Recently, I learned about Barry Duncan’s death who died in June 2012. Barry Duncan was a hero to many because along with a few other people like John Pugente, he was the author of Media education in Ontario as well as being involved with the Association for Media Literacy. In the late nineties, the Harris government wanted to take Media education out of the English curriculum because they felt it was covered in subjects like Com.Tech but Duncan and others lobbied to keep it in and argued for the necessity of examining Media’s influence and techniques as opposed to using or creating it. In an article in Forum( 2009) Duncan stated that often “when media education is adopted it is wasted through misapplied pedagogy, teaching through media rather than about it. ” He was absolutely right about this and in spite of having been mandated for 13 years, it is still not being taught very well.
The most difficult aspect of teaching Media studies within a traditional English course is finding some way to incorporate it within the course so that there is a connection to what is being taught. This is one of the reasons why most teachers do little or do something like comparing the film version of a text to the actual text as their media unit. The Ontario curriculum states: “This strand focuses on helping students develop the skills required to understand, create and critically interpret media texts…It explores the use and significance of particular conventions and techniques in the media and and considers the roles of the viewer and producer in constructing meaning in media texts”. I wonder how many teachers can honestly say that they are doing this in their English classes, regardless of level. I am not pointing fingers because I know how difficult it is to do this and I also know the reasons why so many people resist this topic.
First, the reasons why people resist:
1. They have no background in the topic and the expectations are vague enough to allow a teacher to do what she wants and also vague enough to show no direction.
2. There is not enough knowledge or acceptance of the term “text”. Media education stresses the concept that all media are a type of text that have conventions and characteristics that can be analyzed.
3. In spite of 13 years of new curriculum, many teachers have not really looked closely at the curriculum and still place most of their emphasis on literature. The Independent Study unit from OSIS was eliminated but is still in place in many schools and is actually the Summative project even though the school board has encouraged teachers to address the Oral and Media strands in their Summatives because the exam focuses on the Reading and Writing strands.
What has to change
1. The school board should recognize that the changes of 2007 curriculum have been only partially implemented and do something about it. A Media curriculum designed by Curriculum services is needed to help teachers cope with the topic.
2. A recognition that some of the traditional approaches to teaching literature cannot continue if schools are going to include Media studies within English. It’s mostly a matter of time; something has to change in order to create room.
1. Students enjoy examining Media and it is highly relevant to their lives.
2. Media studies require a lot of critical thinking .
3. It is possible to approach the topic so that it ties in more closely with literature without it being an add on but this requires planning and knowledge.