A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered


Isn't YouTube Enough?

I've been working with some youth in the South Bronx in a digital media elective in their school. And we've collaboratively decided what our first project will be this year. It will parody/imitate High School Musical, a made-for-tv Disney film that reminds those of us who are a little older of Grease and Hairspray. The students' film, as it stands, will lovingly critique their own high school experiences. In fact, they will write the script and star in the show, as well as edit and produce it. They're more interested in the writing and performing parts than the post-production pieces at this point, something I'm still sussing out. The point of this entry, however, is not which parts of the media production they're most interested in.

One of my general critiques of youth media film is that it isn't always shaped to have a very wide audience and I'm often concerned that certain enriching learning and advocacy opportunities for/by/with youth have been overlooked. However, my students--some pretty mature high school seniors--reminded me of something I'd forgotten. I asked and asked them, "Who do you want the audience of this to be?" I mentioned school-wide events and parents nights and other possibilities that might help convince their administrators and other teachers that media education should be a core part of the curriculum. But they all just kept looking at me saying "YouTube--we'll put it up on YouTube." I nodded, "Okay, sure, I'm fine with that being your only audience." I nodded and accepted their decision because I really believe in students being in control of their own learning. And, in particular, I believe that they should have a lot of control of this fully elective course. But still, I don't think I was really getting it. I'd forgotten something really important. Putting this film up on YouTube gives these students something that showing it to their peers, parents, teachers, administrators on a big screen does not. It allows them to be a fuller members of a participatory culture. It allows them to be authors, creators, artists, producers, etc. of online digital content. And for youth who are used to watching rather than making YouTube videos, I think this is more than just a little bit important.

Check out this new white paper from MacArthur called Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century for more discussion of youths roles as media-makers, not just consumers.


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