Specific initiatives and projects
An important media education initiative was the creation of the first Russian web-site for media educators: www.tmei.ttn.ru/media/MediaEducation.htm (the main author of this site is Alexander Fedorov). This web-site informs the educators about the history, theory, methods and project of Russian media & film education. Another example of a recent media education project is a summer school in Uglich (1998-2000) and Children Festivals of Visual Arts in the children summer camp “Orlyonok”.
Reality bites: as a rule, only some Russian teachers want to use media equipment in their lessons. Many Russian teachers of Humanities (Mother Tongue – Russian Language, Literature, History, Arts, Ecology, etc.) are eager to integrate media education into their lessons. The salary of an ordinary Russian teacher is very small (about $20-$30 per month). Because of their young men do not choose this profession.
That’s why about 90% of Russian teachers are women, and the majority is middle-aged women. Russian women have a lot of home & family chores to do. And they think about media education in the class: “It is an additional job for me. I don’t need this because I don’t get paid additional money for this”. It was very difficult to find teachers (who included media education in their lessons of Mother Tongue) who agreed to be observed. That’s why some of the selected teachers were the teachers of others subjects (Arts, History, etc.). About 90% of teachers in Russia are state are women. The observed teachers were women only.
The “old generation” of teachers did not want to be observed & interviewed (as a rule they do not include media education in their lessons). That’s why only teachers who are interested in media & media education were observed and interviewed. I observed 10 lessons in 10 different classes (including 14-16 year-old girls and boys: 126 girls, 95 boys) in 10 different secondary schools. All schools were from the Southern Russian Federal District because Russia is a very big country and I do not have the financial possibilities for research travel to other Russian regions.
My research includes structured interviews with 10 Russian teachers & lesson observation of 10 classes in 10 secondary schools. The procedure took place in 1999 (May 17, 20, 24; September, 7, 15, 24; October, 5, 15, 18, 29). Each interview & lesson observation was recorded (on audiotapes), studied & analysed. Mrs. Anastassia Novikova was the junior member of this research work.
Conduct of interviews and lesson-observations
All of the selected Russian teachers graduated from the Taganrog Pedagogical Institute or Rostov-on-Don Pedagogical Universities (departments of Languages, Arts, History, Social Pedagogic, etc.). 3 teachers have a teaching experience in secondary school of more than 10 years, 2 of them – more than 5 years, 4 of them have a teaching experience of 3 to 5 years. Almost all these teachers have been teaching media for 3-6 years (70%). They mentioned the following reasons for that: because they need modern illustrative material for the lessons (60%), love cinema & TV & arts (20%), because media text is a very effective model of our life (10%) and means of education (10%), because media is a part of our life and our home (10%).
Teachers define their approach to Media Education in the following ways: media education as a subsidiary way to traditional education (50%); media education as effective means for the expending of knowledge & development of personality (20%); media education games & group activities (10%); media education as a mean of active practical work with pupils – making media products (10%).
Here are the examples of media education lessons that were defined by the teachers as their successful ones:
-“The game “Who is the media expert?”. Two teams of pupils were involved in the competition on the media themes”.
-“The lesson “II World War in the Mirror of Russian Cinema”.
-“The lesson “The Trial”. I demonstrated fragments from American film about court’s trials. And I discussed them with pupils”.
- “Lessons “French painting in the mirror of French documentary cinema” (with excerpts from documentary about Louvre collection of painting). The pupils wrote individual essays about their impression”.
-“A lesson “Environmental Problems on the Screen”. The class watched a film and then discussed ecological problems tackled by the film”.
-“Watching the documentary film and class discussion of it”.
It seems that most of the interviewed teachers think that their best lessons were group discussion about specific historical, ecological, etc. problems. Some teachers think that media education is a traditional education with the help of technical media resources. Media language is seldom a subject of school lessons.
Teacher’s school context & available support
The Status of Media Education is not strong in modern Russia. General National Curriculum for Media Education does not exist yet. Still media education in Russia is a compulsory part of the basic education in some secondary schools. There are Associations & Institutions for Media Education (Russian Association for Film & Media Education, Laboratories of Screen Arts and Media Education as a section of Russian Academy of Media Education (Moscow), but their influence is limited. Media education elements take place at different lessons in Russia: Language, Arts, History, Literature, etc. (plus extra-curriculum media work – school radio & newspapers). As media education is not an obligatory separate course, pupils do not take final examinations in it. School inspectors basically seldom talk with Russian teachers about media teaching (because for the most part they do not know what is media education about). But some school principals encourage the application of media education.
