Media Education Of Debates Education Essay

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Media education is the process of teaching and learning about media, the main aims are to develop a critical understanding and an active participation.

Media education has for many years been in search of a space within the curriculum, I hope in this assignment to look at how media education and media literacy have now found a place within the curriculum and have been translated by media teachers into pedagogical practice.

Children and adults spend a large amount of their time interacting with media of different types, from email, Internet, films, newspapers and mobile phones. These forms of media act as gateways to information, this information can often be filled with mass media messages, from advertisements to stereotypes. These messages are subconsciously taken in they have a massive impact on individual awareness and decisions; they affect society as a whole.

Media literacy helps to provide students with the tools that are necessary to enable them to read and access information and to ask questions.

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Media education cannot solely consist of production, students will not automatically acquire the critical knowledge needed the media needs to be taught and challenged, the practical work does not by itself does not create an autonomous understanding for the media.

Media literacy should not be defined as a certain set of skills or knowledge, it should be looked at as the key concepts of production, language, representation and audience.

"It is important for media educators to always position criticism at the forefront of our practice, when integrating production into the learning environment." [1] 

Burn and Durran (2007) argue that media literacy has social functions, and they prefer to see it as central to the '3-Cs'model of media literacy. They state that audience can be studied in terms of their social uses of the media even though as counterparts of producers they have been traditionally seen as consumers of media texts. Social uses of the media mean participation and engagement. They also see the engagement with the media as part of wider cultural complexes of taste, interest, pleasure, knowledge and expertise which contribute to selfhood.

Ofcom uses the following definition of media literacy;

'the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts' [2] .

The above quote has parallels with Burn and Durran (2007) 3 C's model.

Henry Jenkins looks at the definitions of media literacy and looks at how it must not allow students to ignore the skills and knowledge they already have to gain new knowledge, that they must expand their knowledge.

Culture in media education, the culture is the values and ideals that are set by the students.

"At least in the UK, research suggests that children are now much more likely to be confined to their homes, and much less independently mobile, than they were twenty years ago; and while parents now spend much less time with their children , they are attempting to compensate for this by devoting increasing economic resources to child-rearing" [3] 

Buckingham's point of view on media literacy is one of that it does not give the right answers but it allows the right questions to be asked. Throughout this assignment I am going to use my work with KS4 students doing animation as part of the Gold Standard intervention programme. The students I work with have the ability to take advantage of an out of school experience. The students are welcomed into an educational environment but treated like adults; they become responsible for large amounts of their own learning. We do not expect students to walk through the door and become instantly engaged with what we are doing, but we endeavour to put them in a position where they want to become engaged.

Media education offers a new approach that looks at what students already know, not just assuming that it is invalid.

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"develop a more reflexive style of teaching and learning, in which students can reflect on their own activity both as 'readers' and as 'writers' of media texts" [4] 

The way that Buckingham looks at how students have the ability to become 'readers' and 'writers' of media texts follows many parallels to my own work with students. We get them to create an animation and then discuss it, to understand why they have made the choices that they have.

Burn and Durran look at how media education can be continued through the progression of secondary school and how it can be taught across the curriculum. Media education is not solely a subject by itself; media education can be used in many different subject areas. For instance using film making facilities to create an interpretation of a Shakespeare play, students would not just be learning Shakespeare but also learning by doing.

Hull City Learning Centres

Facilities

The facilities that are on offer at Hull City Learning Centres are as follows, at our East centre, we have a purpose built facility which houses, five teaching rooms, each of these rooms serves a different purpose, each room has been specially designed to meet the needs of the students that require them. I am not going to go into too much detail about the rooms as I am going to focus on the use of just one of the rooms, but we have a adult education room, a primary room (which is geared up to KS2 students), and two KS4 rooms, we then have a purpose built media suite, which is the room that is used the most.

This room has 26 iMac computers that dual boot Windows and Mac OSX. Green screen filming facility, HD cameras with lighting rig and sound equipment, it also has an interactive white board.

The software we have on offer is the 'free' software bundled with the iMacs including iMovie and the iLife suite, we also use a piece of animation software called I Can Animate or Pro Animate, I Can Animate is also available on the Windows side of the machines.

Functions

Hull City Learning Centres offer a wide range of functions; the main one being KS4 intervention, working with schools to help them achieve the 'Gold Standard' which is achieving 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including Maths and English.

The intervention courses that we run are ICT, Maths and English functional skills, OCR nationals, multimedia, video and animation unit. However the main intervention we offer is NCFE Animation which is the equivalent to 2 GCSE grade Bs. We also offer adult education classes and KS2 intervention.

