Media Education: Perspective-Training of Professors and Educators

Pier Cesare Rivoltella – Catholic University of Sacred Heart (UCSC), Milan [in Educational Innovation: Perspectives of Internationalization, Zhejhang University Press, HangZo 2007, pp. 17-25]
Summary – 1. Media Educator: a new professional identity for the Information Society – 2. Media educator: identity and position – 3.



Many books and articles have already studied Communication Society and its characteristics. Their principal aim is the indication of the main differences between this Society and the previous ones, i.e. the Literary Society (Eisenstein, 1983) - structured upon writing and press - and the Oral Society (Ong, 1982), whose specificity is the centrality of speaking and the importance of memory. Synthetically, we can outline almost three aspects: a) first, we define Communication Society a new sort of Society whose environment is made by electronic and digital media. This new media environment produces some important effects on our cognition, whose peculiarity is the new role of mediation. In this media environment, are mediated our experience of the world, our knowledge of history, our interaction with others (Thompson, 1995). This doesn’t imply, like as technological determinism says, that technology set our cognition creating a new brain frame (de Kerkhove, 1991)), but surely means that most of our social activity isn’t impossible even if through media and information technologies; b) this involvement of our social activity with technologies is characterized by a new articulation of our senses. From this point of view, we can say that if Orality was a culture of the ear (because listen is in that culture the main social activity) and Literary was a culture of the eye (reading, in this case, is the most common access to knowledge and shared cultural data), Communication Society is more particularly characterized by tactile dimension: and this is true both in the case of music and television (whose language, made of vibrations, talk to our all body and not only to the ears) than in that of computers, where each cognitive activity is mediated by the manipulation of an interface device (mouse, touch-screen, and so on); c) finally, in this society, virtuality and actuality are often overlapped and confused. As well explained by Levy (1995), it is wrong to oppose virtuality and reality, because in this case it seems that virtuality doesn’t exist. On the contrary, virtual environments and simulated landscapes inside them are absolutely real: when we’re playing with videogames Arcade, moving our avatar through

the different levels of the game, we’re doing a real experience; that world isn’t imaginary, it exists on the screen of my computer and so are real the emotions I feel playing with it. This and other similar experiences are typical of a new logic, a logic of simulation, that is perfectly concerned with digital media and take part to the definition of the environment these media are building up. These and other similar characteristics call for education asking for new competencies both in pupils and educators. The same mission of the school and other educational institutions is forced to change. From the point of view of this paper, that is professors and educators training, the real question is: What it means to educate in this new environment? Do we need new educative figures? Or it’s enough to update the traditional ones? And which competencies must they have? Our proposal is the introduction of a new type of educator, able to work with and about media; we can name this educator “media educator” and preview his presence in the schools near to teachers and traditional educators. In the next paragraphs let’s we talk about his role, competencies and training.


We can represent role and position of the media educator like a Cartesian plane into which put, on the horizontal line, its role (between two extremes, “specialist” and “non specialist”) and, on the vertical line, its position into the organization with which it is working (cfr. Fig. 1).



Non specialist


Fig 1 – The role of the media educator

Let’s imagine to apply this schema to the school. It’s easy to individualize where media educator can position itself. 1) inside the school, the most common situation is that of teachers don’t having any competencies about media and technologies (non specialists). To accept to have only this kind of teachers fro the schools means to be unable to give to the students an instruction habilitating them to live into the Communication Society; 2) this is the reason why, through training on the job and other forms of professional education (long life learning, masters), schools need to update the media competence of these teachers (non specialists → specialists). This updating has two main goals: a) to provide all teachers a sufficient media competence so they can become “media literates”, able to interact with students and with technologies to be used in the classrooms; b) to provide some teachers a high level formation so they can coordinate other teachers, becoming leaders in their own institutions; 3) outside the school, often there is people offering his media competencies to the schools. This is the case of shameless persons that, without real educative or communicative competencies, simulate to be experts for being contracted by the schools (non specialists); 4) it’s very important distinguish between this so-call experts and real experts able to bring to the schools their experience and expertness (specialists). This is the case of animators, photographs, video-makers, proposing to the schools projects and activities whose integration into curricula is quite easy.

These four cases allow to us to understand what is a media educator recognizing two different roles for him: is not a media educator nor the teacher non specialist inside the school (1), neither the socall expert without real competencies outside the school (3); we can talk about a “low-profile media educator” in the case of a teacher becoming media literate and able to make media activities in his classroom (1); finally, we talk about a “high-profile media educator” in the case of a teacher specialist inside the school, or of an expert outside. A good media education activity probably needs: - almost a media educator specialist inside the school; - a great part of media literate teachers; - some media educators specialist collaborating with school from outside.

3. WHICH COMPETENCIES FOR A MEDIA EDUCATOR? Once again it is possible to represent graphically the area of competencies that is important the media educator is able to develop (Fig. 2).