Media education is a cross-curricular subject integrated in traditional subject (Languages, History, Arts, etc.). But media education is also an independent option for specific lessons in some Russian schools & universities. Russian teachers prefer audiovisual media to print media, but only few Russian teachers can use the Internet because of hard economic situation in the state. Russian school authorities have limited financial resources for expansion of the new media in schools and don’t have any effective programs to support Russian teachers who really & actively use new media in their classrooms. Many Russian secondary schools have a special “computer class”. But personal computers, as a rule are out-dated, and most Russian schools don’t have Internet access. Majority of Russian teachers don’t use the new digital educational equipment as PC, or the Internet. Only teachers of mathematics or PC education courses use new media systematically. The Internet was not used in any of the 10 lessons I have seen. Computers available in special classrooms don’t have the Internet access. That’s why the impact of computer-based media on methodologies and the organization of Russian schools are very limited.
Many Russian teachers think that media education is a traditional education with the help of technical media resources. Media language is seldom subject of the school lessons. The percentage of current teaching time given to media work is: 15%-20% (30% of teachers), 30%-50% (70% of teachers), including “out-of-class” media work. 10-20% (in 3 observed lessons), 40%-50% (in 3 observed lessons), 60%-70% (in 2 observed lessons) of Russian pupils have recent experience of media education. Russian teachers can distinguish between common teaching and media teaching in this way: “Media teaching is effective for the development of consciousness” (20%); “Media teaching is an effective means of communication & information” (10%); “Media teaching is a more effective means of education” (20%); “Media teaching is more informative mean of education” (30%); “Media teaching is effective for development of aesthetic perception” (10%);
Russian teachers see the long-term media aims for their pupils in the development of pupils’ personality, critical & aesthetical consciousness (“I want to develop pupils’ critical consciousness”, “The pupil must distinguish between the true & false information”, “The pupil must learn to use Internet “, “I want to develop pupils’ personality, including aesthetic aspects”, “I want my pupils to become more media literate”).
Methods, Curriculum content and resources
I do not think that case studies as a research method are very useful for the media education project in Russia. Media education is not included into the existing state obligatory curriculum in Russia. That is why Russian teachers are still unable to accept media education in secondary school. They are still confused about the meaning and value of media education. The old generation of teachers do not want to be observed & interviewed because as a rule they do not include any elements of media education in their lessons. That is why only teachers who are genuinely interested in media & media education agreed to be observed at their work and interviewed. Of course, if the teacher agreed she (as I have already said, 90% of Russian teachers are women) prepare for this “observed lesson” very carefully. Eg. if a teacher uses elements of media education in their ordinary lessons very seldom, she can create a special media education lesson for research observation only. I do not think that lesson observations & interviews of 10 selected teachers are valid & reliable enough for the scientific project because these 10 teachers are not typical for Russian educational situation. More typical is another situation: no media education in secondary schools. Do not forget: Russian Association for Film & Media Education has about 300 members only (and the Russian population is about 145 million people!).
Younger teachers use some elements of media education methods such as discussions with pupils about their experience with the media (60%), the role games on the media materials (20%), practical media activities (10%). The methods of media education at the lessons of 10 observed teachers depended on their educational background. Unfortunately, only few Russian teachers have special media education training. Basically Russian teachers take their methods of teaching from other subjects (Languages, Arts, etc.). Teachers reported that TV (50%), press (10%), film (20%), video (20%) are the areas of media work most comfortable for them. Teachers tend to avoid the following topics or media education concepts: “Language”(40%), “Internet” (20%) and “Semiotic”(10%), “Technology”(10%), “Agency”(10%). All 10 teachers believe that media technologies are very important in media education, but they told about the medium extent of application of these technologies in their lessons. And all of them agree that media education improves the efficacy of a lesson.
Most of the teachers find difference in the response of girls and boys to different aspects of Media Education. For example, they reported that boys are more comfortable with media (20% answers), “boys are more experienced with modern media” (video games, Internet, etc.) (40% answers), “girls are more sensitive about aesthetic perception” (20%).
The most useful media resources, in the opinion of the 10 teachers are: documentary (60%), feature films (30%), science-fiction films (30%), TV documentary (40%), Internet sites (10%).
