Forget the Camera!

iphoneYoung people today are technology savvy. Give them a new digital gadget and they are quickly pressing every button to find out how it works.  Mobile phones, the Internet, cameras and mp3 players, they are all an every day part of their social lives and communication experience.

However, the media technology used in the classroom cannot risk being used as a fashion accessory or toy; it is far too limited a resource, funded by hard-won and often limited budgets.  Therefore, one of the first things any student needs to learn is that ‘Content Is King’.

Although we want students to use the creative technology, we need to ensure that they are doing so with due care and a sense of real purpose.  This is where those of us who might not be in the first flush of youth, and who weren’t chewing on a Nokia in our pram, can take back the high ground regarding technology when it comes to planning how that technology is best used.

In English lessons we are taught from an early age to structure our written work with a clear beginning, middle and end.  To degree, the same is true for media content.  So how can we help structure content and approach each assignment with a more professional media-makers sense of purpose that covers sight and sound?

The first point to be considered, is who are the target audience?  Identifying the audience – children, parents, the elderly – will inform the tone, language, pace, context and structure of a programme’s content.  And how is the programme going to be experienced by the audience?  By listening on radio?  Watched on a TV, online on a small computer screen or from a DVD on a large screen via a projector?  Knowing how your audience are going to experience your programme will inform and shape how you present your content. It sounds so obvious, but many students totally overlook the content in their eagerness to crack on and start playing with the technology.

The media students need to ask themselves – what is the purpose of the programme?  It is to inform, entertain or persuade?  It might be a combination, though one key objective usually dominates the brief.

All are important in structuring the programme content, so that it has a coherent beginning, middle and end.  Whether students are making a pop video, a documentary, a news report or drama, they are always telling a story. This doesn’t mean fiction, it means a clearly structured narrative that guides the audience through the content and sustains their interest.

The beginning should introduce the programme subject and implicitly explain the purpose of the programme.  The middle section should explore the issues, events, arguments and characters that drive the interest in the subject matter.  Finally the end should conclude the programme with an answer revealed or a reflection on what has been discovered throughout the journey of the story.

Students should always know the structure of their media story and what they are going to need to create or capture, before they get their hands on the technology.  The current obsession with Reality TV may suggest that grabbing what you can, ‘on the fly’ style of programme making, gives an immediacy and freshness.  However, it also gives the editor the long and arduous task of sorting through the masses of material to try and assemble a coherent programme.

Planning and structuring will not only save you time and effort, but give the students project work clarity.  Students will need less time with the equipment and not waste time trying to assemble a collection of badly shot material with no real structure or purpose. Structuring content is vitally important and leads to a more focused and effective media project.

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Many thanks for you patience.
Kind regards,
Mike - Media4ed.

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