Why are schools slow to exploit ICT?

29/01/2009

An article by Maureen McTaggart highlights the latest Becta survey finding schools slow to exploit technology.  I’m surprised anyone is surprised though. I think the reasons are clear:

1. We tend not to take risks when our leaders have no room for failure and we are boxed in by irreconcilable demands. 

2. Many tech writers fail to make ICT accessible for busy teachers. Only the most dedicated teachers make it through the magic forest

Organisations like Becta  work hard to make ICT accessible for schools but it’s tricky to overcome a curriculum and structure that reflects the 19th century better than the 21st century.

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What makes a good media employee pt.2 Work Experience and Personal Practice

25/01/2009

Talking again to Pendeford’s media studies department on the ways to encourage work experience makes me focus on how pupils get access to this precious resource and whether it’s the only way to hone and display your creative talents. 

Sadly, for the most important and influential work experience, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Media work experience almost invariably is gifted to the children of the well-connected. So if you aren’t well-connected socially, you’ll have to be more proactive. Unfair, but true, so try and think about how you can overcome that issue. It is possible, even if you come from a background with no connections at all. You just have to be a bit more imaginative: A skill that will stand you in good stead as a creative person anyway. It worked for me.

It is one of the most important parts of your media CV. At my BBC interview in 1989 I was able to talk about my voluntary work as a DJ on local hospital radio and the short film my pupils made, which had recently come first in the Co-Op Let’s Make A Film’ Festival. 

These things helped me to prove that I was committed to the media. I spent my free time on it, both on a personal level and with my pupils out of school. I had no idea when I started these activities that they would be so useful, but I felt the spark of interest and approval in the interview. 

So if you want to be a media maker, it’s a good idea to make media, in any way you can. It has never been easier but a surprising number of media students don’t take advantage of the opportunity. 

Work experience in any creative workplace is a dream, but you will rarely end up getting your hands on much of the creative output, so be aware that work experience may only be an opportunity to rub shoulders with those who might be able to help you. If that’s the case, do rub those shoulders. Ask them if they have time for a cup of coffee and to just tell you a bit about what their job entails and how they got it. The information will be useful but so will the opportunity for them to see you as an interested, pro-active and likeable worker.

But as well as, or instead of, work experience, make something. Create something. You can broadcast yourself in many ways, write, film, edit, podcast and vodcast, use free animation software like machinima to make a short animation, run the school magazine or its alternative underground magazine – any of these will give you an artefact to show, and a sense of a long-standing passion for creation.

We also talked at Pendeford about managing your online presence, for example how it’s important to avoid exposing things online to prospective employers. But Facebook, My Space and You Tube also offer you a forum for displaying your talent. Just as it can show that  you’re a drunken waster, it can also show your films, audio recordings, photography and other creative output.

If you don’t have good online access at home, you may have to cultivate your media studies teacher, impress him or her with your seriousness and see if they can let you have time after school or at lunchtime or set up a digital media after-school club, to make films, newsletters and podcasts.  It might not be easy to convince an adult to help you, but if you want a career in the media, it’s as well to get used to dealing with difficult people.


Animating a poem using Machinima

23/01/2009

As part of a group project I’m looking at how Machinima can be used to interpret a poem. Machinima is a free piece of software. We looked first at an example of a poem by Byron When We Two Parted. My brief is to research some similar pieces of machinima to look at what works well and techniques we could adopt.

I found it difficult because I couldn’t find any similar examples. ‘When we two parted’ is done with simplicity, in 2D. The colours aren’t subtle. Sometimes it has the look and feel of a graphic novel, with flat black and white occasionally creating a little modelling depth in a face. It’s entirely static shots with action sometimes animating within the frame and that animation having limited motion. It uses cuts not mixes. Backgrounds are mainly flat and untexturised. All of it works well for poetry, but I couldn’t find anything to compare it with directly. The examples I browsed all had much greater use of textures, with what looked like layers of animation eg fiery backgrounds with moving figures running into them, and a rich 3D feel to the characters. A lot of the examples had developing shots, following action or panning around fluidly.

I assume that for our project that’s too ambitious and we will need to think much more simply, but the examples I’ve chosen prompt a few thoughts and questions about shot styles that might work for the poem.

I also think how we use sound and silence can help us to set atmosphere and emotion

Created in Moviestorm

 

This is Danse Macabre. I like the colour palette with its stark black tress and subdued, dirtyish hues. It can feel downbeat and grainy. If we want to follow the starker primary hues of ‘When we too parted’ that would create a more newspapery feel with its black, white, red and yellow.
The opening of Danse Macabre sums up the usual approach. It’s got that game feeling  as the pov pans wildly round a number of escape avenues. If expertise allows that could be useful if we want to convey a feeling of a trapped personality, hemmed around by conflicting choices and voices. But that could also be created by a series of cuts, allowing us to see the things that surround our protagonist. The roving POV is a very familiar set up through games. Is it a disadvantage anyway to draw on this very familiar and predictable technique? There is a game element to the poem, a quest, a journey. It could be achieved differently through cutting between static wide shots of him progressing through the environment and close ups of his face and the objects he focuses on. Should we restrict wide shots and mainly work through it on his point of view?

Number Two- This is Tales From Midnight City

In this, I like the close ups of detail, the clock and the face and eyes mostly, and some of the sense of the city. Our film has a journey in it. How will we experience that journey? through wide city scapes? through following the protagonist?

I like the build up of atmosphere through quite subtle sound. Our project offers some good opportunities for sound, and possibly for some quite varied sound as emotion ebbs and builds.

It uses a lot of different viewpoints to take shots from. Possibly too many, I think. The number of shots makes the film quite cutty, with no obvious motivation. But I like the possibilities of many of the odd angles the film maker uses. Will cutting and odd angles help us to create tension and action?

My third choice is Twinkle Twinkle

I like this because of the use of sound and the moody pictures. I particularly like the fourth shot of the man on the round with the light effects. Bleak and seedy.

These techniques may not be things we can do at this stage, but I hope they can begin the discussion about what styles we can use, what kinds of shots are possible, and what colours, sounds and effects we can use.