The observation showed that lesson’s objectives were: from 20% to 70% media-based. But all the lessons were specially prepared (as the teachers know that I would come to watch their class) for observation. I don’t think that media education applications are so strong in the ordinary teachers’ work. The teachers told that the observed lessons were connect with previous or future lessons in the fields of “category”(40%), “audience”(20%), “representation”(30%), “information”(20%), “aesthetic values”(10%) and “language”(20%). Teachers think that pupils must learn media terminology like «Category» (40%), «Representation» (30%), «Agency”(20%), «Audience»(20%), «Information»(20%), “Perception”(20%), “Language’ (20%) because “pupils must know media category, and they must be able to distinguish source of information (and what kind of information is it: true or not true)” (10%), “pupils must know the types of sources of information, they must develop the perception of media information” (10%), “media education helps to survive in a media-oriented world” (10%), “pupils must broaden their understanding of media” (10%), “media literacy a contributes to the development of personality” (20%).
All the teachers included in this research listed their aims of the lesson observed. For example:
- to analyse moral, psychological motivation of media texts’ characters’ actions;
- to explain the specifics of audiovisual language (in the documentary & feature films);
- to explain some media education categories (for example, “genre”);
- to discuss the aesthetical values of a media text;
- to discuss the aims of a media agency.
The teachers explained the aims to her pupils basically clearly. However the lesson on the whole showed that some pupils with the low IQ (about 20%-30%) didn’t understand the aims of the lesson. At the end of the every lesson the teacher summed up the results and attracted the pupils' attention to the aims achieved, but some teachers didn’t allot the time for drawing up conclusions. According to the teaching plan and the program of the course the aims of the lesson were directly connected with the previous learning. Following lessons were based on the previous ones, aims of the lesson (according to the program) became more complicated.
The observed lessons were focused on the following key concepts:: «Media Category» (90%), “Media Representation”(40%), “Media Agency”(30%), “Media Language”(20%). The key concept “Media Category” (for example, “genre”, “film”, “press”, “documentary”, “video”, “audio” and so on) and “Media Representation” was familiar to 70%-80% of the pupils. The key concept “Media Agency” & “Media Audience” was new for the some pupils. Only few pupils knew the concept “Media Language”. The following terminology was used at the lessons to express the key concepts of media education: “documentary”, “film”, “character”, “reality”, “industry”, “audience”, “information”, “press”, “agency”, “video”, ”audio”, “art”, “aesthetic”, “perception”, “representation”, “category”, “language”. Most teachers avoided “difficult” theme like “Media Language”, “Media Agency”, “Media Audience” because they did not have the special media education background.
The pupils know the terms like “film & press” (100%), “character”(90%), “art”(100%), “documentary”(100%), “information”(100%), “video”(100%), “audio”(100%). The terminology like “language”, ”perception”, “representation”, “agency”, “audience” is more difficult for them.
Of course, pupils know the concept “language” from the lessons of Russian language or Literature. But only few if any know the specific of audiovisual media language.
Teachers used “School-produced”(50%) & documentary TV films (40%), excerpts from science-fiction film (20%), feature film (30%), TV commercials (10%) in their lessons (technical equipment were a TV-set, VCR, magazines). The teacher & pupils used these sources in 30%-50% (20% of the observed lessons) and 70% (10% of the observed lessons) of the lesson time. Most teachers were familiar with or comfortable with technological resources.
Typically teachers asked their students the following questions: ”What is the category of this film?” or “What is the main idea of the film?”, “What are the main aims of this TV-program?”, “What is the main message of this documentary?”, “What is the main problem of this text?”, “Is this problem important to you?”, “What information was new for you?”, etc.
More rare questions: “Who is the main hero?”, “What is his (her) psychology?”, “What is the message of the authors’ of a media text?”, “Why was the picture dark (well-lit)?”, “What will happen, if we change the situation in the picture?”, etc.
The teachers combined the lectures with the group activities: 10-20 min in pairs or in larger groups.
All the 10 teachers thought their goals were achieved (or most of them).
Selected Case study
A serious problem that I faced when I started my study was that many teachers (including those who integrated some elements of media education at their lessons) did not want their classes to be observed and analyzed. From the 10 classes that I monitored (visited) I chose a lesson by teacher Ludmila G. for the tenth-grade class of a secondary school in Taganrog, on May 17th, 1999. The class consisted of 14 girls and 11 boys of the age 15. The lesson’s length is 40 minutes. I have chosen the teacher Ludmila G. because she is one of the most experienced teachers at school (14 years of service) and as she said, she had been interested in media education for several years.
