Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Film, Media and Edutopia

I've been reading Edutopia in print and online for more than a year and I always find something of interest there. Tonight I found many articles that have something to do with the focus of our class and of this blog. Did you know that if you're a middle school teacher you can get curriculum materials for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird? But if you aren't a middle school teacher, you can still benefit from the Story of Movies site. In a different story, "filmmaker and George Lucas Educational Foundation chairman George Lucas thinks it's time to change 'English' class into 'Communication' class, where students learn the grammatical rules of graphic arts, film, and music along with English grammar. 'It shouldn't be taught as some esoteric, arty thing. Communication skills should be taught as very practical tools that you use to sell and influence people, to get your point across -- especially in this age, where kids are, more and more, using multimedia.'"

I'll stop there, but I'd like to know what others think of this resource, and I'd invite anyone interested in visual literacy and media literacy to spend a lot of time here. You'll be well rewarded.


A.M. Strzyz said...

I enjoyed viewing the website because it had valuable curriculum tools. Their unit plans were extensive and adaptable – I am going to take a few bits and pieces of what I saw and incorporate it into some of my classes. As a teacher who never used to show movies (and heard many a moans from students) I am glad that my position is changing. I was used to being in a class or observing a class where movies were shown to baby-sit the students or passively re-iterate a novel that they students read. I have recently discovered how to make showing movies educational. In one of my blog posts ( I discuss a recent activity with movies and writing skills. In response to the article that was linked to this post, I found encouragement for including activities in media educating.

I also read the article in the post and found this last part to be intriguing: “Until then, teachers will spend less than an hour each school day teaching "English," leaving students to their own devices -- cell phones, TVs, iPods, PlayStations, and laptops -- to enjoy their eight-hour independent-learning adventure in the fun house of digital media.” We raised this question in class on one of the first days, but this quote made me think about it again. If students are already learning about media (specifically digital media), is it a moot point to teach it in schools? I personally think that we should teach our students to view media with a critical eye. But, I am still pondering the question of how much to teach? said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DianeWagener said...

Thanks for the link to Story of Movies – it is a great site with good detail and ideas that are rich with active concepts…my only disappointment is that there are not more movies/projects available through the site! I also visited frankwbaker’s site based on his comment and found his ideas to be interesting as well – his lesson on symbolism in the opening credits of TKMB seems like a good one and got me to thinking about how it would help students to look at symbols visually while we are asking them to consider their meaning. It seems that the visual cues could help to get the thought process kick-started.

I also wanted to comment on the George Lucas quote, as the idea of Language Arts being about communication is something that I have always felt strongly about. It is a subject I often bring up in the classroom, teacher conferences, back-to-school night forums etc. It seems particularly relevant based on our discussion in class last week regarding the teaching of grammar. It was brought up that drilling in the “rules” is not as important as developing writers – the kind of feedback and practice that allows students to see or “hear” if their sentences sound correct. We also discussed the need for students to have some kind of language (internal grammars as Gee would describe it) that give them the tools of the domain. That fine line between helping students develop effective written communication skills without killing their creativity by obsessing over the rules and labels, plus the need for students to develop skills in the multiple modes of communication truly sets the stage for a shift in the pedagogy.

In discussions with my middle school peers we have often focused on how our English classes need to be a “survey” style course…our responsibility is truly more in line with a communications model than a true Literature study. I see that this makes it easier for me to see my role as a facilitator of communication skills, since I do not have a standards based directive that requires students to understand and/or analyze a specific piece of literature.

While I pondered this concept I decided to visit a site I have gone to many times before…as a native San Diegan and educator, I have followed the progress of High Tech High for the past few years…seeing the digital portfolios and the projects these students create would likely qualm anyone’s fears about shifting the “English Class” focus to a “Communications Class” focus. These students are both consuming and producing communication ion on a variety of levels and the quality of their work is evident.

You can visit the digital portfolios at:

Deidre said...

I enjoyed this entry, as I'm in the middle of advocating the placement of film-editing software into our composition computer labs. I enjoyed the Lucas quote you've included here. It pours some fuel on my fire! Thanks!