As a social experiment I tasked the film group to introduce editing to some of the more able children in their class. This was an attempt to dislodge existing literacy hierarchies and have them explicitly exercising their new knowledge in a peer-to-peer social environment. The experiment had mixed results. One group of girls seemed not to have the confidence to peer teach possibly because they felt sidelined by the more able children who simply got on with the task independently having been shown the basics.
One pairing worked well giving Taylor a boost of confidence as heard in the audio; when the group was asked if anything had surprised them about themselves, Taylor replied:
“that I was getting good at like doing the… like… on computer. Like, technology, yeah, computer technology. And it was surprising that.. doing it in class wasn’t… I didn’t pick up that much but when we done a movie, it was like, I picked up more things – learning ” steliz_interview.mp3 @ 04:35 mins.
When asked whether their confidence had been affected after peer teaching:
“Yes! my confidence in showing people different things … on computers … and…and… like talking to them about my..my evacuation things” steliz_interview.mp3 @ 08:05 mins.
Her hesitations were the result of real reflection on her experience. She struggled to express herself verbally but this is a child who revealed a great deal of confidence and sensitivity with the camera, playing with high and low angles and moving camera work when I had not yet even mentioned these techniques. She entirely directed the filming of her brother Tyler’s poem. She felt that she was learning and says as much. This counters negative perceptions of children falling behind in the current system who a) need to be listened to and b) need to be given alternative ways to participate; indeed Taylor indicated that she was happy to have the opportunity to show and talk about her work to her peers.
Taylor’s vocalising of her willingness to reflect reminds me of what Buckingham has observed in relation to Vygotsky’s theories. Both stress the importance of:
“a dynamic (or ‘dialogic’) approach to teaching and learning, in which the students move back and forth between action and reflection … (moving) progressively towards greater control over their own thought processes” (2003:143)
I would argue that the interview itself has formed part of the pedagogic process and that “moving between one language mode and another” (ibid) in a social process involving their teacher and peers has helped them relate chunks of knowledge, generalise about their experience, internalise it and move beyond it. Perhaps writing ought not to be so dominant a means of expression in terms of showing critical aptitude and engagement. As Ken Robinson pointed out in his TED talk @ 4:10 mins referenced earlier, “education in a way dislocates very many people from their natural talents.”
Tyler, the boy twin, was particularly vocal in the interview, keen to express his knowledge and aspirations. It seems he has experienced similar empowerment and is primed to learn more:
“I think I can teach people when I’m older, like kids in school, like you teached us and show them how to work the computers properly … and go round the world. I might be a TV producer and can do advertisements, it would be easy to show people cos I know, I know what to do properly now.” steliz_interview.mp3 @ 02:10 mins.
I interpret working the computers properly as exposing him to a multimodal medium with relevance to his life beyond school, over which he has control and with which he can express sensitivities beyond those he can convey in words.
Daniel on the other hand, who was so willing to commentate and express himself on video weeks earlier clammed up and declined any invitation to talk on the audio. The flow so evident on film had deserted him in this context. I believe he felt exposed in the company of more assertive class members which only goes to show the rhetorical “zones” he did reach whilst in the process of editing and the impact of context. As seen in the video, the children moved around helping each other, spontaneously appreciating and sharing knowledge and interacting in what appeared to be a co-operative and reassuring environment – quite literally a level playing field of their own making, a 3D embodied social media experience.
Some support staff showed disapproval that these children should be allowed to attend the editing sessions, seeing them as a treat to be earned or denied. There was a feeling that the film group were being rewarded with media fun for bad behaviour and on one occasion Taylor was absent from a session for this reason. It is understandable but unfortunate that media-related learning is at times perceived in this way. It is an attitude that undermines creative media practices, perpetuating the spurious idea that they are bonus privileged activities, or “dispensable embellishment(s)” (Jewitt, 2008:15, drawing on Millard & Marsh) to be delivered by transient experts. All too often they constitute a break from ‘what really matters’ – the delivery of largely passive institutional learning.
It is officially acknowledged that mandatory curriculum content is bloated with bolted-on directives:
“(it) was originally envisaged as a guide to study in key subjects … As it has developed, the National Curriculum has come to cover more subjects, prescribe more outcomes and take up more school time than originally intended.” (April 2011)
Thankfully there are school leadership teams, even in the most deprived areas as evidenced in my case studies, with the expertise to meet and exceed the standards set by the National Curriculum as well as the vision to exploit the playing fields beyond.