No doubt, Ludmila G. is not a typical Russian teacher. As I have already mentioned, most of the Russian teachers are not excited about proposing innovations, they think that their job is just their subject area. Media education is an additional work for them, which is not obligatory required by the state department of education, plus it is difficult to find the media education frameworks, guidelines programs, and teachers’ handbooks. However Ludmila G. belong to few Russian teachers who believe that the media are part of our life and therefore media education should become part of the general education of pupils.
Ludmila G. has been working as a teacher for 14 years. Recently she has been teaching History of Art in the 10-11 grades (the senior grades in Russia). Her interest in media education dates from the time she realized she needed modern illustrative material for her lessons. But later she understood that media could be not only a kind of teaching aids, an illustration, but the serious means for the development of a pupil’s personality. Ludmila G. thinks that media education should be integrated into the general curriculum. She also believes that media education is most effective in the humanities (whether the subject matter is Literature, History, Arts or etc.).
“I think, - Ludmila says, - that there are several reasons why media education is necessary for modern schoolchildren. Firstly, media education develops pupils’ critical thinking. Secondly, media education helps students to evaluate the quality of a media text. Thirdly, literature today is not the only form of expression and through media education we can compare an original literary text and its screen adaptation.
Ludmila said that of her best media education lessons was a whole-class game called “Who is a media expert?”. The class split into 2 teams. Ludmila was a leader and asked questions concerning media culture (genres, famous media texts, their authors, etc.). The teams had to answer them. And the second part of the game demanded creative skills of the pupils (collages, etc.).
Ludmila says that she uses such technical recourses as TV, VCR and projector quite often at her classes. She regrets that there is no computer in her classroom, so no opportunities to use CD-ROM or Internet.
“It’s a great pity because often I see interesting CD-ROMs, for example, interactive picture galleries, art encyclopedias, and others. It would be great if I could use all this at my lessons”.
Ludmila thinks that she and her students use media approximately 15-20% of lesson’s time. She also has an opportunity to conduct extra-curricular media classes with her pupils (usually these are games or competitions on the theme of media culture). She notes that boys are more interested in new media: “Children in my class are from families with a middle or low income. That is why my pupils do not have computers at home. However some of the boys go to computer clubs where you can play a computer game or use Internet for a fee. Girls visit such clubs very seldom it ever”.
Judging by Ludmila’s words, the school principal likes her initiative of media education. However school authorities lack equipment and budget, and can not help her like in all other state Russian schools (the number of private schools is small). Teachers get paid a low salary and cannot buy some equipment themselves. And schools have a budget too small to buy such things as computers, video cameras, etc.
Ludmila has incorporated media into her course though such activity as discussions of media texts, including films and television programs. She tries to make her students go beyond simply discussing content and themes of a media text; they should learn to consider the aesthetic value of it, its category and language. “As I teach the course of the History of Art” I show films and TV programs about the “greats” of art: paintings and artists, picture galleries and museums, architecture and sculpture. It is a pity that there is no computer in my class and I do not have it at home, so it the school buys it someday, first of all I will have to learn to use it!”
“I believe in media education’s future in Russia. For me the main goal of media education today is the development of students’ critical thinking and their aesthetic taste”.
Overview of Lesson Observed
Ludmila began a unit on “The Portrait as a Genre” with some elements of media education. Media itself were used for about 6 minutes.
Ludmila started with a few questions related to the previous lesson that was about a landscape genre in Art. She asked students: “What famous paintings with landscapes do you remember?”, “What documentary films, programs or feature films with interesting landscapes do you remember? (she means landscapes shot by a camera, not painted ones). “How is a painted landscapes different from a landscape done by a camera work in a film?”.
After that Ludmila briefly informed her class with the plan of current lesson: she said they were going to learn about the genre of portrait and would see the reproductions of pictures and audiovisual scenes and then they would discuss it. After this work had been done the teacher asked the class: “What the genre of the film you watched?”, “What is the main idea of this scene?”.
The question-answer type of work was going on for 10 more minutes. Pupils expressed different opinions. The discussion showed that pupils are aware of such terms as “documentary”, “film”, “reality”, “genre”.
During the last couple of minutes of a lesson the teacher summed up the results and encouraged the pupils to reflect back on what they had learned (concepts like “Category”, “Representation”).
