Since at least the days of Birth of a Nation (1915), Hollywood has turned to history for material. A quick survey of this year’s Academy Award nominations shows that this is as true now as ever, with five out of the nine nominees for Best Picture – Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty and odds-on favourite Lincoln – based in history in some way. Their approaches vary, of course, with the history-as-backdrop approach of Les Miserables, the revenge fantasy of Django Unchained, the academic character study of Lincoln, the docudrama of Zero Dark Thirty and the history-as-thriller of Argo.
After the controversy surrounding last year’s proposed copyright bill C-61, which eventually died on the order table when Parliament was prorogued, the Federal government has decided to hold consultations across Canada before introducing a new version of the bill. While only time will tell how responsive the government will be to the public’s submissions, the series of town halls and round tables is definitely a good start in making the process transparent and taking the views of a wide variety of Canadians into account. Below is an expanded version of MNet’s submission to the Round Table held in Gatineau, Quebec on July 29th 2009.
This collection of articles on media education around the world will fulfill an important need: informing us of the struggle to critically understand the global implications of media education.
Educational games have had a troubled history. At their worst, they have been neither educational nor games; even at their best they have faced scepticism from educators, game designers and especially children. The standard response to being given an educational game – This is supposed to be fun? – might be compared to finding a Brussels sprout at the centre of a Tootsie Pop. Teachers, meanwhile, are rightly concerned that the educational content of these games might be outweighed by the entertainment value. Already loaded down with curriculum that has to be delivered, many educators feel they don’t have the time to spare on anything but direct instruction.
With all the recent attention focused on stories of teenagers charged with distributing child pornography for taking sexually suggestive pictures of themselves, jobs lost due to Facebook and MySpace entries, and libel suits over blog posts, people are justifiably concerned about the permanence of material posted to the Internet. Many a teacher or parent has had to carefully explain to children or teens that whatever they post online might be seen by people other than the intended audience, and might be out there for a very long time.
An alien anthropologist, studying North American culture, might wonder why it is that despite the increasing economic and political power of women over the last forty years, appearance and behaviour seem to be more gender-typed than ever. A walk through any department store would give this anthropologist a clear notion of gender roles in children and teens: boys are warriors and superheroes, clad in camouflage (the new blue); girls are princesses, dressed always in pink. Packaging Girlhood, by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, acts as a guide to parents and teachers who – perhaps remembering a time of boys and girls in t-shirts, jeans or unisex overalls – may be as perplexed by all this as our alien would be.
Much of what we believe about the world comes from the media products we see and hear. This is especially true of places and things we might not have actually experienced, such as developing nations and global development efforts. Beyond Media Messages: Media Portrayal of Global Development looks at how the media influences our views of developing nations and global development efforts, how we can learn to read or view media portrayals critically and how we can become media authors to promote democratic citizenship.
To teach students to be media literate, they – and their teachers – need to be able to critically engage with media. That may seem obvious, but until last year teachers’ ability to use media texts in the classroom was extremely limited by the Copyright Act.
The classic 1985 science fiction novel Ender’s Game is one of several books of that period that foresaw both the advent of the Internet and its eventual importance in society. While certain aspects of its portrayal seem dated – in particular, it more resembles the text-based bulletin board systems of the time than today’s graphic Web – one element stands out as being particularly prescient: the use of the Internet to allow youth to participate fully in society. While today’s young people aren’t using the Internet to take over the world, as the characters in the novel do, they are increasingly using it to change the world, and more and more teachers are using the Internet to bring civic engagement into the classroom.
The recently released Pew Report Teens, Video Games and Civicshas revived the question about whether video games can be a worthwhile activity. Another recent entry in this debate is Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life, a survey of computer gaming culture and a chronicle of its role in the author’s life.