This past term was quite exciting because for the first time I have stepped outside of my role as a media educator and took on a new role as a media education mentor. Although I truly missed teaching the students directly, working with teachers in two districts (Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert) really helped to reinforce the difficulties of media education implementation; specifically authentic and integrated media education. New terms such as awakening (taken from Maxine Greene’s work) and subtle have found their way into the descriptions of my understanding of media education; a description and understanding that has currently morphed as I find myself meandering through Arts Education and Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy. This summer will, therefore, be spent trying to consolidate all of the life stories I encounter during my research term. And hopefully by the fall I will be able to share these stories and adventures in more detail.
On January 14th, 2008 I was fortunate enough to reconnect with a former colleague from the School of Communication, Dr. Roman Onufrijchuk. We were given the task to explore the question of how media could construct open spaces in learning. We did so by letting the audiences follow us through our two very unique journeys to explore this question in our own teaching. My journey focused on the creation of media education lessons using Imaginative Education for elementary classrooms, focusing specifically on oral-language development through the disruption of students’ everyday understanding of media. Roman focused on the experimental use of multi-media learning– although without TV and film– and reported on his adventures with undergrad classes, using Internet, orality, chirography and print as means and methods for teaching & learning. It was video taped by IERG and available on their site: Seminar: How can media construct open spaces for learning.
On my way to Australia I am lucky enough to be stopping off in Korea for a quick, very quick, tour back to Ulsan where I conducted my Masters research. I am not only hoping to visit with friends and eat at my favourite restaurants, but I am also really looking forward to examining the changes since my last trip in 2001-2002. I want to know what has happened to the flurry of PC-Bangs that kept popping up through the year in 2001 and to see if the console-bangs (PS2 at the time) have made any headway in the PC dominated gaming market. I have left this research since my Masters, but now that I have the chance to do a mini-research project I am quite intrigued and excited to see the changes.
Media Awareness Network and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation are pleased to announce the second National Media Education Week this November 5-9th. Various ceremonies will be held throughout the provinces. The Pacific Cinamatheque in Vancouver and BCAME are hosting two incredible workshops for secondary students where they will meet and talk with an award-winning filmmaker, Nettie Wild as well as look at videos made by local youth.
IERG and the Learning Communities Research Area, University of Canberra are hosting the 6th Imagination and Education Conference this January. This will be the first time IERG has joined another organization to create a conference outside of Vancouver. This will be a more focused look at the use of Egan’s theories of Imaginative Education in practice, as well as other theorists like those of Rudolf Steiner– but overall imagination will be the key–which fits my research and interests perfectly.. so off to Australia I go!!
I am so incredibly excited to finally attend a conference with other media educators! I often end up at conferences slotted in panels with either technology-loving folks or with other educators who, like myself, don’t really seem to fit into the pedagogy of the time. So finally, I will be among peers who know what I am talking about… though using Imaginative Education in the field of media education is new and I may have a lot of explaining to do. But that’s OK… I’m coming equipped with a ‘brief guide’ that I’ve been working on.
I’d like to send a big THANKS to Dr. Marilyn Cohen who has been a tremendous asset in helping me to be heard, even offering me a place in the poster session after one of my panels was canceled. This actually worked out well since I’ve been wanting to make a poster but could never find the time. You can download it here if you like.
Well, off to prepare! I will post again upon my return.
Though I couldn’t see the prairie skies until the last couple days of the conference it was nice to be back in big sky country. It was great to finally meet my fellow panel-members and we had a wonderful discussion about research involving First Nations people within British Columbia.
I also had a chance to go to a film series hosted by NAHO (National Aboriginal Health Organization). Two films stemming from the 2004 International Indigenous Elders Summit (hosted at Six Nations in Ontario) were shown: Jidwa:doh — Let’s Become Again and Onkwa’nistenhsera — Mothers of our Nations, directed by Dawn Martin-Hill (Mohawk, Wolf Clan), Academic Director of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University. Both were great pieces and would be wonderful tools for analysis in classrooms, both for younger students as well for teachers-in-training.
Kym Stewart visits Masset: After months of planning and preparation, my media-education research finally began at Tahayghen Elementary school in Masset, Haida Gwaii. I decided that I would continue with the work on ‘advertising’ that I had begun in a Burnaby elementary classroom. As I gathered my materials on Sunday night, I was both excited and anxious to bring the lessons that I had developed to new students. While I felt comfortable teaching these very-familiar advertising lessons, I was extremely uncomfortable with their lack of Haida content as well as my role, as a non-Haida, in the development and implementation of culturally inclusive materials.
This all changed when I woke the next morning to find a small, unraveled bundle of wool with a note by the door of our little cabin in the woods. As I puzzled over the mysterious items, I quickly scanned the note for a signature; “Mouse Woman!” I cried out. And my shoulders sagged with relief. For it was known that Mouse Woman was a friend to young people (and struggling graduate students) in distress. Mouse Woman’s big, busy mouse eyes must have spotted my confusion the night before and left a note providing me with clarity and direction. “Mouse Woman,” I said again, in an awed whisper. For Mouse Woman was also a narnauk (spirit), and I knew I must show my respect, “thank you for the gift”. In return I made sure to leave this smallest of grandmothers some more knitting wool as a gift, for it was well known that in exchange for such advice, wool must be given.
Mouse Woman’s note included a poem called Jimmy Jet and His TV Set by Shel Silverstein and a reminder of Christie Harris’ collection of beautifully-written stories of Mouse Woman’s adventures. These two wonderful pieces of literary work became the basis of my four-week, media-detectives-in-training program, inspiring an investigation into the extremes of an unbalanced world, the chaos that would result and the strength and ingenuity that is needed to create order and equality once more.
