If you’d like to contribute to his site, please e-mail him: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. and via Mark Reid at the BFI, a request for participation in research on the use of films in education:
I’m wondering if you might be able to help with a request I’ve had from a colleague in the Autonomous University of Barcelona (AUB) about some research they are leading for the FilmED consortium (www.filmedeurope.wordpress.com/consortium). The consortium is led by Jose Manuel Perez Tornero and includes AUB, the Think Tank on European Film and Film Policy, CUMEDIAE and AEDE.
They are conducting some Europe-wide research on ‘FilmEd – Showing films and other audiovisual content in European schools: Obstacles and best practices’ which aims to analyse the use of cinema and other audiovisual content in European schools, with a view to making recommendations to the European Commission.
As part of the project they want teachers and School Heads to complete an online survey. They launched the survey a number of months ago but have had a poor response rate from the UK and I believe the survey is going to close soon.
This is an engaging read as a whole book, and as Marsh points out in the foreword, it is long overdue book.
Many claims are made to the value of studying media for young people. But here Parry sets out on a very particular path to argue for the value of bringing children’s film in particular into the wider development of understanding of narrative, to make the experience of watching/making children’s films an integral part of reading and writing, indeed of literacy itself.
The first three chapters explicitly focus on the role of children’s film in children’s lives. Parry takes on board all of the arguments made against children’s films: arguments that accuse children’s films of erring on the side of happy endings (Disney’s crime), or films that refuse the difficulties in a complex narrative from a book and opt for a happy ending instead. And, she acknowledges criticisms about a lack of diversification in children’s narratives both at a text level and very obviously in the lack of opportunity for diverse points of view from those employed in the industry. In spite of all these sometimes legitimate critiques of children’s films, she still argues that “the space created by children’s films are open, complex and rich, rather than entirely closed and didactic.” (2013:31) Thus by Chapter Four, the objective of her research is clarified. She sets out to answer a crucial question of how children learn about narrative through their engagement with children’s films. She does this through a small-scale piece of qualitative research with 9-10 year olds exploring the processes involved in reading films and the way that understanding of moving image narrative could impact on understanding of narrative in print.
What much of the book is about comes from data gathered, presented and analysed from a small-scale qualitative enquiry based in a primary school in the north of England. For emerging researchers in the field, discussions about methodology, ethics and analysis of data is meticulously well presented. Parry details at length (see Chapter 5) the rationale for her approach as participatory, visual and collaborative with fine consideration given to how the young people (9-10 years) old might present, discuss and interpret their responses. Furthermore, she was eager to work in such a way that she could capture some of how film made young people feel, or act, rather than just how it made them think, a refreshing riposte to many more rationalist accounts of meaning-making.
The conclusions are rightly cautious based on a small-scale study. There is no attempt to generalise from the findings but instead to offer the findings as a way of other educators measuring their practice, or seeing the identities children present as possible identities of children they work with in other contexts.
What she does extrapolate from the research is that there are parallels to be drawn between children developing as readers of books and children becoming readers of film. Children used their understanding of children’s films as resources for talk and play at home and socially at school and Parry argues that these prior explorations of narrative should have more value in school. There is a major issue tackled here in that the “disconnect” between home literacy practices and school practices, has a negative impact on many young people’s sense of esteem and worth as well as limiting the breadth and depth of their understanding of narrative. Why does all that understanding have to be left at the classroom door?
For Parry, children’s films do exciting things for children: they put children at the centre of narrative, they draw heavily on fantasy, and make children the drivers of action. Compared with many school-based explorations of narrative, children’s film narratives are full of the joy of a central child character who takes risks, or gets into scrapes, or shows bravery whereas the narratives children are instructed to write in school are safe, neat, ordered and over-structured . In short, children’s writing of narrative rarely is allowed to make reference to the wide, rich and detailed narratives encountered in the watching histories of children. Instead writing narratives often gets lost in an imperative to include “a simile to achieve a certain level of attainment” (208). Ultimately, what Parry argues is that there is a shocking loss of opportunity in cutting off children’s social and pleasurable engagements with film texts, and not using them to build a ladder of opportunity as Protherough, argues.
In the final chapter, Parry sounds an optimistic bell for the arrival of the BFI Film Forever strategy, one strand of which has given FilmNationUK the contract for drawing up a film education programme with activities and support across the UK, available to all 27,600 schools, to cinemas, to youth organisations and community groups. I would have to challenge that laudable optimism as such a far-reaching strategy has landed in a period of education policy assault on media education more broadly.
What is worth getting on board with here – and through reading this book – is the engagement with arguments about attainment and achievement which have led current government policy to work at limiting pupils’ access to different narratives. The strength of this book is that Parry argues to draw on the extensive, expanded notion of storytelling children gain from watching films and make that impact on their conventional literacy learning.
A great deal has already been achieved in film education, and there is excellent practice to be found in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Furthermore, since the launch of Film Forever twelve months ago, the BFI has completed the first year of the BFI Film Academy (for aspiring young film makers) and awarded Lottery funding to FILM NATION UK (to deliver film into the education of all 5-19 year olds). At the same time, we continue to support education through our programming, our online services, and our in-venue work at BFI Southbank.
Now is the time to bring our vision and plans up to date, to confirm the value of partnership across the sector, and to define the specific role of the BFI itself. We also want to bring into focus the evidence we have for the importance of learning about – and through – screen media, and we will commission additional research where gaps can be identified.
