Media education is a considerable success story in the last half-century of UK education, despite routine demonization by the right of the political spectrum. Still the best overview of its history is provided by David Buckingham’s Media Education (2003). Internationally, the concept of media literacy has become something of a dustbin term, gathering up both fears and wild optimisms about digital media, efforts to balance emphases on critical understanding and creative production, and the competing cultural claims of different forms – news media, film heritage, games.
In the UK, a long and distinguished record of practice by teachers is under threat from a government which seems bent on eliminating this domain altogether from the curriculum. Though the media arts are one of the most flourishing sectors of the creative industries, and the same government is committed to support film, special effects and game development companies, the very subject which introduces young people to these cultural practices in schools is deleted from its only curricular base (the English curriculum), although it has survived in public examination programmes at GCSE and A-level.
In spite of this depressing policy scenario, work by committed teachers and motivated students continues, supported by the professional associations – the MEA in England, and AMES in Scotland.
Below is a film made for Teachers’ TV of work by James Durran and Emma Bull, exemplifying classroom practice.
In a different sphere, OFCOM continues to conduct valuable research and report on media literacy in the wider population, though arguably not to promote it (as its remit requires). Academic research continues to explore how young people engage with the media – see the LSE Media Literacy blog, for example.
Meanwhile, the European Commission encourages the promotion of media literacy through media education, though its powers in this respect are severely constrained. Among the research studies it has commissioned is one led by the BFI into Film Literacy in member states, Screening Literacy, which shows a difficult mix across Europe of strong motivation and innovation by specialist organisations, agencies and individuals with generally weak curricular and cultural policy support.
The publications below represent my attempts to theorise and exemplify media literacy, and to consider and advocate models of media education. Increasingly, the best location for this in school curricula has seemed to me to be somewhere between literacy or mother tongue education, and the arts in education. In this interstitial space, it can expand the semiotic and rhetorical reach of literacy education, and also engage with the aesthetic functions of arts education, contributing an attention to the aesthetics and social value of popular culture. However, it also needs to connect with science, and particularly computer science. If ICT educators have prioritised information and technology over culture, then media educators have struggled to understand what it has meant for film, television and games to have become computable media. Not to bring these two educational domains together is to risk a new version of CP Snow’s Two Cultures, as damaging for education as it would be for wider society.
REVISITING THE POPULAR ARTS
Burn, A (2017) ‘Revisiting the Popular Arts: Media Education, Cultural Values and Cultural Production.’ In The Routledge International Handbook of Media Literacy Education, edited by Belinha S. De Abreu, Paul Mihailidis, Alice Y. L. Lee, Jad Melki and Julian McDougall. London: Routledge.
This book chapter, in an international collection of essays on media literacy education, revisits a classic text from 1965, Hall & Whannel’s The Popular Arts, to identify, build on and critique its approach to the difficult question of cultural value. It presents new examples of media aesthetics in young people’s work, from recent research projects.
GAMES, FILMS & MEDIA LITERACY
Burn, A (2016) ‘Games, films and media literacy: frameworks for multimodal analysis’. In Knobel, M and Lankshear, C (eds) Researching New Literacies: Design, Theory, and Data in Sociocultural Investigation. New York: Peter Lang.
This chapter presents a series of frameworks for analysing film, animation and videogame as multimodal text, relating the analysis to conceptions of media literacy.
WHAT IS MEDIA LITERACY?
Burn, A and Durran, J (2007) ‘What is Media Literacy?’. In Burn, A and Durran, J (2007) Media Literacy in Schools: Practice, Production, Progression. London: Sage.
MINDING THE GAPS
Burn, A, Buckingham, D, Parry, B & Powell, M (2010) ‘Minding the gaps: teachers’ cultures, students’ cultures’, in Alvermann, D (ed) Adolescents’ Online Literacies: Connecting Classrooms, Media, and Paradigms. New York: Peter Lang
This book chapter analyses survey and interview data from students and teachers to find out whether the supposed gulf between the media cultures of teachers and young people is as great as is often supposed.
GAME LITERACY IN THEORY AND PRACTICE
Buckingham, D and Burn, A (2007) ‘Game-Literacy in Theory and Practice’, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16.3, October 2007
MAKING NEW MEDIA: CULTURE, SEMIOTICS, DIGITAL LIT-ORACY
Burn, A (2009) ‘Making New Media: Culture, Semiotics, Digital Lit-oracy’. In Burn, A (2009) Making New Media, New York: Peter Lang.
TOWARDS A POETICS OF MEDIA EDUCATION
Burn, A (2009) ‘Culture, Art, Technology: Towards a Poetics of Media Education’, Cultur + Educatie No. 26, December 2009.
THE VALUE OF MEDIA LITERACY
Burn, A (2011) ‘Beyond the heuristic of suspicion: the value of media literacy’, in Goodwyn, A and Fuller, C (ed) The Great Literacy Debate. London: Routledge
FROM BEOWULF TO BATMAN
Burn, A (2011) ‘From Beowulf to Batman: connecting English and Media Education’. In Davison, J, Daly, C & Moss, J (eds) Debates in English Teaching. Routledge, 2011
SIX ARGUMENTS FOR THE MEDIA ARTS
Burn, A (2013) ‘Six Arguments for the Media Arts: Screen Education in the 21st Century’. In Teaching English, Issue 2, June 2013.