We have two centres across Hull, one centre mainly deals with the delivery of the Diplomas and the other focuses on intervention. The delivery of the Diplomas has become a big part of what the CLC's do now, we deliver certain modules on IT diploma and provide support and facilities for the Creative and Media diploma.

We also have a conference room which can be used for video conferencing and meetings, we are the host for a majority of Local Authority initiatives and we also support YHGFL (Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning).

Adult education classes are also on offer a range from the advanced CISCO networking to the most basic text processing level 1. We work with the complete beginner to the technical experts, we offer course for adults to suit their needs. We encourage family learning, and work with social services and foster carers.

Clientele

Hull CLC is open to all, we have on offer computers for people from the local community to come and use, we offer extended facilities for the host schools, we encourage schools to use as an out of the classroom experience. We deal on a day to day basis with people from all social backgrounds, from primary school children to our 'silver surfers'.

Animation

I would like to use my work with students in animation as a case study in which to explore a form of media education.

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The types of students that I work with tend to be students that don't achieve well in the normal classroom, however through the process of making and doing these students usually excel, they find that they can complete work to a high standard and achieve GCSE grades by doing something that is fun. We find that media literacy has been a powerful tool for us to use, it has been noted that students that would normally be detached from reading and writing in school become engaged with it, this may be because there is a purpose to what they are reading and writing.

How we do it

We run the NCFE Animation course on a tight deadline, we have compressed 150 guided learning hours into 36 hours. This has been done to enable us to help as many schools as possible, with as little disruption to the students' time table. It also helps us to ensure that students attend, a fair amount of our students have attendance issues in school.

The students that I work with come to me with a picture in their heads, they are told by school that they are coming to gain an ICT qualification, when in fact this isn't the case, students come and they complete an animation qualification. To most of the students that I work with ICT means, databases and spreadsheets.

"Yet, if media education is to help bridge the widening gap between the school and the world of children's out-of-school experience, it must surely begin with the knowledge children already possess" [5] 

Buckingham discusses how students already have knowledge, through the process of this course we use students already existing knowledge, we show them that they actually know a fair amount about animation and they didn't realise.

Once the students are introduced to animation they immediately have a preconceived idea of what it is. They immediately think of The Simpsons and Family Guy but so few of them see computer games as animation, they don't see how animation surrounds them. During discussions with the students about animation, we open their eyes to just how much it surrounds us, from advertisements to education. We get students to discuss their different opinions and ideas; we get them to think about how different groups of students may interpret a certain piece of animation We get students to look at animations that are British, American, European and Asian. We get students to discuss how other cultures use animation for entertainment and the differences between them.

Media analysis is an important part of the course it enables us to help students develop critical thinking skills, by working on their observations and interpretations. Students begin to look at how animations challenge stereotypes and hidden motives. Students begin to understand some of the 'hidden messages' in animations. We do focus a lot of time analysing animated advertisements looking at who they are aimed at and how different types of animation appeal to different demographics.

Before students begin thinking about what they are going to animate we introduce them to a variety of animations, we show them examples of professional work and what other students have produced, we get the students involved in group discussions about good and bad features of the animations, we get them to look not just at the techniques used in the animations, but we get them to look and think about how music and sound have been used, we look at the use of special effects in post production.

What the students learn

We spend more time getting the students to understand animation than bogging them down with complex animation and editing software, we opt for iMovie that comes bundled with the iMacs as our editing software and Pro Animate as out animation software, the software is simple and intuitive, it allows students to concentrate on the actual animation and not get worried about the software. This is often a concern of our students, they often lack in confidence and a nervous about not only using an unfamiliar operating system (most of our students are only Windows literate) but using new software, so we demonstrate the software right at the beginning and show students that the software is nice and simple to use.

We have now started to offer this intervention course to students that have special educational needs and learning problems, we don't offer it as a quick fix for GCSE grades, we offer them it as an experience as something that they can walk away having made, we focus less on the theory aspects of the course and concentrate on the practical, getting students to try different materials and techniques. These students have often been segregated at school and don't often have the same opportunities as the main stream students. Even though few of these students had the ability to read or write they made and animation and rather than write about what they have done a why, we record them. They are prompted with the same questions that other students have to write about, it is clear from the responses that we get from the students that they have understood a vast amount of what has been discussed with them. They are able to explain different forms of animation and jobs that are available in the animation industry.

The principles of animation are demonstrated through getting students to create a flipbooks, this introduces them to how animation works, how much work goes into it. It is also using something that the majority of students are familiar; this enables students to learn through doing. The hands on way of doing it help them to remember the process, rather than standing and telling students how to do it.

