Having spent a fair amount of time in doing video production myself, producing a community access program with local artists, and working with elementary age students on video production projects, I found a lot to reflect upon in reading the David Buckingham blogpost interview with Steve Goodman of the Educational Video Center in New York, and the Kristin Drotner chapter on the European Union’s evolving take on creativity and culture. I was especially interested in the perspectives on the challenges and benefits of locating youth video production in or out of school settings and on creativity and culture. So what follows are five of my own informed insights on the benefits of youth video production.
#1. Using a “strengths-based” instead of an “at-risk” view of even the most challenged youth, learning video production skills can support young producers’ talent, intelligence, dignity and agency and at the same time provide a vehicle to give them a voice in telling their own stories or exploring issues of interest to them and their communities. I found this dual outcome underscored in Film School Africa, one of the films being screened during Providence Children’s Film Festival 2019. It was also evident in my work with fourth through sixth-grade video producers in the Media SmART! Project in Providence schools, which used both during school and after school opportunities, and both curriculum related and student-chosen topics for video production. In fact, we discovered that some roles in video production, like audio engineer, actually helped some students with learning disabilities to focus on the task at hand because of the equipment used, inclusion in the collaborative project, and interest in the subject matter.
#2. Instead of the school to prison pipeline, providing digital media production education, skills and practice to youth, either in school or out, can provide opportunities for hopping on the “talent pipelines” or “media pathways” Steve Goodman mentions, towards careers in media. It’s even better when combined with media literacy lessons that help students become more astute media consumers as well as media producers.
#3. Personal relevance equals interest and active involvement. As Steve Goodman puts it, “Students are always engaged when they get to choose the subjects for their projects, ask their own questions, tell their story and present it for public audiences in school and in the community.” Or as the first student featured in the Pioneer Middle School video states, “I like that this is a subject I might actually use, unlike other subjects in school where I might never actually use it in a real career.” :-O Now, we know that this young man may eventually be surprised at how his knowledge of English or Math comes in handy later on, but it’s a true statement about his feelings of relevance at this stage of his life that should be acknowledged by teachers and school system administrators alike. Oh, and check out how many of the skills listed in the graphic below are included in video production activities.
#4. Imagine. Create. Innovate. As Drotner points out, in 2009 – the European Year of Creativity and Innovation – the EU obviously got the connection between these vital human skills for students entering the talent pipeline and career pathways when they made them their slogan for the year. It indicated that they had an understanding of the significance of these aspects both for the individual and for society at large. They had cultural and economic significance, as imagination, creation, and innovation are key features of the digital revolution and the knowledge economy. And yet, I could find no mention of a US Year of Creativity and Innovation. Hmmm… Perhaps Europe is even more in tune with the need for free expression than the Land of the Free? Maybe due to a past that included this idea and implementation: “Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea.” – Adolph Hitler.
Today’s students have been weaned on digital media, for better or for worse, but one “for better” feature is that they come to video production with a wealth of digital technical and creative exposure that far surpasses any previous generation. Doesn’t it makes sense to harness and further educate that head start in schools? Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” He also said, “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” Just sayin’.
#5. Creativity is power, and creativity is an individual attribute that can be developed in everyone. It is especially necessary to counterbalance the stress and strain of life in the 21st century. Somehow, samurai warriors in the 12th century already knew about this need for balance. This Japanese military aristocracy understood that education in and practice of the destructive forces of battle required equal and opposite training in the creative forces. The samurai aspired to lives of spiritual harmony, devoted equally to the art of war and the fine arts, and are remembered and revered most today for their beautiful poetry, painting, ceramics, and calligraphy, as well as martial arts. Wouldn’t you prefer to be remembered for your most creative acts and manifestations? Wouldn’t anyone? Then why on Earth, unless some entity intentionally wants to hobble creativity at a young age, are we continuing to see funding cuts to the arts and humanities, and activities like video production for youth are so difficult to mainstream into education? Isn’t it time to advocate in a big way for the benefits of creating to learn?