Recently, I have had the humbled privilege to facilitate classroom Skype lectures with Prof. Rebecca Feasy from Bathspa University in the UK and the much celebrated Dr. Susan Jeffords author of Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era.
Both academics extended the conversation of media and mass communications – a pillar in my communications technology courses. Rarely are Communications Technology courses so embedded in critical context but such study is imperative to elevate the importance of the subject and the transferable skills it offers within today’s digital, mobile and social media heightened landscape .
Throughout the duration of the course, students have actively produced artefacts that support their critical and creative understanding of media – culminating in a post-secondary inspired film project where the production stages are authentically brought to life – from conception to gala premiere. The students are challenged to produce short films that are reflexive of their personal stories, their critical examination of the world around them and their active understanding of genre and authorship – convention and structure does matter (Google Andrew Sarris to gain appreciation of this note or just watch a Kubrick or Nolan film for appreciation.)
This brings me back to both Prof. Feasy and Dr. Jeffords who extended my students understanding of why media studies matters and is in many ways more urgent a subject than traditional English classes – a declaration that may have some teachers cringe.
Both speaking to issues of masculinity (I teach at an all-boys school and thus the topic was purposeful) such rich ideas were shared about the construction of male identity through film, television, social media etc. As Dr. Jeffords shared with the students, they need to be skeptical of media and it must be taken seriously considering it is so readily consumed and part of their everyday life. During the lecture, Dr. Jeffords also surveyed the class on their media consumption – it was plentiful. From video games to You Tube browsing, the students are constantly wired into the consumption of media.
And this is why Communications Technology has to go beyond logo design, brochures and the notion of an in house media lab for high schools- it needs to focus (if only briefly) in the communicative and challenge students to understand what media is and how media shapes and changes how they see the world. This was McLuhan’s point with “the medium is the message.” It is not about the message of a film or television show but how a respective medium may change the way you see the world. The fact the medium can be so active is very much the message and why Communications Technology matters.
For examples of student work, please visit: www.thecollectiveonline.wordpress.com
Below is a raw video recording of Dr. Jeffords Skype lecture. A fantastic resources that address big and important ideas about media.
My sincere thanks are extended to Prof. Feasy and Dr. Jeffords – their respective conversations provided for both great student learning and my own PD.