Teaching Technology & Production

One of the best ways to understand how media are put together is to do just that - make a video, create a website. The more real world the project is, the better. New technologies create all sorts of possibilities for making media.This technology is getting cheaper all the time, but making media doesn’t have to be high-tech.

Teaching Guidelines for Media Projects
Primary and Secondary students can benefit from making their own media production. Tom Barrance outlines some ground rules to make the project easier and more rewarding for you and your students.

Classroom organisation
Only a few students at a time can work with a video camera, but they can all be involved in planning, brainstorming and research. There are many different ways of dividing up tasks in a media production: groups can work on separate sections of a video or booklet, or on separate tasks such as research, scripting, writing, editing and so on.

Scale and format
It's much better to produce a one-minute video or radio programme that has been well thought out, scripted and/or storyboarded, well recorded within the limitations of your equipment, and carefully edited down from a manageable amount of material, than to try to imitate Panorama by making a forty-minute documentary.

Logging and editing - whether video or sound - is an exceptionally time-consuming process; even selecting still photographs can take a long time. If you're over-ambitious you'll end up either having to take short cuts, doing some of the work yourself, or inflicting hours of repetitive and boring work on your students.

Your pupils should be familiar with the conventions and formats of the mainstream media, but they don't always need to follow them: they should make their own judgement about what's appropriate for their own project. Putting together a news item within the time and format constraints of the Radio 1 or Radio 4 hourly news can be a very instructive exercise; but imitating the style of You and Yours or The Cook Report for a programme on rubbish in the school playground could easily turn into parody.

Ownership
It may sound elementary, but there's often a temptation to impose one's own brilliantly creative ideas on the class if they're not coming up with any, or to take over on the equipment to save time. Following the guidelines here will make it more likely that your pupils will be able to undertake all the work and take their own decisions: they will have learnt more about media processes, and they will feel that they 'own' the finished product.

Students need to:

Analyse examples
Most pupils watch television, but they may not watch documentaries. If they're going to make one, they'll need to look critically at examples and to identify important features and their functions in the programme.

Many pupils only listen to pop radio, so they will have no idea of how radio programmes are structured unless you give them the opportunity to listen to some and analyse them.

Develop skills
A sure way to discourage pupils is to send them out with the equipment - camera, tape recorder or video camera - but with insufficient preparation. Time spent on preliminary exercises, on honing their interviewing techniques in the classroom, or on practising with the camera, will result in much better results when they come to gather material for the final product. Get them to practise, examine their results and practise again until they are comfortable with the equipment and skills they need.

Plan
Make sure that your students have a clear idea of the finished product they are aiming for before you let them loose with the camera or the microphone. Even if some of the material to be gathered is unpredictable - such as an interview or coverage of a live event - some form of script or outline is essential.

Planning is a crucial part of the production process: it's often the part of the project which offers the most opportunities for practising language and other skills.

Evaluate
Finishing the video, audio tape or photographic display isn't the end of the story. Students should evaluate their work: did it meet the objectives they set at the planning stage? How could it have been improved?

They could also show their work to another class, or parents, to get their feedback as well.

2001 Media Education Wale
Key Questions
penbook

Making media yourself can also help you think about how the professionals do it. Several of the key questions can also be asked about the student's productions.

Production
• What kinds of technology can we use, and how will they affect the finished product?
• How are we going to organise our work together?
• How is our production going to reach an audience?

Language
• What are the most effective ways of getting our message across?
• Can we use well-known conventions or genres, or do we need to do something new?
• What choices are we making, and what consequences will they have?

Representation
• What ideas or values are we trying to convey?
• How do we want to represent the world?
• Are we using stereotypes, and what are the consequences of doing so?

Audience
• Who are we communicating to, and why?
• What assumptions are we making about our audience?
• How are we going to persuade them, or get them to believe us?

Source: Buckingham, David: Questioning the Media: A Guide for Students.