Students are able to draw on their own experiences and become engaged in the classroom. Studies have shown that students whom are actively engaged in a topic can more actively relate it to the real world. (Hobbs, 2006).

Being creative

We try and get our students to be as creative as possible when it comes to the practical element, we try and get them to look outside the box and away from the norm. This is sometimes hard as these students have a preconceived idea of what ICT is and this is what they have been told they are studying, they don't see how creativity comes into it.

"The word 'creativity' is used with many different meanings in different contexts.....In particular, it carries a rather different meaning in art education and media education, and in many ways animation projects cross the boundary between these territories." [6] 

We have to look at the discourses which make up the cultural contexts of these animations this is outlined by Burn and Durran 2007. When a student comes up with a title for their animation, the ideas that spring to my mind as a teacher and the ideas that they have are very different, this comes from our difference in knowledge. Students often look at creating an animated piece for part of a song, they print lyrics off and create props to match, and one instance that springs to mind is a student that was doing an animation for a song that included lyrics about returning with no arms, this student took the literal meaning a drew an armless character, when in fact the context was arms as in weapons and guns.

Recently we decided to give the students a topic for their animations the topic was 'technology' we mentioned iPods, phones, and MP3 players, when the students returned the following day to begin animating the variation of props collected from home for an animation about technology varied significantly from student to student, some brought in their mobile phone boxes whilst other brought in modelling clay. I gave the entire group the morning to work out how they were going to use their props to create an animation advertising technology or a piece of technology. I was however somewhat concerned about how modelling clay could be used, but I allowed the student to proceed. Once the group began animating in the afternoon it became clear the student with the modelling clay had great ideas, she had made an iPod out of modelling clay, created some headphones. This student didn't feel the need to use the actual artefact to animate she felt it would be better if she created it from scratch; she wanted to create her own original piece of animation.

Researching and affinity spaces

Whilst students are on the animation course they are expected to research a variety of elements to do with the animation industry, what is interesting is how reliant students are on the internet, students take the information presented to them at face value, it is only when you enter into discussions with students about how reliable the information they are is. Many students are aware that Wikipedia can be altered by anyone with an account but very few realise that this can mean the information is incorrect and untrue. Henry Jenkins looks at this further, he looks at how students need to ability to research, take notes, read books, understand and merge secondary sources.

"to grasp what kinds of information are being conveyed by various systems of representation; to distinguish between fact and fiction, fact and opinion" [7] 

An affinity space is a place virtual or physical that ties people together, based around a shared interest.

I'm going to use Wikipedia as an example of an affinity space, and the way that it is used for education. Wikipedia enables registered users to upload and edit information about a particular topic. Wikipedia like many other affinity spaces allows anonymity therefore it bridges a barrier that is often produced by age, sex, education, and race to name a few. Although Wikipedia could be filled with inaccurate information, which was a point I made earlier, within in affinity spaces there is usually unwritten rules that you should only make comment on things you know about, you should make sure that any quotes are accurately referenced.

Wikipedia has created like many other affinity spaces an out of school place to learn, it appears to be somewhere that students feel comfortable with. Affinity spaces allow informal learning to take place according to James Gee 2004, the use of affinity spaces does however require a student to be somewhat self motivated.

Affinity spaces are becoming far more vast for students they now have access to a wealth of information on the Internet, they also have the ability to ask questions and join forums based around a subject that they are interested in. For instance students I have worked with have created Facebook groups that they can all communicate about a joint project, the 'wall' allows students post their ideas and for them to get feedback.

From my personal point of view and my involvement with the delivery of ICT/IT in an informal education setting, I have noted how courses have now somewhat changed. The introduction of the Diplomas has been a method of doing this, what would have been conventionally taught by ICT teachers in schools, students now have a mix of staff, staff like myself that originate from industry, I lead the multimedia unit of the IT diploma and give students an insight into how a real web design project would work. We have staff that runs their own businesses, we drag our technicians in and get them to help us when it comes to the delivery of networking, we show the students the server room, they get to see it real life not just in pictures.

Burn and Durran 2007 discuss how ICT has changed and now not only allows students to create spreadsheets and databases, but now allows them to create artefacts that were once only created by highly skilled experts.

Affinity spaces are part of informal education and fit in well with the style of teaching and learning on offer at the CLC. Informal education has the ability to be innovative whereas formal education doesn't tend to be. Affinity spaces are leading to a more creative way of teaching and learning.

Participatory culture

According to the five points of definition outlined by Jenkins 2006, is where knowledge can be cascaded down from those that are experts down to those that are novices.

