Kawana Waters State College students (left to right): Ethan Nicholls, Jye Love, Rachel McDonnell, James Vanyi and Aiden Wilson. Photo by student photographer Zac Jennings.
BY EMMA DAVIES
THE skills learnt in media studies don’t just set students up for a career in the industry. Besides the wide-ranging applications of media technology, media studies promote important life skills such as critical awareness, time management, and the ability to work in teams.
Kawana Waters State College, English & Film, Television & New Media teacher Andrew Best believes the benefits of media studies extend far beyond the classroom, even if students do not go on to work in the industry.
Mr Best is also the Sunshine Coast regional representative for Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) Queensland, which provides professional development opportunities for teachers, advises on policy and curriculum development, and provides students with opportunities to engage critically with the media.
“That’s the biggest question I get from parents; it’s all fine and well for a student to do film and TV because they’re interested in it, but what does it actually mean for them as a career path?,” he said.
“It gives students that critical awareness, being able to decode and make sense of media texts. To understand about positioning, who controls the media, what’s disseminated through the media, what points of view are present, and what points of view are omitted,” he said.
But the syllabus is not just theoretical; it is a creative subjects where students are producing media texts and including specific representations and ideologies into their productions.
“They’re doing things for a specific audience and purpose, and I think they’re all higher order skills which translate across to various disciplines,” Mr Best said
“If you’re going on to university to do journalism understanding media is important, but even [where students] study something else, being able to weigh up and evaluate historical sources is an important skill.”
“Technical, IT skills are also transferrable to all manner of subjects.”
To be tech savvy in the 21st century is an asset and a tremendous advantage for students – not just understanding new media, but being able to produce it.
St Ursula’s College Toowoomba Film, Television, New Media and Media Arts teacher Wendy Collins, also the Toowoomba Regional Representative of ATOM QLD, agrees that the benefits of media studies extend beyond the classroom.
“Parents ask me this sort of question all the time; why would my child do media, what’s the job? I don’t think it’s a job, I think it’s a skill. Learning to work in a team, time management, problem solving,” she said.
“I really think time manangement and being able to multitask are really important skills for young people in this day and age.”
Media teachers themselves have these transferrable skills and are constantly being updated with the latest resources and equipment best suited for their students.
St Ursula’s College recently purchased an Osmo 4K camera gimbal and Mrs Collins admits she took it home to play around and work it out before giving it to the students.
“I think we rely a lot on our students to teach us, they allow us to upskill. You need to be on top of new equipment but not be an expert, because the students will always be more of an expert than any teacher and that the whole point – it’s their assessment,” she said.
Mrs Collins suggests that the integration of Media Arts into other subject areas such as Science would be beneficial, where students could conduct experiments, film them and have them ready to upload on to Youtube.
“We can’t just isolate ourselves as media teachers, you need to integrate wherever you can. You have to reinvent yourself to keep students interested. Society changes all the time so you’ve got to adapt and change a little bit as well.”
St Ursula’s College Toowoomba Head of Year 11 and Film, Television, New Media and Media Arts teacher Wendy Collins with the new DJI Osmo camera. Photo by student photographer Kailee Jones.
Mr Best says that film, TV and media studies learning is in the hands of the students in a way it has never been before.
“It’s like the flipped classroom which is more of a student focus that teacher directed. Often I’ll defer to students who I know have expertise around a particular area,” he said.
The availability and cost of equipment and software has also decreased remarkably, allowing school to purchase entry level level cameras for around $300 and editing software available as apps or on any laptop or computer.
The Department of Education in Queensland have a deal with Adobe which Mr Best describes as fantastic, enabling state schools to provide students with the full Adobe Premier Pro – Creative Cloud suite for around $20 on an annual subscription.
“If we go back a decade or so Adobe Premier would be around $1200 for that alone without photoshop or any of the other things that students now get as well in the suite,”he said.
Mrs Collins says that St Ursula’s College has plenty of resources for media studies, inlcuding plenty of spacious rooms where students can sit down and work, physical space they can move around in and a green screen room.
“We have approximately 40 digital SLRS, give or take, and 15 video cameras ranging from little tiny 200 dollar handycams up to a Panasonic one which is close to a thousand dollars’ worth,” she said.
Kawana Waters State College also uses the Canon digital SLRS with the lenses and mount, as well as a range of rigs and stabilisers to position a digital SLR to replicate the shoulder mounted video method of filming.
“We have accessories and mounts, sliders, camera gib, a GoPro, and a small drone. Audio is really important so we have a whole range of microphones, ranging from video mics through to Rode NTG2 microphones that can go into a blimp and then onto a boom pole,” Mr Best said.
“I’ve had to send a couple of things away for warranty and they’re always back within a short period of time. Rode microphones are an Australian company and they are fantastic. If I’ve ever had an issue with a microphone it’s never been with the actual mic but it might be the mount it goes on,” he said.
As regional representatives of ATOM, Ms Collins and Mr Best use their resources and conferences for upkilling and professional development.
“I find Australian Teachers of Media an invaluable source of professional development and before I even became a member of ATOM, I was going to their conferences to get ideas for things I could use in the program,” said Mr Best.
Mr Best suggest TED’s Cameras and Adobe, networking with local film festivals as well as other film, television and media teachers in the area as ways to improve technological and industry knowledge in order to deliver the best possible subject matter to the students.
Recently a team of Kawana Waters State College Film, Television and New Media students received third prize for their short film, Connected, in the Queensland University of Technology’s Student Film Competition.
“The QUT Caboolture campus run a student film festival that branches from Caboolture up to the Sunshine Coast,” Mr Best said.
“They had the students come down and do several workshops at the university, delivered by either academics or industry people.
“They have a workshop on cinematography, one on sound, one on editing, and one on production design so the kids get an insight into each of those areas,” said Mr Best.