I began with the Jimmy Jet poem; a short, rhythmic piece about a boy who watched so much television that his bottom grew into his chair as his hair became antennae, his face a screen, he developed a tail-like a plug and instead of watching the TV set, everyone sat around watching ‘Jimmy Jet’. The poem presented the students with a fantastic story of unbalance and transformation. I read the poem multiple times as the students intensely drew this transformation and I was intrigued by the students’ level of concentration and engagement as they listened in awe, carefully illustrating the transformation they conjured in their minds.
The students were then asked to imagine other media-hybrid characters that might result in a world like Jimmy Jet’s, where media-use imbalances could cause such bizarre transformations. The class has now introduced me to a tricky bunch of characters including; ‘Mr. Crabs’, a young boy who became a portable Play Station; ‘Video Game Vic’; ‘Mp3 Bob’ and a whole ‘iPod family’: Pink, Camille, Paul, Nancy, Nita, Sally, Nick and Chuck.
Since the initial investigation of imbalance in the lives of these characters and the sketch artists’ renditions of the media-hybrids, we have conducted ‘background checks’ on the media tricksters in the computer lab to find when they were born (when the technology was invented), where (and by whom), and how many children they have now (how many TVs, iPods, etc. are in the world now). As the students continued to develop their media characters, I began to introduce them to another wonderful cast of characters through Christie Harris’ Mouse Woman and the Mischief Makers. Using one particular story of greed, selfishness and temptation, the students were introduced to Mouse Woman and her abilities to not only sense imbalance and chaos but also to provide advice and help to those in need. This story was also used as a template for the students to create their own stories describing worlds where chaos had caused such imbalance that ordinary, playful, energetic, kind people turned into selfish, obnoxious media-characters and where Mouse Woman’s wisdom, kind words, magic spells and mysterious powers helped to restore balance.
The students’ individual stories began with a written activity and ended with a one-on-one conference session between the student and myself where we further explored creative possibilities. We are now in the process of creating group stories by reworking our ideas into skits to perform for the class.
We are having a wonderful time and the students are in awe, as am I, at the power, creativity and strength of Mouse Woman as she continuously helps others to regain balance. They have found an ally in the struggle to maintain balance in their lives and I hope that they can continue to rely on Mouse Woman when I am gone, especially as they leap into the world of advertising; a world where tricksters lie in every corner.
I have been fortunate during my research to find strength from Mouse Woman to step outside of my own comfort zone, to search for resources and find a way of incorporating Haida content into media education by taking a journey into the wonderful, mythical world of Haida Gwaii.
Ahhh… I just caught a sight of something white flash across the kitchen! I hope it is Mouse Woman again… I start teaching the Grade 5’s tomorrow and I am looking for inspiration.
by Kym Stewart
We got some nice press coverage for our project yesterday. Burnaby Now wrote a wonderful article describing some of our lessons and posted some cute pictures of the students as well… big ‘thanks’ to Burnaby Now for picking our research up! But, as always there is never enough space to fully explain my theories or ideas of media education in these articles… I guess this is why I have created a website
Often, in reports of children’s media use, we see the words ‘critical’ and ‘passive’ being thrown around. Both of these are highly contentious within the field of media education. For example, though we hope our children will view the world in a critical manner, we also have to ask: “what does critical mean?”; “whose versions of critical is ‘right’?”; “how do we know when kids are thinking critically or when they are just copying or mimicking the teacher’s or parent’s idea?”; “can copying be considered critical if students don’t even wholeheartedly believe in the words coming out of their mouths and merely appeasing adults?”
These are massive questions which are difficult to answer, but as a media educator, I need to continually ask myself such things when developing lessons and talking with students in the classes. One way I’ve gotten around the whole ‘critical’ thing is to use the word ‘transformative’ more often. To me transformative describes more thoroughly what I want the students to get out of my lessons. I want them to move beyond facts, to move beyond a mere deconstruction of advertisements, to gain a meaningful and personal understanding of media’s role in their lives, to look carefully at how it has shaped them and their peers, their language, clothing choices, music tastes, snacking preferences, and most importantly, to question the normative values media plays in our lives. I don’t think there is one ‘right’ answer they need to reach to be successful, rather success is seen if we, the educators, help students to disrupt their notions of media; to get them to ask questions and seek answers for themselves.
Now, onto the term ‘passive’… This has been used for many years by those seeking to protect children from the vices of media and its negative impacts, but as many of us have seen, children are anything but passive. Is the Tween market currently not one of the most powerful consumer groups? I would say that connotes an ‘active’ rather than a ‘passive’ role. Kids actively participate with the media through interactive games, but have incorporated the language, styles, slogans, and opinions into their own lives. They have become rampant producers of media (think YouTube) and are active participants in distribution of their ‘knowledge’ (MySpace). But what concerns me and keeps me, as a media educator, moving toward media education in schools, is the notion that these activities may be accepted as part of our lives, both the lives of adults and kids, without questioning. We are so bombarded by media that we often don’t have time to examine the implications… I could go on for days… and I will. But this is enough media usage for me today
This project aims to build and interpret a complex holistic picture of First Nation students’ media use before, during, and after a five-week transformative media education program at Tahayghen Elementary School in Masset, Haida Gwaii. This project will provide the basis for my thesis research looking at methods of media education teacher-training and the development of media education programming for elementary students.