Why we need Media studies, not more ICT.

School systems remain wedded to the idea of pen and paper scholarship. Alarmingly, public education is dabbling with allowing publishing giant Pearson administer trials of online exams. Despite over a decade of opportunity, innovation is limited to exchanging paper exams for electronic ones though a commercial out sourcing arrangement, which presumably means no more HSC making money and valuable experience for teachers.

Media studies has long been argued for in the curriculum. Interestingly, the introduction of computers had been a significant reason the system has avoided introducing it as a valid discipline. This is even more relevant today in a media rich society and media poor one. The digital divide grows because of inequity and competing agendas leading to anything but a uniform, measurable approach to all children being given the elusive lessons of digital citizenship, self mediation and critical knowledge needed to be information fluent, brand independant. Brandifying learning by manufacturer seems to be both the major achievement and failure of school leadership. Leadership is now defined by thought leadership and an ability to created open learning spaces with funky furniture, rather than enunciate children from citizen consumerism.

Games would be part of media studies, as they would form one part of designing and critically appraising media. Training teachers in a new needed area makes more social sense than training the 40,000 in Australia in disciplines for which there are no jobs.

I’m licensed to teach woodwork and metal apparently, as the system didn’t have check boxes for a M.Ed in information technology. This means I don’t meet the essential criteria for computing, despite having taught all related subjects at HSC level in Catholic schools, and leading Catholic schools most innovative new school. This is what is fundamentally wrong with public education. A self limiting ability to attract and retain teachers with diverse skills and experience to deal with media rich and media poor society.

Another problem is that in university, media studies and education are two separate schools and it’s dangerous to assume university lecturers in education focus on media studies or visa versa. My PhD is in media because I’m interested in parental influence and choices towards gaming. It’s also got a foot in early childhood education as that’s where I think the greatest gaps are. But any non standard approach to learning is almost certainly not going to meet current school system hegemony.

The end result is a system which cannot produce media teachers or employ them because the system fears media studies would be disruptive. And why not, despite a century of media development, schools have ignored it.

I said this is because of computers. That seems counter intuitive, until you start to also think of what they are for … information communication technology (ICT). Information is not media. What began, ans is still commonly applied as office automation skills, blindly fumbled its way into using the internet. Teachers pushed the boundaries in isolated cases ten years ago to use web 2.0 which served to further allow the system to represent computing skills as media studies wisdom. It’s across the curriculum right?

Well no. Its as across the system as biology or business studies. Its as foundational in society as mathematics, yet no teacher is trained, no curriculum raised and no qualification achieved. The current situation is useful to systems in so much as it’s cheaper to pay dangerous experts to talk about it online and in lectures. Here, unqualified enthusiasts teach adults about in media and design rather than than employ a media studies curriculum.

I appreciate some teachers do a great job with media. At best this is the 1% that invest thousands of hours a year in their own learning, not the pathetic mandatory hours most teachers put in. In the face of growing media reforms, new media texts and controversies — successful societies will the the ones who make media studies a priority. I seriously doubt Australia’s modernist hegemony will do this, but will continue to waste time and money on rhetorical dogma that is yet to resolve the growing gap in education between have and have not.