Learning & Engagement, Research Question

Research Question

Under The Cranes by Emma Williams

Under The Cranes – a film by Emma-Louise Williams

Teachers and students could be encouraged to engage in exchanges about popular cultural digital practices and representations, and to perhaps cultivate a relationship that could be fuelled and nurtured by “constant cultural churn” (Jenkins, 2010) rather than problematised by it. However, as the classroom door closes, the top-down disconnect is so often restored. One suggested ‘innovatory’ scheme for primary schools emanating from current government think tanks is a centrally approved reading book list. Isn’t this a scheme with a distinctive 19th century retrogressive Arnoldian – “best that has been thought and said in the world” – ring to it? “Best”? according to whose scale of values? using what criteria? to achieve what? at the expense of what? for whose benefit ultimately? Michael Rosen, former Children’s Laureate (2007 – 2009), has been vocal in his condemnation of “the state’s view” (ibid) and their prescriptive, rigid literacy strategies. The current Secretary of State for Education might do well to take as a source of inspiration Rosen’s play for voices “Under the Cranes” now transposed into a hybrid, multimodal and critically charged aesthetic experience for screen by Emma-Louise Williams.

Might it be helpful, in the interests of an approach less infused with bias and historical baggage, to eliminate the word Media from school curricula altogether and to replace it with Communication? Over the past several years I have often thought of myself as a primary school ‘media mentor’ and it is a concept which could feasibly gain traction in line with some LEAs’ ‘lead practitioner’ training programmes. The difference being, instead of furthering the perceived training needs of the teacher, I would seek to connect with the student through reflective media chat, to engage in an ongoing dialogue cultivating confidence, curiousity and participation. Similarly Brooks (2011) alludes to a teaching style that values the unconscious learning and imitative processes associated with apprenticeship, referencing a teacher whose goal was:

“… to turn her students into autodidacts. She hoped to give her students a taste of the emotional and sensual pleasure discovery brings – the jolt of pleasure you get when you work hard, suffer a bit and then something clicks. She hoped her students would become addicted to this process.” (2011:82)

With these thoughts in mind I am motivated to explore the impact of digital media production processes on young people’s social, creative, cultural and critical engagement with the world around them. Leander and Franks claim that multimodal theory sidelines to its detriment the affective in favour of the ratiocinative:

“The relations of persons to texts are strategic and rational … rather than embodied, sensual, and involved in personal attachments and cultural affiliation.” (2006:186)

I would like to address that imbalance and argue that media production processes facilitate learning to feel the following in an embodied sense: a good aesthetic decision, a sense of conviction and wonder at seeing connections and uncovering patterns, the self-affirming nature of identity play, the security of collective social interaction and finally the pleasures of artifice, inscription and representation.



2 thoughts on “Research Question

  1. This looks really interesting. Yes, we have various prejudices embedded in the ‘platforms’ themselves eg ‘book – good, mobile app – bad’ when it comes to thinking about art or culture or thought. There has been some debate at the school our children go to about whether money raised by parents should go towards various kinds of electronic devices eg (something I haven’t seen) a ‘gameboy’ hand-held thingy which could be loaded with games that teachers ‘approved’ of. But even that seemed problematic for some as if children would in some way become contaminated or corrupted by a lower cultural form.

    The other prejudice that this tackles is the one that goes: ‘home-bad, school-good’. For decades (possibly more), there’s been an assumption that any cultural artefacts or processes that children have/engage in which are distinct from those on offer at school are dodgy, in particular those that emanate from working-class and so-called ‘minority’ cultures. Thinking of music, say, an enormous amount of effort goes into doing music which is not practised by working-class and minority cultures! In Hackney, a large number of Turkish children learn to play traditional instruments and schools find it really difficult to find a space for that in school. In places like Greenford, same goes for Irish instruments – and so on. But you could go on down a list of cultural practices looking at what is excluded, what is included and why. Think: comics, TV, film…

    What’s the problem here? Something to do with a kind of cultural absolutism – you mention Matthew Arnold – cultural domination, perhaps? Or, to put it crudely a ‘class’ attitude to culture.

    Anyway, you’ve opened up a really fruitful line of thought and practice here. Well done.

    Posted by Michael Rosen | November 18, 2011, 6:37 am
  2. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I touch on the polarised debate about the use of computer games in schools elsewhere in the blog and that’s why I’d back the development of all aspects of ‘Communication’ as a school subject, rather than ‘ICT’ & ‘Media Studies’. This shift in emphasis might neutralise the debate and counter an (over)emphasis on text/device/platform; getting young people instead to look at cultural context, rhetorical strategies, identity and sociocultural influences in relation to all forms of media representation.

    Just read this piece on writing, blogging and new media literacies: http://spotlight.macfound.org/blog/entry/reading-writing-and-new-media-literacies/#When:09:21:00Z which resonated, but I’m bothered about the ‘new’ in the terms ‘new media/literacies’ and so on, on the basis that nothing is new for long (think ‘New Labour’) and it can provoke a negation of valuable traditional continuities as well as moral panics associated with change.

    Posted by Michelle Cannon | November 19, 2011, 1:54 pm

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