With the excitement of the second MEA/BFI: Media and Film Education Futures conference taking place tomorrow I’ve proposed on Twitter that it could be a good starting point to start a weekly #mediaedchat on Twitter. There are numerous weekly education chats taking place on Twitter these days, but there seems to be a gap where practitioners and enthusiasts of media education can get together to discuss relevant topics. Hopefully the idea will catch on and grow, which might have the potential to develop into local meetings of media teachers (as being advocated by the local MEA groups that are currently being set up around the country).

I thought that this post could be a starting point of highlighting the Twitter accounts of media teachers around the UK and internationally (please feel free to comment with other accounts that can be updated to the list).

The first #mediaedchat will take place on Tuesday 27 November at 8pm.

Here’s hoping that others feel that this is a good idea!

Twitter List

























































Share, share, share!

I am delighted to be able to say that the programme for this year’s OCR A Level Media Studies Conference has been announced. Following the article that I wrote for the Media Education Association journal (POV), myself and Steve Murray were asked by Pete Fraser if we would like to run an unconference style session within the conference. Of course, it only took us a few seconds to accept! The aim of the session is for people to come along and share good practice following the same format that TeachMeets use (7 min and 2 min presentations). A wiki will be set up very soon where attendees can sign up to notify Steve and myself about what they would like to share. Not only will you get an opportunity to spread the word of what amazing things take place in your classroom, but you will also be able to attend other exciting sessions. I have to say that the programme looks excellent, especially with Corin Hardy leading a session.

For more info please visit http://ocrmediaconference2011.weebly.com/index.html

Hope to see you there and no doubt in the pub afterwards where the dialogue will continue!

A Possible Alternative?

It’s been a LONG while since I have blogged anything and part of me feels ashamed – I aim to make amends to this! In the last few months I have been appointed as Subject Leader for Media Studies at a school in the south of England, therefore have been very busy getting to grips with a new curriculum, a new school, a new location etc. In October 2010 I attended the Media Literacy Conference that was held in London and have subsequently been asked to write an article for the Media Education Association journal POV. During the conference I had quite a few concerns which are expressed in the article below:



Like so many other educationalists, the concept of a conference centred on the theme of Media Literacy was enticing to say the least. Upon its initial announcement where the workshops appeared to be focused on what was happening in classrooms, where good practice would be shared amongst those in attendance, and where there would be a sense of conviviality, attendance at the Media Literacy Conference was a must. However, as the months passed before the conference it was clear that there was a burgeoning emphasis on Research Panels, where PhD students and other academics would share (or read out?) their current projects with the cohort. During the conference, I was one of several “tweeters” who publically voiced their concerns about the shift in emphasis away from sharing innovative and practical classroom knowledge (something that I believe has been what the MEA is about) towards a celebration of academic research. Although I firmly believe in the worth and merit of this field of research and also how it often helps to inform classroom practice, I felt that the conference left me a little short changed. Therefore I propose two alternatives that may be considered to work alongside or within MLC2011.

Over the years, I have found that the most meaningful dialogue at a conference occurs during the coffee breaks, or if it is a residential, in the bar during the evening. It is within these spaces that connections are made, ideas are exchanged, and often changes are made. Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of TeachMeets occurring throughout the UK and also internationally. These events are not modelled on conventional conference structures but are based around the more informal model of an unconference. They often take place during the evening, where teachers, educationalists, and other interested parties are not taken away from their day jobs; therefore they are open for all to attend. The premise for a TeachMeet style event is in the words of Ewan Macintosh “about being engaged and inspired by our immediate colleagues and get some ideas from the grassroots” and where the guidelines are:

•    7 minute presentations
•    2 minute nano-presentations
•    Anyone can speak; there are no keynotes or spotlight talks
•    Speakers are chosen at random; there is no pecking order
•    Presentations cannot use PowerPoint; find another way
•    Presentations must talk about teaching and learning going on now, in a classroom.
•    No sales pitches
•    Everyone is a participant, not a bystander. The venue should be conducive to getting up and having a chat in the corner at any time, not just in the breaks. The first TeachMeet was held in a pub and then a restaurant. Others have been held in ballrooms.
•    The provision of drinks helps break down the notion that people are ‘in conference’ or ‘at work’.
•    If you need a sponsor to get a venue, set up PA, bring in drinks and nibbles, then make sure you’re not held to one sponsor.
•    Sponsors are privileged to sponsor TeachMeet – not the other way around. ‘No sales pitches’ goes for them, too.
•    TeachMeet is not about freebees. It’s about teachers talking about teaching and learning.

