Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Trying to use iPads, QR codes and Twitter with AS Media students

Last year's AS Media Induction went well and students got plenty of early practice; no doubt this helped them achieve so well in their coursework. The problem was that the theoretical side of things was a bit of a shock to the students' systems and we had to take chunks of time out of the portfolio weeks to teach some key concepts.

So we changed things a little. I decided to tackle questions of Representation straight away in my lessons, trying to incorporate basic deconstruction of media texts within the unit including camerawork and composition. My colleagues, with whom I share the classes, tackled an introduction to the film industry. This will hopefully help students deal better with some of their research and planning, and with their evaluation questions, as well as preparing them for the exam units which we usually really focus on once the coursework is out of the way. It makes sense. It connects the different parts of the syllabus. It is challenging.
I also wanted to incorporate the use of the iPads we purchased last summer to allow for more hands-on participation and peer-assessment alongside class discussion/direct instruction.

After much deliberation, I decided to focus on the representation of women in the media because, well, everyone is bound to have been exposed to that and most would have an opinion. Moreover, the Campaign against the Sun's page 3 was in full swing so it seemed to fit.

First triple lesson

Actually, I didn't start straight away. I introduced SOLO in the first 10 minutes of the lesson. I simply put the symbols on the board with some blu-tack, asked if they had any idea what they could represent (slipped the word semiotics and a brief explanation in there), then asked for one student at a time to come up and hold a sign. I used the volcano example probably with less brio than @learningspy in the video below but it made the point.

First introduction:
Pictures around the room - some examples below (some gathered together for the plenary) - plus post-its. Individually at first students were asked to jot down thoughts and questions about each one. On one table was a bit of information about Representation of women so that at some point they would be able to refine what they wrote on post-its and reconsider what they'd already written.

We brought it all back to the front around the cluster of desks and went through what they'd written. Great opening discussion following a lot of sweeping statements at this stage. We reach a fair understanding of what is meant by representation and stereotype and even started discussing ideas of fairness, feminism and patriarchy (though I won't pretend that they could have explained all these terms with clarity at that point). Some noted the playfulness of the woman's gaze staring at the reader on the Cosmopolitan cover - great way to introduce the notion of the male gaze!
Other points included the evolution of these representations over time to some extent but the issue of sexualisation/objectification of women is still clearly present.

A slide I 'borrowed' from another centre too long ago to give proper credit

We completed this section of the lesson, a consolidation of sorts, with the following pictures on one slide - again, it brought all the main points home! It also allowed us to start looking at (and introducing the concepts of) composition and mise-en-scene.

Here are a few slides that I didn't show but include here as they sum up what I wanted the students to consider by the end of the discussion.

To be honest, I didn't insist of the post-feminism bit... Plenty of time for that later.

Introducing the SOLO rubric:
I kept it nice and simple at that stage - no doubt it needs revision but it served us well for that first lesson.
Students were asked to identify what level they thought they were working at and what they needed to do next to progress further in their learning.

Second part:
Next we looked at an outrageous advert for a Russian airline company. We watched it together with one class but the IT failing us again with the other group, I was glad I had prepared a QR code to take us to it. The initial thought behind it was to allow students to watch it again in pairs on the iPads to deconstruct it properly at their own pace and screengrab different shots for later use, maybe with the Skitch app to annotate and comment (we didn't really do that in the end but I am definitely doing that next year - except that we will use Explain Everything, which at that point I hadn't had time to experiment with properly).
This is the QR code (incidentally, we used the i-nigma app to read the QR codes but I used Qrafter Pro to create them):
(For those without QR readers, the link takes you here)
The ad is explicit enough to allow for plenty of discussion and deconstruction. We also used the camera on the iPads to recreate some of the angles (and learn about shot distances and angles at the same time) and analyse their effects. 

Further discussion followed to consolidate knowledge of key terminology and messages peddled by such media texts. They had much to say at this point!!!

Third part - Some theory:
Introducing Berger seems a natural next step given the discussion so far. Here are a few slides I used to support the discussion and also printed for students to annotate further as part of their home-learning.

