Introduction

No longer is teaching about television and the media simply reserved for television production class. Those who teach English, Consumer and Family Sciences (i.e. Life Management), and Critical Thinking will also benefit greatly by the contents of this coursebook. Curricular emphasis on media literacy has increased dramatically in the past few years. The heightened need for media literacy is not a coincidence, nor is it an accident. In 1996, Congress passed a Telecommunications Act that essentially removed all controls on the media industry originally put in place by the Radio Act of 1927 and Communications Act of 1934 to quell the chaos and to address consumer concerns during the 1920s & 1930s. The 1996 Act essentially removed all controls central to preventing potential conflicts of interests. Among other things, this act reduced the limits on:

In essence, Congress has recently allowed newspaper publishers, telephone, and television companies to more opportunities to enter each other’s businesses and large, multi-level organizations borne out of mega-mergers to take control of media markets. Many feel that the advantages of economic progress and increased technological research and design resulting from this consolidation and convergence in the industry far out-weigh the disadvantages of potential domination of media markets by a few. As a compromise, the Act also allows for local access channels on cable systems as well as potential lower rates through the de-regulation of local cable operators. Justification must have been supported somewhat by the alleged success of similar de-regulation of the banking and airline industries.

For whatever good the new Act will have on technology, consumerism, and the industry as a whole, educators need to understand the immediate impact these changes impose on curriculum design. Now more than ever, students need to become media literate citizens who understand the impact media has on their daily lives. The Aspen Institute Report on Media Education defines the media-literate person as "one who has an informed and critical understanding of the nature, techniques, and the impact of the mass media." (1993). TV Ontario identifies television as the "most persuasive medium" for children. However, it should be obvious that the new law requires that the term media literacy be re-defined to encompass all the additional technologies that will surely arise. Already we are witnessing dramatic changes in the way information is being communicated and managed. The technologies of the telephone, television, and computer are merging. Kids are spending increased time in front of the computer browsing on the Internet, requiring educators to help them become more informed on the media and advertising techniques imposed upon them in that medium as well.

Technology is also changing the methods advertisers use to portray their message. New, computer-based editing software allow advertisers to increase dramatically the number of frames per second that viewers are exposed to during a 15, 30 or 60-second commercial. Teaching about "framing" is a core technical concept in television production that also leads to an increased understanding of the principles of media and visual literacy. Teaching about visual clues like the use of colors, shapes, and mass and "on-camera" techniques like body language all lead to a broader understanding of the techniques used by advertisers in the various media formats. In other words, inasmuch as the goals and objectives of technology, visual literacy & media literacy are inevitably all tied together, so must their definitions be expanded to encompass these new intentions.

The purpose of this coursebook, then, is to utilize media and visual literacy in these newer and broader contexts. It introduces students to the core principles and methodologies behind producing quality video outputs. Students will also learn how to organize their thoughts using storyboards and how to write appropriate scripts for a visual medium that utilizes both sight and sounds to supplement each other. Equipment usage is taught in context of accomplishing the visual effects and goals set forth by the storyboards and scripts. Finally, media literacy is set in an historical context through ten short sessions describing the history of broadcasting up through the present and the future of narrowcasting, (as opposed to broadcasting) a new term which describes what will certainly become the predominant means of one-to-one communications and information management in the new millennium. Students will benefit by being taught about television production in new and practical terms that will also serve the dual purpose of making them better media consumers in the process.

The Uniqueness of this Book

First, this book differs from most textbooks in that it is aimed at teachers, rather than the students. A traditional textbook is student-oriented, and generally organized into set teaching units. It is the usually the focal point of the course syllabus that students follow along in class. Often, there is supplemental teacher's edition that includes enrichment material, answer keys to review questions, and/or mastery exercises that follow at the end of each teaching unit. By default, class syllabi often follow the chronology offered by the textbook company. The traditional television production textbooks teach the basics of producing television programs in a studio environment, often focusing on how to put on a daily newscast or news magazine show.