Personally, the benefits of a TeachMeet style of unconference is that it is about building a community where ideas are shared and where everyone is valued equally, and they have been highly successful because of this. Having a keynote speaker at a conference has its benefits, but ultimately the dialogue is finished once that speaker has closed their presentation.

In June 2009 I co-organised an unconference style event on the Isle of Islay centred around the theme of what education might look like in the year 2020, focusing on these areas: assessment, future spaces,  relevance of skills, and learning for all. There was to be no keynote speaker, no presentations by individual attendees, instead it was an open, very informal, and possibly anarchic(!) event where the emphasis was on creating a dialogue, sharing ideas, and exchanging viewpoints. Despite being held on a Scottish island where the ferry journey time to the mainland was 2.5 hours, over 50 people attended coming from all corners of the UK. I might add that we held it in Bowmore Distillery, therefore there was the added incentive of a few free drams! As the vast majority of people came from afar, local hotels were open to negotiation to deals for the attendees and the unconference continued into the early hours of the morning. Everyone left with a sense that something was achieved and that a journey had been begun. Moreover, there was no cost for the event for the attendees (apart from the obvious travel and accommodation costs) and sponsorship for the cost of the venue was obtained from one source. Therefore for an event to take place where teachers can meet to converse and exchange does not need to cost an awful lot of money – there are always alternatives.

These are just two examples of what could possibly happen at the forthcoming Media Literacy Conference and hopefully will spark some debate on the MEA forum. Perhaps a TeachMeet style event could be held in a local brewery or the backroom of a pub? It is important that teachers of Media (in all its forms) are provided with an opportunity to meet and to share ideas, especially when one thinks of the coalition Government’s proposals regarding the future of education where Media is not even mentioned. Grand buildings, free goodie bags of promotional materials, and sparkling silverware are not necessary when it comes to discussing ideas and proposals of change!

A Mickey Mouse Subject?

