Students and their Meaning


In reading Mark O’Connell’s Watching Skies, a deep personal and critical dive into the films of Steven Spielberg and Star Wars, I was reminded how personal the movie experience can be. As Mark shares personal insights of being “separated” from his father after his parents divorce and how the story of Elliott and E.T is a tale of belonging that he intimately understood, the urgency of reading such a critical medium is of paramount importance.

The question within an educational context is: in learning about our input critically can we transform our output meaningfully?

Specifically to me learning thus far in my Master’s course Innovation in Teaching and Learning, this idea of output is essential in addressing the pressing need to be cultural responsive in my teaching.

  • Who are my students?
  • How does the classroom experience allow them to share their experience?
  • How do I provide enrichment opportunities where they are the focus?

Although, my students recently aged me during an in class screening of Jaws and E.T where they proclaimed the films as from the “olden days,” they were enthralled by our critical conversation about Spielberg and his interior meaning. Interior meaning refers to film academic and critic Andrew Sarris and his authorship framework. When looking at Spielberg films (as as director or executive producer), the interior meaning of his films reflects his personal experience; primarily being a product of divorce and growing up estranged from father. Along with this, his films tend to have a domestic quality where the prescribed tranquility of the American family is missing or non-existent.

The lesson of internal meaning, speaks to the student experience as learners growing in their critical dissection of media text and in the urgency of being culturally responsive in the classroom . As a teacher, the lessons derived from Spielberg is a portal into the interior meaning of my students. This interior is cultural ; what shapes the personal narrative of the students in my classroom and how can those experiences be leveraged to blossom collective sharing and understanding?

Unlike in the past with my Gr.12 students who typically begin the year with small group video production that is genre based, I began with authorship this year and dialogued about the importance of representative voice not just in media but dominant culture. In this learning students were challenged to reflect on who they are, what shapes them and how they see the world. From there, each student using their personal smart phone was challenged to produce a one minute documentary about themselves; a snapshot into who they are.

Although I was earnest in my attempt to nurture personalized output, I wondered if the experience mattered.

What did the students gain?

Below is a short video that highlights two students who openly share about their reflective and creative journey.

In speaking to all of the students about their films, I do believe that they gained sense of empowerment from sharing an important aspect of their lives so directly and intimately. Ultimately, I know that I gained a new found respect for the students. Not only are they growing in their understanding of critical literacy and production but importantly they provided me with the privilege to know them in a new light.

I thank them and are inspired by them.


This entry was posted in Education, Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Student Voice, Technology Education, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.