To my mind, Ludmila G.’s teaching models is typical for Russian teachers who try to integrate media education into their work. Having content requirement of what she has to teach she seeks opportunities to devote some time of her classes to elements of media education. But I have to say that she is not familiar with textbooks, guides and other resources specifically on media education. Ludmila G. uses literature and teacher’s guides on art & aesthetic education of schoolchildren. And it is obvious that teachers who are going to teach media education must themselves develop the competency how to do so.
General conclusions: issues and problems
The research revealed that as media education is not an obligatory component of the state Russian schools program, majority of teachers (especially older generation) do not implement it. It should be noted that actually it is even worse: the large majority of teachers have no idea about the existence of media education or what it is about. Well, some school teachers use media in their classroom just as an illustration for the lesson’s theme. A media text is not a matter of study in that case. And only few teachers do try to integrate elements of media education. For the most part, these are “advanced”, interested, competent teachers who graduated from Teacher Training Institutes where special course on media education was taught and who have an access to quality resources including theoretical books, textbooks, model lessons or magazines on media literacy. Nearly all of teachers I have interviewed belong to the second group of teachers who use media in their classes and they implement some elements of media education but intuitively, without any media education training background. The interviewed teachers follow the “Popular Arts paradigm” and Critical paradigm”. Sometimes their attitude to media education is a synthesis of these two paradigms. It is true for the teacher Ludmila G. too.
In contradiction to some other countries (for example, the USA), the school education is centralized in Russia. The Ministry of Education works out the national basic school program, the one and compulsory for all schools. The number of elective subjects is very small compared to the obligatory ones. As I have already mentioned, the state educational curriculum does not include media education. Some institutions take media literacy initiations: the laboratory of media education of Russian Academy of Education (Moscow) wrote an experimental educational standards on media education at schools (integrated into the curriculum), the Kurgan Teacher Training Institute uses its own programs of media education (Spitchkin, 1999). However these innovations are realized just in few schools. That is why the development of media education in Russia depends on the individual efforts of teachers (relatively young as a rule), who try to integrate media education in different subject areas or conduct extra-curricular classes (or clubs) on media culture.
The major barrier that impeded the development of media education in Russia is a poor technical equipment of schools. As a rule there are no modern computers, DVD-players or video cameras at schools. The Ministry of Education is aware of this problem and in future promises to provide technological resources in the areas of sound and video equipment but currently teachers have no opportunities to use the technological advances at their lessons.
One of the institutions that provide assistance for the media education is Russian Association for Film & Media Education. Teachers and university professors who joined it write doctors’ thesis on film & media education, elaborate models of media education, curriculum materials for schools and universities, publish books (Fedorov, 1989 and 1999; Penzin, 1987; Sharikov, 1990; Spitchkin, 1999; Usov, 1993 and others), provide workshops and seminars on media education. These efforts are aimed at developing pupils’ and students’ personality – developing an appreciation and aesthetic understanding of the media creativity, critical thinking and ultimately, critical autonomy. I can generalize Russian models of media education into following type: 1) educationally-informational models (the studies of the theory and history of media & media language); 2) instructionally-ethical models (consideration of moral, philosophical problems on the media material); 3) developing models (the social & cultural development of a creative person in aspects of perception, imagination, visual memory, interpretations, analysis, critical thinking, etc.). However the Association for Film & Media Education has about 300 members and its influence on masses of teachers is very limited.
Teachers that I interviewed define their approach to media education in this way: media education is subsidiary to basic education; media education as effective means for the development of personality; media education is a new possibility for the creative games & group forms of media work; media education is the means of active practical work with pupils. Most of the interviewed teachers think that their best lessons were whole-class discussion about specific historical, ecological, etc. problems. Sometimes teachers confuse media education with audio-visual aid at an ordinary lesson. Media language is seldom studied at school lessons.
Russian teachers report that their long-term media aims are the development of pupils’ personality, critical & aesthetical consciousness with the help of advanced media equipment, including Internet.
Patterns & gaps of teaching
It seems to me that a good tendency about Russian media education is the willingness of teachers to develop their pupils’ critical & creative thinking, their aesthetic appreciation of a media text. They use different form of work, including role-plays, team competitions, etc. The obstacles on the ways of media education are: media has not got an official status or curriculum foothold, no financial support. Majority of teachers use media in their classroom just as an audio-visual aid for their subject. Most of the teachers did not study modern media culture when they were students, are not familiar with such key concepts as “Media Language”, “Audience”, “Agency”. They are more comfortable with components that the traditional courses contain, such as a genre (category) study, the critical analysis of texts, and discussion of content.