these testing sessions with real “users” in the field, I was able to work with my team to devise a final workshop curriculum and schedule, based on input from the LUNA members who would be participating. Our first workshops were implemented in early October and, thanks to the opportunity to field-test several key components of the program’s design, participants had a positive learning experience.