October 2012 – Case study ideas

It seems that my thoughts are concentrating around assembling case studies – maybe the Paris trip influenced me to be thinking along these lines. Here’s a list of proposals – the red ones are runners, as for the others … the jury’s still out on when/whether I’ll pursue them:

  • Le Cinema – 100 ans de jeunesse (CadJ): London Nautical School (LNS) participation of Year 8 & Year 9 boys

The theme for this year’s programme of study is ‘mettre-en-scène’. This means the staging of situations in locations: how content (characters and props) are arranged in relation to each other (disposer); how the director decides to shoot (attaquer) the scene in terms of the positioning/angle of the camera, shot distance and framing. Students will study how all of these elements combine to create meaning and convey the mood of the situation.

Students are to experiment with the affordances of different locations – filming in both open spaces (beach/park/forest) where the possibilities for shooting are endless and constrained spaces (lift/classroom/corridor/car/stairs/living room) and will be shown a series of clips demonstrating the choices of different directors in relation to the situations they’re seeking to evoke.

This theme is much more concrete than that of last year – ‘the role of the real in fiction’ – although this raised some interesting discussion and some imaginative ‘solutions’, it was generally accepted that the students struggled with the highly conceptual nature of last year’s theme. A return to a nuts and bolts aspect of film language was well received by the international participants.

Bergala showed us extensive clips from Coppola’s Tetro. The living room in which much of the story is set, is gradually revealed to us through changes in lighting, movement and relation of characters, positioning of furniture.  It’s presented to us a master-class in mise en scene and its uses to support drama and story. My initial sense is that the more hands-on nature of ‘cinematic composition’ seems to provide a neat fit with the proposition that ‘making is learning’.

  • Le Cinema – 100 ans de jeunesse: participation of Barcelona based Cinema en Curs youth film making agency

I’ve spoken to one of the main co-ordinators of this outfit and she is well up for some international collaboration. She just needs to know the month I’d be interested in going so that she can organise things at her end. I know Barcelona quite well but I don’t know Catalan very well – the language they’d all be speaking. It might work… with my knowledge of other languages, or, more likely, I’d enlist the help of a friend – she lives in Barca and speaks fluent Catalan.

The purpose of this trip would be to compare pedagogies, practices and learning outcomes. To interview teachers, practitioners and the children involved in the project.

  • Le Cinema – 100 ans de jeunesse: Lincolnshire primary school inc. animation

I just met people from this school – Sue, Head Teacher, and Martin, Year 6 teacher and film enthusiast. They unofficially ‘won’ the best film at last year’s UK national screening of CadJ films at the BFI and Mark Reid invited them to join in the international level event this year. Martin teaches visual literacy strategies to teachers in their school from Reception onwards and I’m interested in visiting them to see how that works and also to see how he develops the CadJ project – he’s big into animation and their film last year included a beautiful animated bird. If they include animation this year, then it’ll be interesting to see how that goes down with the French … there are a number of unwritten rules of which they take a dim view if broken.

The school is a self-proclaimed ‘posh primary’ in a wealthy belt of Lincolnshire and the work last year was done by so-called Gifted & Talented children. Very different setting to LNS. Having seen their film last year there’s a nagging doubt about how much input Martin has in the work – in a personal vision / auteur capacity – and how much the kids get to do…. this is a recurring issue in the Paris screenings where some practitioners seem to be using the Cinematheque setting as a platform for their own work. It’s infuriating!! and worth looking at from a socio-cultural perspective. It doesn’t seem to bother Alain Bergala incidentally, who seems to want to showcase good quality film making, whatever the circumstances… it’s very revealing of the top-down nature of their pedagogy. Almost as if it’s a wasted opportunity to hand over the directorial decision-making to the kids, when we could be exposing them to the expertise of a professional…

  • BFI/IoE animation project – John Harmer – animator

This idea is still something abstract in my head and I need to talk to Mark Reid about what his plans are for BFI “cultural campus” projects this year (in which animation featured last year). He’s asked me to do an evaluation job again, which would be a few weeks in the 1st half of the summer term May/June 2013. A couple of years ago, evaluations of these projects took the form of 4 pages of Word doc which I thought was distinctly mono-modal and a crying shame. This year’s evaluation took this form: 10capacities.wordpress.com. I had thought of making it solely photographic – both in the interests of time and experimentation – but then felt there should be some concrete qualitative input and found the time to interview participants, practitioners and one a few parents. Funders are also unlikely to have the time nor inclination to ponder over photos and assess meaning or impact. This is something that keeps coming up for me…. how much should the examiners/assessors/funders be expected to give of themselves in the interpretation of arts project evaluation?

I haven’t committed to this yet as I’m not sure how much of my time I want taken up with this and how much of it might be useful to my thesis… I could just ask John Harmer what other school projects he’s got and not involve the BFI …?

  • Primary School action research project – my own project

still not decided what this shall be, or when it should take place, but it might be interesting to follow the CadJ project and compare the experience with that of the LNS boys. One idea is to wait until Year 2 of the PhD to do this. I think there’s value in gathering knowledge and data in other areas before committing my own time to lead a project. Given the amount of control I’d have, I’d like my own project to really focus in on the question, … whatever that might be.

  • IoE Film in a Day project

this will take place at the end of January over 2 days. I will be attending planning meetings with IoE’s Theo Bryer – English and Drama teacher trainer. For me the value of this project lies in the fact of new skills and knowledge being put into immediate practice, particularly on the part of the teacher. I observed / provided some support for this project last year for Theo (one of my fellow MA student friends) who had never done it before. Film was used in fairly instrumental ways to enhance engagement with a text. Again, this is a project with real potential ref. exploring ‘making is learning’ and teacher/pupil agency.

  • London Nautical School: ‘blogging alchemy’ in the English classroom:

Chris Waugh, English teacher at LNS, has set up a comprehensive blogging platform for all his students and the rest of his English Dept colleguges. All participants engage in a transparent, multimodal, open process of teaching and learning in which Chris functions as teacher, mentor, editor and feedback-giver as they constantly refine their projects… for it is as integrated project work that their body of learning is conceived. They are crafting their texts and constantly revising their work just as I am this blog and as film directors craft their scenes.

  • Media mentor in the primary setting:

I’m not feeling this at the moment. There would be much planning and organisation… However, it could be a tangible, practicable outcome of my research and if I were to thrash out a model of how it would work, it could be suggested as a possible future action research study/project.

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