Media Education in England

Dr Chris Richards Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media, Institute of Education, University of London

Outline
1. Popular media as resources for young people. 2. Old and new media in young people’s lives. 3. The opportunities media education can offer young people. 4. What does media education look like? A conceptual framework for the media curriculum.

Media Power
• In one persistent, enduring and influential tradition in media studies, the media are regarded as overwhelmingly powerful and their audiences as mostly powerless. • See, for example:

http://www.mediaed.org

Young Audiences
• But what if the way people, including young people, engage with the media is not at this sub-intellectual level? What if young people, though certainly subject to the power of the media to frame, form and determine some aspects of their lives, are also drawing on media texts more productively in their talk and their play?

Research

• What meaning and significance do young people give to the media with which they engage?

Play

even when children try their hardest to match their own play behavior to that modeled for them by television…they are forced by their need for cooperation to make all kinds of compromises, such as bargaining for who takes the negative roles, deciding how they can adapt their unique ‘power’ feelings to the scenario, devising costumes, weapons, gestures, and sequences. What they reproduce is a playful theatric adaptation. There is no tabula rasa. The point is, no matter what the cultural stimuli might be (toys or television shows), they have to be mediated by children’s fantasy in order to be accepted, and adjusted to their play norms and social competence in order to be assimilated into the active theatric play forms of childhood. (Sutton-Smith, 1997: 154)

Resources and Constraints
• Claims about the power of the media need to be qualified by attention to what children and young people themselves have to say about their own media interests. • But they are also, like us, caught up in processes of identification and idealization that may be oppressive and limiting.

Old and New Media
• It is important to be wary of caricatures (‘cyber kids’ for example) that construe whole generations as singularly devoted to just one, whether celebrated or reviled, newly emergent media form. Media education should be concerned with both old and new forms, with their interconnectedness in young people’s lives and with both the strengths and limits of what they know.

Media Education: Opportunities
• There is a continuing emphasis on a critical study of the media, making critique and analysis the rationale for, and priority of, a great deal of media education.
• But the current UK approach to teaching the media also emphasizes and engages with young people’s enjoyment of the media and seeks to further both their enjoyment and their understanding through various forms of ‘student focused’ production work.

What does media education look like?

• Language

How do we know what it means? How do the media produce meanings? Media as constructions. How does it present its subject? Media show a mediated version of the world. Who is communicating what and why? Economics and ideology of media industries, organisations, institutions. Who receives it, and what sense do they make of it? How are audiences identified, constructed, addressed and reached?

• Representation • Production • Audience

Conclusion
• The version of media education that I have presented to you does not abandon criticism of the media. But it does acknowledge the value of young people’s experience of the media that interest them. It also emphasizes that teaching is not simply a matter of inculcating critical skills but must always engage with young people’s existing knowledge and interests and facilitate productive, enjoyable and exploratory forms of learning about the media.

Some References
• Buckingham, D. (2000) After the Death of Childhood: Growing up in the Age of Electronic Media, Cambridge: Polity. Buckingham, D. (2003) Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press. Buckingham, D., Grahame, J. and Sefton-Green, J. (1995) Making Media: Practical Production in Media Education, London: The English and Media Centre. Buckingham, D. and Willett, R. (eds.) (2006) Digital Generations: Children, Young People, and the New Media, London: Routledge. Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York: New York University Press. Sutton-Smith, B. (1997) The Ambiguity of Play, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. •

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