Fig. 2 – Competencies of the media educator

How it is possible to see, the media educator is a border figure, with an hybrid identity both on the methodological and disciplinary side. Methodologically it is very important that a media educator doesn’t exaggerate nor his vocation for intervention and animation, neither his correct orientation to reflexivity and criticism. According to me it should be not so good if a media educator were only an animator without a theoric background about media and education; similarly a media educator only able to make theoric research and absolutely unable to practice shouldn’t be the professional to which we are thinking about. From the disciplinary point of view, it should be very important that media educator knows either media and education, synthesizing competencies owned since nowadays by communicators or educators. Let’s see in particular these competencies: 1) competencies in theory of communication. At this level media educator must know the conceptual framework of Communication Research, particularly the effects theories and the reception theories. Moreover he must study media languages and process paying attention to aesthetics, economy and politics of the media; 2) competencies in communication practice. Here the main competence of the media educator concerns analysis and its methodology. This means to develop almost two kind of skills: a) textual analysis (from the different point of view: semiotic, narrative, pragmatic, content, etc.); b) reception analysis (in this case the methodology is centered on audience and its practices of consumption and not on text and its characters). Moreover is very important that media educator is also able to work with media, producing texts and messages (such s in video making or in multimedia production); 3) competencies in theory of education. Belong to this area methodology and didactics. On the first side is very important for a media educator to be able to develop a research (particularly an actionresearch) and to build a project. Didactics is important on the other side because it suggests to media educator tools and strategies for working into the classrooms, particularly: group-work, collaborative and cooperative strategies, image-based activities; 4) competencies in education practice. Finally here we must have three areas of competencies: project making, tutoring and evaluation. Particularly this last activity is very important and quite difficult in the case of media education because the traditional assessment tools are insufficient and it is important to develop new tools and new situation (authentic assessment. check-lists, portfolios). Finally here we have a wide-range area of competencies that makes really difficult to imagine a training for such figures like these.

4. A TRAINING FOR MEDIA EDUCATORS: GUIDELINES FROM AN EXPERIENCE According to the observations we already made in the previous paragraphs, it is now possible to imagine a proposal for media educators training. This proposal is built upon a seven years experience developed at the Catholic University of Milan where since 1998 we organize an academic Master in Media Education. Culture and Profession for Multimedia Education. The new edition of this Master (a..a. 2006/07) is going to be recognized by European Union becoming more international with the participation of Universidad Libera de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain) and Universidade do Minho (Braga, Portugal). This option will make possible mobility of students and teachers in the different universities and will allow the participation to the Maser also to latinoamerican students through two conventions with the Catholic University of Santiago (Chile) and the federal Universitu of Santa Catarina (Florianopolis, Brazil). The proposal of the Master is based on three main focuses. The first is concerning the contents of the training; in this case the attention is to the aspects we talk about in the previous paragraph taking care to communication and education framework and, on the other side, to theory and practice. Second, I think it’s important that training concerns both research and animation. Educating a media educator always means giving to him methodologies and tools for research; among these methodologies and tools we think particularly to ethnographic methodologies (focus group, interview, field observation), action-research (Elliott, 1991), visual analysis (such as projective analysis of draws and images). But this training research-centered shouldn’t be exclusive; it is also very important that a media educator is able to work in the classroom and in this case he needs of some animation techniques: story-telling, role-playing, simulation, group-work. Finally, it is very important to think about didactics (Fig 3).

Cinque aule dell’e-learning aula Vdc Corso OL

Tre modelli di Valiathan community Virtual group Skill-driven Attitude-driven Competencydriven




Fig 3 – Didactics for media educator training

In our master we choose to focus on three main indicators: situation, modalities, objectives. Situation, in didactics, concerns the setting of educative action. Particularly, in a blended education perspective, it means to split teaching and learning through almost two contexts: the classroom, in intensive week-ends (Friday p.m., Saturday), with lessons and group activities; an on line course, with the availability of contents and activities into a Learning Management System (Blackboard in the case of our University) allowing people to be connected and working about contents between one intensive week end and the other. Naturally we can “fill” each didactical situation with different teaching/learning modalities. In the case of the Master these modalities are almost three: a) videoconference, for connecting students in different sites (each lesson in videoconference is edited in Show-and-tell and available in Blackboard); b) community, that means the discussion among students and teachers is one of the main learning sources when we talk about adult training, particularly about media education; c) virtual group, allowing the discussion among students is becoming a real space of elaboration and production, particularly papers and final project works. The objective, in the case of media educators, is developing a competency-driven training system. According to Valiathan (2002), it is possible to distinguish almost three models in blended learning, whose difference depends from the objective of teacher/learning action:
• • • skill-driven learning, which combines self-paced learning with instructor or facilitator support to develop specific knowledge and skills attitude-driven learning, which mixes various events and delivery media to develop specific behaviors competency-driven learning, which blends performance support tools with knowledge management resources and mentoring to develop workplace competencies.

The third model, as it is possible understand, is the better if we pretend to develop a reflective competence such as media educator competence; this means to pay attention to three main processes: explicititation and problematization of tacit competencies; development of reflection; development of competence of competencies (that means to know when and why use one of them). These three processes make possible the student is elaborating his knowledge developing Critical thinking and meta-competencies and gradually passing from skills to competencies and from a tacit to an explicit knowledge. This is also the road to a reflective learning (Fig. 3).


Critical thinking reflective learning

skill Implicit learning




Fig. 3 – Competence-driven model


De Kerkhove, D. (1991), Brainframes. Mind, Culture and Market, Keunigs & Bosch, Utrecht. Eisenstein, E. (1983), The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Mass. Elliott, J (1991), Action research for Educational Change, Teachers College, New York. Levy, P. (1995), Qu’est ce que le virtuel?, La Découvèrte, Paris. Ong, W. (1982), Orality and Literacy. The technologizing of the Word, Methuen, London & New York. Thompson, J.B. (1995), The Media and Modernity. A Social Theory of the Media, Polity Press, Cambridge. Valiathan, P. (2002), Blended learning Models. In Internet, URL:

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