We Learn by Doing: Making Media in the Classroom
Excerpted from The Children of Telstar: Early Experiments in School Television Production with permission of author Kate Moody, EdD
[Editor's Note]: As assistant superintendent in the Mamoroneck , NY school system in the 1970s, Calvert E. Schlick, EdD, championed the idea that understanding media is a basic skill that should be taught consciously. "Anything that equips students to deal with the barrage of information beamed at them by TV is a valid part of the curriculum," he said repeatedly. Under his leadership, television and media were seen as instruments of writing to create with. Instead of the relatively passive medium that children spend watching, television becomes an active experience when the student puts a portable television camera in her or his hand to create a message or tell a story. Now the former consumer becomes a producer; the reader (consumer) becomes a writer (producer). This approach to media sprang from a philosophical base suggested in one of Dr. Schlick's reports to the superintendent and the board of education in 1978:
"We learn by doing. Experiences which actively engage our hands and eyes stay with us. Perhaps the true virtue of modern culture is the rich variety of media it affords for understanding and expressing ideas in the arts and sciences. Movies, radio, design, photography, print, and all the other communication forms are available to us not only as sources of information and pleasure, but as graspable tools for active, creative and, ultimately, educational production. . . .
The classroom is a place where active production in all media is a natural way to learn. It is a place where children solve problems in the arts and sciences, not only through reading and writing, but also through producing radio and television shows, making films, staging playlets designing posters, taking photographs, and creating numerous real world artifacts. Further, we see children responding to each other's productions and to productions from the culture-at-large, intelligently and with feeling. . . .
Multi-media learning in schools requires planning and organization on the teacher's part. It means that each medium is to be valued for its own special properties, its own integrity. Ideally, the decision to use a film rather than a book or to make a slide-tape rather than a film should not be based on favoritism or financial commitment, but on pedagogy.
Depending on the problem, only one medium may be the "right" one for the job. Thus, even if our schools have invested in a television studio, a film collection, art rooms, there still will be occasions when we pass over these installations in favor of a modest slide show or a written assignment. . . .
Such experiences can provide kids who previously had little respect for their own potential not only with a sense of satisfaction, but also with gains in the verbal area. Composing and recording words for a radio drama or a film help many students improve their writing and speaking abilities. . . .
The world we are heading into requires new competence in old communication skills, as well as in merging electronic/chemical forms, i.e., film, TV and photography. Today's children must learn to use their real eyes and ears and brains if they are truly to understand the TV-eye, the radio-ear and the computer's mind."