I was very pleased to have the opportunity to attend the bi-annual conference of Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM)- the equivalent of the MEA down under- at the beginning of July, supported by a grant towards my expenses from the MEA. As a first time visitor to Australia it was quite something to experience the country and its culture, but even more exciting to meet some of its media teachers and to hear about their experiences.
After a two day symposium at the Creative Industries Precinct at Queensland University of Technology, hearing about a range of research projects- of which more below- I spent three days at the Gardens Point Campus in the magnificent Cube building attending the conference. I presented on my own research into the A level classroom as part of the symposium, also hearing about a games in the classroom project, pairing up schoolkids and the elderly for digital storytelling , comparison of the structure of one laptop per child projects in Africa with Australia, small scale work on camera use in classrooms, research into youth media groups in Vancouver and digital media literacy policy in Australia. It was extremely stimulating to hear about such a range of projects and to be able to participate in the discussions.
The conference itself was attended by around 130 teachers from all over Australia and one of the things I quickly learnt was how different education is in each state- with even the holidays at different times in some. Media education is long established in some states, with Victoria in particular having a very long tradition, yet in others, such as New South Wales, there is virtually nothing. In the weeks before the conference, a great success had been achieved with the pushing through of a Media Arts curriculum in Primary across the country being approved for the first time. Delegates were aghast to hear that in England, which they had long seen as a model for their own media teaching, the new National curriculum takes us in the opposite direction, with no mention of media texts whatever appearing. Though there is room for hope in other parts of the UK…
I spent a lot of time talking with educators from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia in particular and was pleased to bump into an old friend, Geoff Lealand, the only representative from New Zealand able to attend. The full programme from the conference is on the website, but one session which I will remember in particular was that by Colin Stewart, who, to a packed seminar room, took us through where Australian media teaching had been and where it might be going. His vision of video games at the centre of the media curriculum in 2020 would seem to be a very unlikely one here in the UK. In Australia, Colin noted that already a significant percentage of media teachers include videogames in their teaching.
The ATOM approach to a conference was a bit less hands-on than our approach at the MEA, with teacher sessions being more mini-presentations than workshops, alongside the bigger more traditional keynote talks. But what was familiar was the enthusiasm of the delegates and the nervousness of the first time speakers- who really had nothing to worry about as they all had good practice to spread- and a refrain which echoes from the UK- internet filtering ! After I did a presentation about Media A level and blogging, several people came up to me to say that there is no way they would be able to use any of the tools I illustrated from classroom work here, making it clear that state controls are much more draconian even than our county filtering. As in the UK, though, Australian teachers use their ingenuity to make the most of what they can get!
A key aim for my visit was to set up links between Australian teachers and their counterparts in the UK. I offered this from the front at the start of my presentation and also tweeted to this effect a number of times during the conference, as well as swapping lots of business cards and chatting informally at meal times. The MEA and ATOM will work together to try to facilitate such links in whatever ways are possible, but three possible options that were suggested as
starting points were:
Links via e-mail initially between teachers to discuss and swap curriculum materials
Links between classes doing particular projects in the two countries
Teacher exchange including house swaps !
If you think you might be interested in participation in any of these ways (or others), as a first step please e-mail mailto:email@example.com with ideas on what you’d like to do. I will then endeavor to put you in touch!
Auteur’s pocket sized termly publication Splice is a must read for teachers of film and media, especially at A level. The winter 2012 edition features sport as a loose overarching theme to celebrate the success of the London Olympics and Paralympics.
The book contains a total of five essays on films connected to sport and games, beginning with Judith Gunn’s insightful analysis of The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross and starring Jennifer Lawrence. It is articles such as this that make Splice such an essential resource for teachers; Gunn gives the background to Suzanne Collins’ successful novels, relates the stories to classical mythology and discusses representations of Katniss Everdeen as both an archetypal huntress and classic ‘Final Girl’, referencing Carol Clover’s horror staple Men, Women and Chainsaws.
It is often difficult for busy teachers to find the time to create new resources and schemes of work on relatively recent films, but Gunn’s essay is an ‘off the peg’ resource that can be put to immediate use in the classroom. Similarly, Rona Murray’s essay on Moneyball provides excellent context to Bennett Miller’s Oscar nominated film, providing a history of Hollywood baseball movies and exploring the narrative structure of the text. Both essays would act as an excellent starting point for anyone looking for engaging contemporary English language films to teach, for example, for the examined unit of OCR’s AS Film Studies specification.
Peter Turner’s essay Mockery, Masculinity and Misogyny: The Sports Movies of Will Ferrell offers a rare opportunity to read a considered academic piece about an iconic American comedy actor who is more than likely to engage the interest of the average teenager sitting in our classrooms. The essay looks in detail at representations in Ferrell’s sports films and would be useful both as a teaching resource and as a starting point for a research project for A2 Film Studies coursework; indeed, this essay would provide invaluable help to students choosing to look at Will Ferrell as a star for WJEC’s annotated catalogue and presentation script.
The other two essays are equally interesting. Omar Ahmed’s essay Once Upon A Time In India: Lagaan looks at representation and ideologies in the 2001 Indian musical sport drama Lagaan while James Clarke gives a historical overview of the Olympic Games on film from Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia to the less serious adventures of the Jamaican bob sleigh team in Cool Runnings.
Splice, which also features reviews of the latest academic film books, is published three times a year by Auteur with subscriptions costing £38 a year plus £3.80 postage.