A great Slideshare presentation couresty of Rob McMinn

Mickey Mouse subject? – Presentation Transcript

  1. Why Study Media?
  2. W hat’s all t his waffle about Med ia Studies bein g a “Micke y Mouse subject”?
  3. WHO owns the Mouse?
  4. Media Networks Parks and Resorts Studio Entertainment Consumer Products
  5. Walt Disney Hollywood Pictures Records Pixar Lyric Street Animation Records Studios ABC Touchstone Television Pictures Studios Hollywood ESPN Pictures Disney.com Miramax Movies.com Marvel Entertainment Club Penguin
  6. Disney is the largest media & entertainment conglomerate in the world
  7. “Disneyland invites the customer not merely to experience the controlled thrills of a carny ride, but to participate in the mythic rituals of the culture.” E L Doctorow, The Book of Daniel (1971)
  8. “A study today of the Q products of the animated cartoon industry of the twenties, thirties and forties would yield the following theology: 1. People are animals.
  9. 2. The body is mortal & subject to incredible pain
  10. 3. Life is antagonistic to the living
  11. 4. The flesh can be sawed, crushed, frozen, stretched, burned, bombed, and plucked for music. 5
  12. 5. The dumb are abused by the smart and the smart destroyed by their own cunning.
  13. 6. The small are tortured by the large and the large destroyed by their own momentum.
  14. 7. We are able to walk on air, but only as long Y as our illusion supports us.
  15. Disneyfication This is the process in which culture is plundered, homogenised, repackaged, and sold back to us in an sanitised form
  16. “It is clear that few of the children who ride in the Mad Hatter’s Teacup have read or even will read Alice [in Wonderland]…” E L Doctorow, The Book of Daniel (1971)
  17. The average Disneyland customer has little or no experience of the “cultural treasures” he or she is supposed to cherish
  18. “One cannot tour Disneyland today without noticing its real achievement, which is the handling of crowds” E L Doctorow, The Book of Daniel (1971)
  19. “One is struck by the number of adult customers at Disneyland unaccompanied by small children.”
  20. 15,000 speakers in Disney World “manufacture emotion” as you walk around. The music is at a constant volume — and nobody notices it
  21. “The life and life-style of slave-trading America on the Mississippi River in the nineteenth century is compressed into a technologically faithful steamboat ride of five or ten minutes on an HO-scale river.” E L Doctorow, The Book of Daniel (1971)
  22. emotio nal and Afte r all this on, the olic ma nipulati symb the mom ent of mer r eaches chase. custo he poin t of pur commun ion at t
  23. History, Culture, Art, Literature = merchandise
  24. For some, Disneyland is the authentic expression of our society of simulations
  25. smilin g eyes “ behind these cious s a co ld, fero t he re lurk talkin g us.” rfully s st fea Jean Baudrillard, America bea
  26. “Centuries of tradition are eroded by the technically dazzling but culturally-biased products of the New Internationalist corporate entertainment industry.”
  27. Global entertainment is one of the characteristic features of globa l capitalism. Corporate culture tends to destroy diversity
  28. from childhood, we are trained to be good consumers: to want things, to feel good when we buy things – and to feel bad when we don’t, or can’t
  29. The T version of reality is sanitised & often overwhelmingly white
  30. Who is served by this soft-focus reality?
  31. “All children agree that the roles of boss, secretary, police officer, and doctor K in television programs are usually played by White people while the roles of criminal and maid/janitor on television are usually played by African- Americans. Never do children see Latino or Asian characters as the dominant person in the source: http://www.children now.org listed roles.”
  32. Although fond of using Public Domain works for its film adaptations, T is aggressive in defending its copyrights
  33. Disney thinks 8-year-old kids have entered into a legally binding contract by walking underneath this sign!
  34. Disney also makes kids sit through 120 pages of licence agreements before being allowed to watch Sleeping Beauty on a Blu Ray disk.
  35. $63 billion in total assets $36 billion revenue (2009) $3.31 billion profit (2009) 150,000 employees Who owns the Mouse?
  36. Mouse Subject? M ickey

Why Scotland (or rather the SQA) has got Media Studies wrong

This is a very personal post.

Over the past year I have become increasingly frustrated with the way in which the production aspect of the SQA Media Studies course is (perhaps) viewed as an add-on. To clarify this, all pupils who undertake the course (whether that is at Intermediate One, Intermediate Two, or Higher level) need to complete a produced piece of media work during the year – this can be print based, film based, audio based etc. However, this work does not account towards their final grade. What is summatively assessed is their analysis skills (in terms of theory) and their knowledge of Language and Cultural Codes. Something that has not changed for several years and does not reflect the way Media Studies is approached in the 21st Century.

It is a firm belief of mine that in relation to Media Studies, the theoretical aspects inform the practical aspects, and vice versa. When learners are given the theoretical understanding of how the media works, then they engage with the production aspect at a higher level. Throughout this past year, I have witnessed some truly inspirational work from learners in terms of the video work that they have completed; some outstanding team work; and individuals continually evaluating their progress. Nearly all learners fully engage with the production aspect of the course, but at the end of the day are rewarded with nothing from the awarding body. The positive is that they are rewarded with a personal and collective sense of achievement, whether this be from showing their work to others within school, or from the number of views their work has had online.

