Media education is not about learning the right answers; it's about viewing media images with an active, critically autonomous mind and asking the right questions, so as to enable citizens to be able to counter the potential abuses of power posed by organisations with so much power, influence and financial backing." (UNESCO 2008)
In the light of the exponential growth in media content and technologies we are all exposed to in the Twenty First Century, it is important for students to become aware of the potential effects of their media consumption habits, and to be able to deal with the bombardment of information in a way which is mature, critically autonomous, and able to resist the subtle pressures being exerted on them from all quarters. As such, the Media department is unusual in its teaching methodology in that it doesn't seek to give students ready-made answers, but equip them with a range of critical tools with which to deal with any text they come across. The teacher's role is to facilitate the questioning process, and the student's role is to use whatever tools they feel are most appropriate to question the intentions behind texts and techniques. Students therefore need to be prepared to venture answers, share them with the class, and collaborate with others to make sure their ideas are water-tight.
Ironically, the media's portrayal of Media Studies qualifications as "Mickey Mouse" and "lacking rigour" is very much one which reflects the way in which these media institutions view themselves as "knowing better", a patriarchal approach which students are trained to interrogate. The department provides a range of courses which involve individual analytical thought, interrogation, argument, and backing up with rigorous reference to examples, skills which should stand students in strong stead for the changing world of work they will be entering. The ability to dissect media texts and offer explanations of their intentions, audience responses, and the techniques used to elicit these is a key component of the academic side of the department, and a cornerstone upon which students can build their own creative ideas.
The second major element of the courses on offer is practical. Once students can identify the codes and conventions of a range of media texts, they can then begin to conceive creative pieces of their own which follow or even subvert the established rules of genre. Students are encouraged to approach creative projects by developing their ideas along unusual lines of enquiry, by viewing the world around them from a range of angles and viewpoints, in order to create a portfolio of ideas which are original. They are then taught the discipline to work their ideas through thoroughly, from conception to final product, and to evaluate their work critically, always thinking about what they could have done better. Two important cliches are held as truisms within the Media Department.
"Creativity is 1% inspiration followed by 99% perspiration."
"Projects are never completed, they are merely taken away from the creator."
What Can Parents Do To Help?
Media subjects are notoriously difficult for parents to help their children with, as there is no "correct" answer in any situation. Students learn by analysing texts, using key concepts they are taught in class, and the best way they can improve their analytical faculties is with practice. Parents who encourage students to practice their skills can expose them to a number of different texts which might be outside of their comfort zone, and ask them to explain what is happening.
The framework students are encouraged to use in analysis follows a list of key questions below:
- What is the intended meaning and function behind the text?
- How does it seek to influence the audience?
- What techniques are used to achieve this? Shooting, editing, generic codes and conventions, style, representations could be considered here
- What are the intentions of the company which produced the text?
Students who are studying at the highest GCSE and A Level grades also need to consider the texts within the wider contexts of the media industries, the political contexts, and social contexts. As such, they need to develop a good overview of the media as a whole. In order to do this, students should read, listen to, and watch programmes which look at trends in the media, such as:
- The Media Programme - BBC Radio 4 (available to download as a podcast - http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/media)
- The Film Programme - BBC Radio 4 (available to download as a podcast - http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/film)
- The Media Guardian - Every Monday free with The Guardian newspaper
- The Guardian's media website - http://www.guardian.co.uk/media
- The Times Media and Business section
- The Media Magazine - (Quarterly magazine of Media Studies, available through the school, with additional resources online at www.mediamagazine.org.uk)
Regular exposure to these should enable students to become conversant with the central issues which affect the media, and be able to place specific texts within their proper contexts.
For further or more specific advice, please contact Mr Gunn by e-mail.
Subject leader: Mr Gunn