Laitinen, Sirkka
D.69 | Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 12:30 - 13:00, Room D1
Visual media! At the crossroads of media and art education
Television, videos, computer games and music are in Finland, as in many other countries, part of children's everyday life, when they are not at school. Many television programs and the information that they supply for different trademarks are central to children's and youngsters' mutual communication. Finland, as one of the pioneers of information technology, has set it's children as guinea pigs for constructing information society (Tamminen 2001, 234- 235). Even in the industrialized Western-European countries, children and youngsters do not usually use these creative opportunities offered by digital media. They rather use their personal computers for playing games and writing their homework assignments. (Buckingham 2003, 13- 19) Where do we need the media education offered in schools? Why should all, and not just the "freaks", know how the daily media-attacks that they are under, are made? People's experiences are increasingly transmitted by different medias. Cultural visualization is one part of "medialization". Cultural multimodalization is visible in the media and in other functions of society. Art can also be expressed in many forms. In the current age of digitalization, some forms of expression have become at some levels technically similar to each other. (Kress & van Leeuwen 2001, 1- 2) Some activities that are linked to media education are established in everyday schoolwork. The courses of media education can be seen in many curriculums of different subjects in elementary and high school in Finland. Media education has been divided between many subjects. Is the media being learned or is it just text in the curriculum? In art classes the visual media has been taught by the name "mass communication" since 1970's in accordance with the first curriculum for elementary schools. Photography, advertisements and films became part of high school art classes already in the 1960's in Finland. Also, teaching typography was preceded by penmanship that was taught in art classes. How can visual media education be seen in the entirety of school? There can be many different aspects in school's media education: technical, social and art educational. They are not exclusionary to one another. In the art educational aspect the command and assessment of codes, structures and shapes are emphasized. The way the material is being treated and narrated for presentation, is important. (Kotilainen 1999, 44) Visual production has to be in the centre of media education, so that the media, which is turning more and more visual, can be manageable. Media education should not be a detached subject, which would separate the central forms of expression of contemporary culture from the continuum of cultural history of mankind. On the contrary, media education should be part of teaching in every serious subject. According to Ian Wall, director of the British Film Education-organization, no such subject should be taught in school that does not take contemporary media into account (Wall, 8.11.2004.). Art education is not about teaching good taste, but about considering aesthetical and ethical values by creating pictures. These fundamental issues suit well also in media education. It is not appropriate for media education to be humiliated by commercial values, nor is it correct to center on remote moralization. Media and art education have something in common regarding the emphasizing of the dialogue between teacher and student. Good and bad, beauty and ugliness are being examined and witnessed in both. Reviewing and producing both media and art is about making one's own choices. According to Elliot Eisner, there is in school a lot of routine work, which leads to convergent thinking and where emotions play no role in problem-solving. In art education it is possible for student to understand that there are different ways to think, live and exist. (Eisner 2001, 8- 9) Eisner sees that the aspects of visual culture should be integrated to art education. Studying visual forms in their context is in accordance with the traditional objectives of art education. It is important to raise student's awareness of policy of the picture. The aspects of visual culture are, in fact, included in the art education. This is one way in which art education influences student's everyday life. (Eisner 2001, 10) Could it be that the idea of media and art education is returning children to the nearness of real-life joys and challenges? It is in the growing virtual visual world, where those skills, that art education provides, are needed. Art education is, by nature, doing that is connected with thoughts, experiences and feelings. It is also a way for deeper understanding for visual realities made by others. Those who make the curriculum real are the teachers, whose knowledge and know-how define the quality of education. Turning the curriculum into reality requires work and a sense of direction that is based on a solid know-how. Teaching an image necessitates expertise, meaning a teacher of visual arts. In the field of verbal communication the expert is the teacher of that language. Mandatory art classes are needed in all grades so that co-operation in understanding picture and words would be possible. Modern art education is linked to quality media education by the insight of the roles of the student and the teacher in the nearness of the picture. Both roles are about making choices, that have to be made on expressive, technical, aesthetical and ethical aspects. These aspects are part of all pictures and messages. Learning art is not only doing, but also understanding through doing.
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