Based on the above description, this book is not a textbook per se. Rather, it is an instructional or course "guide", aimed at teachers that is supplemented by an optional student's edition (referred to as the Student Workbook). The target audience is teachers of a first year high school television program whose students most likely consist of younger high school students. However, there are no assumptions in the content that would preclude upperclassmen from taking this course. While the book is aimed directly at television production, all lessons are structured in a way to facilitate teachers of different academic disciplines who wish to pick and choose appropriate topics for their own subject areas. While there is a certain amount of continuity among the lessons, they are modular so as to stand on their own merit and provide meaningful content to anyone interested in visual and media literacy.

The second difference is that this course guide sets the course in a context outside of studio production. While it is about television, and as such, contains information on the production sequence, the term television production is not an adequate description of the course. In addition to television production, students are introduced to the foundations, practices, theories, and traditions of broadcasting, using visual awareness and media literacy as its linchpin. Rather than limiting its focus to the various techniques of putting on a daily studio show, the main teaching goal of this book is to promote visual awareness and media literacy by introducing students to the power of the medium, its traditions, and how to ethically manage it. As a point of reference, students also learn how, over time, the broadcasting industry has learned to use (and some times mis-use) television as a visually intensive medium for conveying and managing the flow of information in society. Students learn media literacy and visual awareness from a producer’s point of view and end up becoming more sophisticated consumers of the media as a natural by-product.

Learning by doing

The needs of current trends unique to the broadcasting industry are simulated within the classroom environment. Students learn about the need to manage simultaneous projects, and the need for accurate record-keeping. In addition, they learn how to target audiences, how to market products, and why the industry’s motivation to make a profit can be both a positive and negative rationale. This book is an alternative approach to the first year in a series of several television courses offered to high school students. As such, it integrates neatly into a four-year curriculum plan that gradually and incrementally introduces students to the elements of production. The premise for taking this approach is threefold:


Although television is an elective course in most schools, not all students are enrolled by choice. Many first year television students complete only the first year and do not enroll in follow-up courses. Those who do go on to become employed in the industry after graduation are certainly in the minority. Often students are placed in the first year television course to satisfy district or state-mandated electives requirements.

Due to pressures of putting on a daily show, a first year course is often bereft of meaningful content. Often the teacher is bogged down with the show and does not have the proper amount of time to pay proper attention to the needs of the first year.

Most states cannot agree on benchmark standards that include standards for teaching television. For this reason, television curricula vary widely between and among schools. Many times, this results in redundancy in course content. Whatever standards do exist that are related to television fall to the media literacy benchmarks written into the English class curricula, and visual awareness issues written under the broad heading of visual arts.
In short, this book shows teachers how to implement a program that uses television to teach about television and about the increasing power that the medium has on our daily lives.

Overall Goals and Objectives of This Course

The target grade level for this course is first year television production students in Grades 9-12. However, because the subject matter is presented from media and visual literacy perspectives, it should prove quite useful for anyone interested in literacy issues. Often, English and/or other teachers responsible for incorporating critical thinking content into their courses struggle to find relative course material.

The learning goals or ends for this course are:

How the Chapters Are Organized

For convenience and continuity, the chapters in this book are organized into instructional units based on content. This is intended to help television teachers who are unfamiliar with the broadcasting industry understand course content. The subject matter flows together better so that they may make correlations to common concepts or themes.

While the chapters in this book are specifically organized around subject content, the term module has been carefully avoided. Often, a module denotes that the material is covered contiguously during a specific time frame. The concept of teaching through thematic units may be based on sound instructional principles, but the reality is that most television teachers face an interesting conundrum. Students are very anxious to get going with recording videos and aren’t very interested in learning all there is to know about working the equipment first. In addition, there is pressure to put on a video production very early in the school year. Schools spend considerable dollars setting up an expensive studio and expects (also, rightly so) a quick return on that investment. Yet, most teachers, correctly so, do not want their equipment mishandled and most feel that the best way to teach is to make sure students understand the production process prior to working with the equipment. However, they cannot teach and, certainly, students cannot learn all there is to know about a well-run production on the very first day. Typically, the students do not come to class with knowledge of how to utilize this very expensive equipment, let alone a camera. The trick is to begin early with some simple projects very early that rely on only the most rudimentary aspects of operating the equipment.