"And yet children--particularly younger children-are increasingly participating in cultural and social worlds that are inaccessible, even incomprehensible to their parents." [8] 

Children are far excelling their parents in their knowledge of computers, as a teacher of ICT I have become quite aware of how important keeping my skills up has become, many students arrive with a surprisingly vast knowledge of many software applications and to enable me to troubleshoot these software applications I have to know how they work, however, this isn't always possible. Technology is moving so quickly that as staff we often become bogged down with what we have to know rather than looking at what we should know.

"Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from individual expression to community involvement." [9] 

The above quote by Jenkins suggests how media operates in specific contexts that lead to the how and why they are being used. A computer does not produce an outcome without a user, meaning participation is necessary, the amount of participation does depend on the user. Some users will just touch the surface of what the computer can do and other will dig right down into the core, some will even progress to become experts.

Most young people are active participants of computers through the following outlined by Jenkins 2006;

Affiliations, many young people are members of formal and informal online communities based around a specific topic. For instance many young people will be using facebook, Myspace and gaming forums.

These social sites allow users with the same interest to communicate at the same level, it allows experts to pass on knowledge and novices to gain knowledge. These types of affiliations are now becoming more apparent in the classroom, with students creating 'groups' to help each other with course work.

Expressions, this is the production of new creative forms, such as mash ups, video making, fan fictions. Users are able to access these via websites such as youtube.com, many students/young people when presented with a challenge now look it up on youtube. Youtube enable users to view and upload videos, many videos that have been uploaded have been uploaded to show how to do something, there is a wealth of information available on youtube. Many of the students that I work with when they have produced films or animations want to upload them to the internet for the world to see.

Collaborative problem solving, this allows users to work together as a team; this allows problems to be solved in a formal and informal way. This method allows young people to complete tasks and develop new knowledge. As discussed previously many students use Wikipedia which allows them to collaboratively solve problems, even to a certain extent Facebook allows this with the function of being able to create groups.

Circulations, shaping the flow of media, this is often done through web feeds, blogs, podcast and on Facebook 'statuses'. Many young people broadcast the media they wish to share by updating their statuses or posting to their walls.

Participatory culture is now becoming the forefront of education and the classroom, the skills that are acquired through the numerous forms of participatory culture will aid young people in the development of skills and the comprehension of the surrounding world.

The participation gap

With this in mind, I sometime have a knowledge gap, to increase my knowledge and help other students I get the students that know the software to sit and show me how they did something, this isn't just reinforcing their knowledge but it is also allowing me to learn on the job.

As mentioned previously as a CLC we work with everyone from the most basic of users to the most advanced. We try and encourage family learning, this is to help reduce the participation gap, most households have a computer that is usually monopolised by the teenagers, the parents often don't get a look in, which often means they don't know what their children are doing or even how they are doing this. We try and bridge this gap we invite KS3 and 4 students to the CLC for 10 classes in which we teach parents how to monitor and protect their children when they are using a computer, we also teach the students how to use different software to complete different tasks, we then spend six weeks working with them together to create a combined piece of work, often this takes the form of a video, which they have filmed, edited and rendered to disk. We show the parents how they can help their children how they can get involved and we also show them that they can do it. However, when these parents/carers arrive they are often daunted by the fact that their child knows more than they do.

We as a CLC are trying to reduce the participation gap further by becoming involved with the Governments Home Access scheme, we are also piloting a scheme to provide wireless internet access to all secondary age students, and we are piloting it with one school and the surrounding area. Through studies that have been carried out, it indicates that if a student has access to a computer in their first year of secondary school they are more likely to pass English and maths at GCSE.

Conclusion

The changes in the culture of teaching over the past few years have affected the methods of teaching.

Media education and all of what comes with it is still developing and finding its place within the curriculum, it is beginning to stand out and is becoming something that teacher have to think about. Media education is being used in all subject areas but how and why it is being used needs to be defined just using it for the sake of using it, isn't a good use of time and resources. Students all need to be made aware of why they are making the decisions that they are and how they impact their own learning.

There are however from my own observations teaching staffs that refuse to believe that media education is important, they do not embed their lessons to use media of any description, even though the facilities are on offer. There is off course the teaching staff that see media education as the ability to produce a poorly formed PowerPoint presentation about the effect of global warming. These members of staff need to be educated in what is media literacy and media education and shown how to use it effectively within their lessons.

We must continue to think about whether media education can be used as a framework for all media. Media education should allow students and teaching staff to develop skills and understanding of how they are participating. Media education isn't a quick fix to a boring lesson plan nor should it be used a method just to jazz up a class.

Students should become engaged in what they are doing because they understand why they are doing it, and how they are going to do it.