Ok, ok... These are A2 slides and yes, they flipped at the vocabulary on the last slide but we made a start at explaining the terminology. They need to find out more about these terms and make some notes as part of their home-learning.
This was a good time to go over Laura Mulvey's notion of the male gaze again.... gently.

Part 4:
The idea was to look further at some of the wider implications for the social groups affected by such representations - here, women of course.
I had a selection of articles and each had a QR code to allow students to read at least one at their own pace and jot down key points, questions and thoughts. However, time was running out.
In the end, we read straight from a paper copy of this article about the No More Page 3 campaign and I am glad we did as the vocabulary and ideas needed explaining.

Then in pairs they looked at/scanned one more article and fed back on key ideas - some examples are below:

Finally, and with not enough time left (surprise, surprise... there is just too much in this lesson), I asked students to record themselves discussing what they had learnt today using the camera on the iPads. Clearly, this would have needed more time and some redrafting/re-recording after peer-assessment but you just can't do everything, can you? At least they were happy to have a go.
A bit disappointing considering the quality of their contributions from half way through the lesson...

Instead, I told them I would upload the clips to the blog and expected them to leave comments on WWW and EBI/obvious gaps. I wasn't holding my breath as they had barely started their own blogs but since I really want more of this later on, I thought I'd start as I meant to go on.
The first batch of comments (those who managed) was really superficial and instructions about content had been ignored by and large. However we addressed that in the following lesson as we went through them. Better quality next time I hope!

Here's one here:

Home-learning and Independent study:
A list of short and longer tasks emerging from the lesson and a recommendation to read further by using some of the clips and links to further articles on the blog, including exploring the representation of women in music videos.

I did sort out a page by the following week to keep resources in one place here.

We finished the lesson by filling in the SOLO grids again. Most felt they had definitely moved to multistructural to relational but knew they would need to read and learn much more to feel really confident about the topic - not a bad thing to take away from the first lesson!

And what about Twitter?
I have run the department Twitter account for two years now and I know that not enough use is made of it by students, except perhaps before the exams when they are on the look out for relevant articles and revision tips. I want students to be more involved this year and most have signed up so far.

Well, one of the home-learning tasks was to tweet something about the topic using the hashtag #womenrep, perhaps focusing on one responding to the No More Page 3 campaign or some ideas from the lesson. The first hurdle was to get the students to sign up to Twitter!
Again, the result was pretty dreadful sweeping statement and one student commenting that "It's their choice to pose for page 3" but hey, this was all about having a go and finding our feet.

Following on from that, I thought that they needed exposure to more materials and opinions from other students (from other centres) so I asked 2 other departments if they would agree to have their own students use the same hashtag to post a few of their views. Luckily for us, they accepted and over the following 2 weeks, students tweeted a few more comments - much better in quality. The end result was to have a Tweetwall (I used in one of our lessons to go through some of them and respond/comment in class.

Unfortunately, a further IT glitch (it will get fixed at some point...) prevented me from displaying it on the IWB but I managed to read some tweets from my phone. Not great but next time will be better. At least I have finally got a lead to link the iPad to the projector!
I didn't think of taking a screengrab at the time... I should have!!! That would have saved us.
Here is what it looks like:

Not completely there yet but more like baby steps... The key is to embed all this so that it becomes second nature... a bit like blogging the coursework!

NB: I had also prepared this clip from friends which highlights how gender stereotypes are perpetuated.  I thought I might use it as a starter and I kind of wish I had but this triple was so over-prepared and resourced anyway, I had to leave bits out.

By the next lesson, the students were still struggling to articulate their thoughts really clearly but some progress was made, and the issue has much to do with the general level of Literacy. Our students only need a C in English to be allowed on the Media Studies course. I hope that by getting used to rehearsing orally what they need to say, better writing will follow (their essays in the 3rd lesson were actually quite good and incorporated some of the terminology).

Here's one group of students discussing the topic after looking at a few more sources.

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