So what needs to be done? I feel that the OCR Media Studies AS and A2 course has pretty much got it right. These qualifications are assessed by 50% internally marked coursework and 50% by external examinations. Learners produce media artefacts from a series of briefs (print, video, audio, and websites) and it is paramount that they continually evaluate their progression of their production through blogging. This is relatively old news for practitioners in England, but maybe not for those in Scotland. The OCR system provides institutions and learners with a selection of briefs for their production. Here are two examples:

“A short film in its entirety, lasting approximately five minutes, which may be live action or animated or  combination of both, together with two of the following three options:

  • a poster for the film;
  • a radio trailer for the film;
  • a film magazine review page featuring the film.”

“A promotion package for the release of an album, to include a music promo video, together with two of the following three options:

  • a website homepage for the band;
  • a cover for its release as part of a digipack (CD/DVD package);
  • a magazine advertisement for the digipack (CD/DVD package).”

What these briefs do is give learners a practical and theoretical understanding of how different media work together. They are encouraged to understand media convergence and synergy, and more importantly are credited in relation to this understanding. At present, the Media Studies course offered by the SQA does none of this, instead production briefs are left completely open (this does have some advantages) and it is left to the learner and teacher if they want to make their production embrace different media. Yet, it needs to be repeated, that no credit is given to this.

I sincerely hope that the current Media Studies course offered by the SQA will change radically in the future. Consultation is already underway in relation to how moving image texts will be incorporated into the new Curriculum for Excellence, specifically with regards to Literacy, yet even a cursory glance at the new curriculum will show that Media Studies has been completely omitted (I would love to be corrected with this statement!).

Why has there been this omission? Maybe you have the answer to this and I would love to hear your views about how Media Studies is treated in Scotland.

Media Production Videos

Just a short post to highlight some of the work my Media Studies class have done. I am very pleased with what they have come up with, and the editing in one is particularly impressive (will let you decide which one I mean!). I feel that it’s a real shame that these productions don’t go towards their final grade – perhaps this is something that ought to be addressed by the powers that be?

The information that they were provided with was:

The Brief:

Create a 2 minute (minimum) opening sequence to a film in the genre of thriller.

• medium (film)
• purpose (entertainment)
• form (opening sequence)
• genre (thriller)
• target audience (teenagers 15 -19)
• length (no less than 2 minutes)
• deadline (end of March 2010)

What I am looking for:

An effective opening which establishes the central narrative.
Continuity editing
Mise-en-scene that relates to the whole film (eg a character’s clothing, props, makeup)
Effective and appropriate use of music
Use of thriller conventions (eg an enigma), especially film noir.

The videos can be viewed on my Vimeo page here http://www.vimeo.com/user1506020/videos

Please feel free to add comments and these will be fed back to the various groups.

FilmG Success!

As many of you will know, I travelled up to Inverness last week with the filmmaking group I run to attend the FilmG Awards Ceremony. We were absolutely delighted to win not only the Best Prouction category, but also the People’s Choice Award. The latter award was conducted via online voting and we were in competition with not only all the other Young People’s films, but were also competing against all the Adult entries – a HUGE thanks to everyone who voted for the film.

The event was a true experience for all the pupils and was wonderfully hosted by MG Alba. The (female) pupils were especially please that Joe Thomas from The Inbetweeners was there too!

The event also motivated and inspired the pupils to continue to make films and really boosted their self-confidence and belief. I am extremely proud of them all, not only for what they have achieved but also for how they conducted themselves.

Whilst away, we also had the fortune to visit the media facilities at Sabhal Mor Ostaig. At this college they run a Media course and have some of the most amazing facilities that I have ever seen for an educational establishment – a full working studio, professional production room, sound booth, dressing rooms, and post-production suite. Many thanks to the staff who showed us round – once again, this visit inspired the pupils and showed them what they could potentially be a part of.

A terrific time was had by all and we’re already looking forward to when FilmG announce this year’s competition!

Once again, well done to all the pupils who were involved in the project – you’ve made a dream come true for me and I am very proud of you all!

A couple of links about Islay High School’s triumph:

For Argyll website

Armin Grewe’s Islay Blog