Four questions feature on the poster I recently made for the Postgrad Researchers conference. I’d like to thrash out a 4-pronged ‘elevator pitch’ response as to why these questions are worth asking and answering. I consider the responses from four perspectives (the learner, the teacher, the policy maker, the academic researcher) because the supposition is that there may be a variety of people in the lift audience with different ‘listening triggers’.
Just before I do that, here’s another thing – I attended A New Direction’s recent event The London Picture that brought together movers and shakers in the arts and cultural sector across London. This was to discuss the changes that need to be made to broaden the cultural offer to the education sector and make new partnerships. Scott Noppe-Brandon, former Director of New York’s Lincoln Center Institute, was a keynote speaker and one of his main messages was for everyone present to start operating ‘pragmatic optimism’ in these leanly funded times. I guess it’s with this in mind that I’m considering these questions from a range of viewpoints/contexts.
What follows is a series of (fairly celebratory for the most part) academic hunches/propositions that I intend to explore in the forthcoming months.
What is the role and function of filming / digital video editing in schools and its relationship to literacy?
I’m asking this question because I think literacy is, and has been for some time, much more than a measure of competency in reading and writing; it’s now more of an aptitude for and disposition towards social transactions across different platforms and media:
Learner: to make school practices more relevant to the interests and everyday media skills of young people
Teacher: to give learners alternative multimodal ways to develop literacy and make meanings, and to distribute and share their understanding
Policy maker: to support basic levels of media literacy for future citizens, and digital producers and consumers
Academic researcher: to bridge the home-school schism in terms of unevenly distributed informally acquired skills, knowledge and expertise, a divide that reinforces social divisions and inhibits wider social participation
How far does practical media work relate to the traditions of craftsmanship?
I’m asking this question because I think there are comparisons to be made about the status of craft/working with material artifacts and the status of practical media work (eg. digital video editing)/working with virtual assets. ‘Rebranding’ media production as a cross-discipline core skill or craft might shift public opinion, so that demands are made for it to be included in national curriculum – just as writing is a craft, so is editing.
Learner: both involve doing, making and working with your hands which engages mind and body and enhances social interaction, all of which is great fun
Teacher: there’s a sense in craft and media work of collaboration, teamwork and intrinsic motivation which makes for a more facilitating role and less top-down teacher-talk; this environment is conducive to independent learning
Policy maker: by encouraging a pragmatic problem-finding/problem-solving disposition in the maker, media production creates an environment receptive to experimentation, innovation and a satisfying sense of mastery
Academic researcher: aesthetic & iterative decision-making in relation to processes of selection and composition exercise the critical and metacognitive faculties, creating a more informed citizenry
How does economic instrumentalism in relation to media production impact on learning?
This question arises out of my concern for practical media work being ‘covered’ at school by being curricularised and consigned to the realms of techno-centric, utilitarian industry skills and training and hence for any personal and creative dimension to be stifled.
Learner: there is less opportunity for the learner to invest the work with their own creativity and interests
Teacher: there is more emphasis on extrinsic motivational factors catering to external social forces which is demotivating for the learner
Policy maker: equipping school-age children with basic digital skills is one thing, but in order for the full potential of audiovisual manipulation to be realised, there’s a need for a wider view on pedagogy in this area, one that includes the arts.
Academic researcher: the needs of the economy should be taken into consideration but not at the expense of the needs of the learner, who ceases to be the focus when agendas are fixed by economic and technological determinism
How does media production in schools relate to social participation?
Learner: by providing an authorising environment to practice digital video editing and social media participation, the learner self-directs their learning and is embedded in the process: this breeds confidence in a new medium of (public) expression
Teacher: instead of simulated projectism, this kind of media work offers authentic, ongoing, open-ended learning environments with real world interactions, real audiences and a real sense of responsibility, where everyone is learning from everyone else
Policy maker: government agendas need to move beyond e-learning strategies and e-safety agendas to embrace the needs of young people whose voice and agency need to be incorporated and exercised through the practice of media output
Academic researcher: exposing young learners to forms of digital editing and participation in the formal school context would ensure a more even and equitable distribution of skill and expertise in a world where media representations are increasingly the prism through which we negotiate our social relations
Chris Waugh’s 2 initiatives – Edutronic (a comprehensive online teaching and learning system imbued with New Zealand vision) and Blogsync (a monthly online educational blogging event) – positively tackle many of these issues from within the English Dept of a London Secondary school. This form of pedagogy goes further than pragmatic optimism and gets right to the heart of grassroots intervention.