In April last year, when we could pop to the shop for milk without having to plan it like a military operation, I wrote about how Media Studies had a reputation as a soft touch subject and sought to disprove that assumption. As I write today, we are in unprecedented times and the ‘media’ yet again finds itself under fire, albeit the generic beast rather than the subject. President Donald Trump has labelled the media ‘the enemy of the people’. Indeed it is divisive, can insight panic and seems to have a ridiculous level of power but without it, would the people lose their voice?
The dictionary defines media as the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the internet) regarded collectively, it is also the plural of medium and thus an agency or means of doing something. Never before has ‘the media’ seemed such a broad term, ranging from the platforms and outlets informing us of what is happening in society around us to the actual way we are receiving information. Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher, coined the expression ‘the medium is the message’; the content of what we watch, read and listen to is not always the most important element but the fact that we are given that information to consider. According to McLuhan’s ideas about communication, the content of coverage of Coronavirus, Brexit and Black Lives Matter is not as relevant as the fact it is ensuring these events and issues are making their way into the lives of the audiences, ensuring sometimes difficult subject matter is raised for discussion and consideration; possibly influencing action.
This is what Media Studies is. It is exploring the medium, considering the messages, unpicking bias, exploring preferred and alternative readings, tackling challenging issues and evaluating the role the media has in shaping our ideologies and influencing our lives. Media Studies is a subject which is constantly evolving, a textbook is obsolete before it arrives in the classroom and lessons can develop into heated debates in a flash. It is not a subject which can choose to shy away from the more contentious of issues and thus carries enormous pressure to allow an impartial forum whilst challenging some of the embedded beliefs in our society.
Whilst on lockdown, media has provided a vital link and source of stability to our pupils. Remote teaching through Teams, tutor time sessions, parents’ meetings and even an online Speech Day to recognise the achievements of our pupil body. Whilst the lesson content has been important and what is delivered follows the curriculum, it has been the contact and the familiarity in such uncertain times which has proved invaluable; the medium is the message!
The Media Studies pupils have taken remote learning in their stride and, having used Teams prior to lockdown, were readily prepared for the enormous change in their learning. Indeed the way the entire pupil body has positively responded is nothing short of awesome. We have totally adjusted how we teach and learn and this will definitely influence the way we use media in our lessons in the future, with Kahoot for pop quizzes, Flipgrid for video learning and feedback, Wakelet as our webpage notebook along with all the facets of Microsoft Teams. In specific media terms, whilst the current situation has given the GCSE and A level classes some interesting topic material for news bias, it has also encouraged the independent and analytical thought of pupils; along with encouraging them to explore a broad spectrum of media forms before reaching a line of argument or point of view.
Alongside the theoretical debates and essays, the practical elements of the subject have continued to be taught in spite of lockdown. In fact, this has allowed many pupils to stretch and challenge their creative skills with Adobe software such as Photoshop, InDesign and Premiere Pro; they have had time, time they would normally not have in which to learn through trial and error. Experiential learning leads to success, after all, ‘The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” (Henry Ford). In order to stretch the creative abilities of the Media Studies pupils, we ensure they challenge themselves by using industry standard software and get to grips with the complexities of editing and production and this has led to some fantastic coursework being produced, admittedly amidst grumbles at having to learn some technically tough and complex software!
We are not sure what the future of teaching and learning will look like in the immediate months ahead but we certainly cannot ignore the important role media will have in that process and the stability it has offered pupils in such turbulent times.
Finally I would like to share a music video created by one of our highflyers, and Media Prize winner, Jeremy Daubeny.