The Teaching Chronology

In order to accommodate the need to intersperse class material with activities, the subject units provided in the chapters in the book are supplemented by two teaching chronologies. The first is based on a traditional calendar where students meet for the entire school year. The second is modified for the Four by Four Block. It might be obvious that courses like television productions are aided by alternative schedules that provide additional work time each day. However, the course is easily suited to take the normal yearlong course, or a A-B Block with its modified class periods into consideration. The major difference is that the class lecture/discussions often are the subject of a single class period in the traditional schedule, or a subset of a longer class in the Block.

About the Lesson Scripts

All direct instruction lessons are scripted. Scripts do not mean to imply that the teacher must teach the course exactly as it is written. However, the scripts should prove useful to those new teachers who are unfamiliar with the course content. A lot of research has gone into making a determination as to the correct type of learning and teaching techniques to use in this coursebook. It represents a compendium of several ideas with regards to the subject matter, and also is a digest of best practices in teaching methodology. There doesn’t appear to be ONE best method to teach a subject like television. This is because the subject matter is routed in hands-on (equipment operating procedures), creative technique (much of the camera and editing procedures are an art, not a science), and academic information (media and visual literacy).

About the Student Workbook

Lesson scripts make up the majority of the content of the workbook. Blank spaces are strategically left for students to enter words or phrases that complete the sentences, forcing them to follow closely along with the teaching points in each session.

In essence, these are teacher handouts to guide note-taking during class presentations and discussion sessions. They outline the recommended order in which the topics are to be presented and follow the discussion templates closely so that class presentations and discussions may be supplemented by an Overhead projector. Space is provided on the worksheets for the teacher to interject an independent reading and discussion of the specific procedures and techniques found in the texts that the teacher chooses to utilize during this course.

About the Mediated Aspects of This Course

The goal of educational technologists is to implement technology into the curriculum as a seamless teaching tool, no more visible or intrusive than a pencil or chalkboard. This concept of integration has emerged in the form of the term mediation. However, mediation is most commonly used in association with the phrase mediated learning (Gifford, 1998), which is consistent with the notion that the student takes control over his/her own learning with the assistance of various forms of technology such as computers, video, and other media. For the purposes of this coursebook, we have re-coined the term. Mediated teaching and learning may be a more appropriate label for this coursebook that is suited to the concept of technological and media assistance as implemented it in our instructional plan. This course uses extensively, and benefits students enormously both collectively in the classroom and individually by the use of interactive CDs, videos, and the Internet.

Other Books Used in Conjunction with This Course

While the term mediation has come to focus on technology, it is not the only form of assistance provided. Several reference books and texts also aid the program. While production is not its main focal point, the compositional aspects of producing a television show plays an important role in this program. As such, there has been no attempt to replicate or compete with other available television production textbooks. In fact, many other production texts already on the market are referenced in this book at the appropriate times. Two books, in particular, are specifically recommended. Both have been very helpful in helping get this course into a logical sequence as it relates to the chapters on television production.

The first text is Television, A Classroom Approach, by Keith Kyker and Christopher Curchy, also published by Libraries Unlimited. It is integrated into the curriculum as individual reading assignments that supplement Chapter Four: Equipment Basics. The Kyker/Curchy book is written specifically for high school students, comes with supplemental teachers' edition and modeling video and introduces the class to discussions on production terminology and techniques. Each of the lessons is introduced at the appropriate time in this course. Those study assignments are later reviewed and discussed in class. Those students who have completed the assignments participate in class with some basis for understanding the concepts. The video that accompanies the Kyker/Curchy text interjects role models for some of the projects.

The second text is Television Production by Ron Whittaker, Ph.D., published by Mayfield Press. Fortunately, Dr. Whittaker has also published the substance of his text as an independent study course on the Internet at http://www.cybercollege.com and has graciously invited teachers to use the contents. Chapter Eight in the coursebook makes reference to many of the production techniques, sequence, and script writing, found in Dr. Whittaker’s book and on his web site. Because the writing style was simplified for the web, we were able to incorporate some parts of this course, originally targeted for college level students, directly into the curriculum.

Summary

In short, this book is a compendium of the ideas, concepts, and best practices taken from the best available teaching resources about television. These resources are then implemented with lessons that cover visual awareness, arranged in a recommended order or chronology, and then mediated with technology such as CD, video, and the Internet to increase their effectiveness, continuity, and currency.


R. Kenny, Ph.D.
July, 2004