Statement of Learning Philosophy

Learning about media can have lasting personal and social consequences. For individuals, this kind of education helps develop a personal point-of-view, a way of making sense of a world where everyday life and mediated experience converge. What roles do movies, TV, radio and the internet play in your life? How does the media present, test, refine, and perpetuate the values and ideas of our culture? How is your understanding of the world shaped by your experience of media? The ways we explore these questions and the conclusions we draw will become evident in the ways media programming will be produced and used in the future.

Because none of us can escape completely the deluge of media in modern life, each of us tends to take for granted our expertise in the subject. This comes as no surprise based on the reactions I get the first day of a new semester when I announce the viewing assignments or projects for the course. Everyone has an opinion. Students walk into my classroom with a wide variety of previous experiences, ideas, and beliefs about media and culture whether they've come to class to learn about something old-fashioned like movie musicals or new-fangled like contemporary media production gear.

By no means should that knowledge be left at the door. Instead, I design classroom activities and assignments with an eye toward helping students put their ideas into words on a page. This means that viewing assignments aren't complete until a student writes a response, or that in a production classroom students must not only talk about their design ideas, but also write them down. Sometimes this work is shared with the class where it takes its place alongside the other readings assigned for the course.

Of course, students may find themselves struggling to explain their ideas in ways that others understand, or their preconceptions may be challenged outright as they participate in class. This is where the real learning begins.
Matching words to thoughts can be a struggle, but such work is fundamental to education. As the teacher, I work to provide students with different strategies for dealing with the problem of writing things down. I encourage low-stakes writing assignments like weekly reading/viewing responses or rough drafts for longer papers. I occasionally provide writing prompts or questions for students to consider. These kinds of activities are followed by peer review opportunities where students provide one another advice in shaping their writing, advice that is supplemented by my own comments.

All of this work is worth it (even in a production-oriented classroom) because words on a page can become the focus for collaboration much more easily than thoughts. To borrow a phrase from Mom, I can't read your mind but I can consider what you've written down. We can work together to refine your words, to make better sense of what you're thinking, to use your thoughts in movies, TV shows, podcasts or what have you. We can learn together.

To write down what you think is to provide evidence of the boundary between the personal and social dimensions of learning while at the same time crossing that divide. Your thoughts may be your own, but they also result from social interaction. Struggling to express your thoughts within the context of what others have written about their thoughts is what learning is all about. My primary role as an educator is to establish a classroom that recognizes and makes the most of crossing this boundary between the personal and social dimensions of learning.

Once we've crossed that bridge together, you should be better prepared to cross it alone, to join in what intellectuals like to refer to as "the conversation." You should be better prepared to struggle with the questions swirling about the experience of media in your life and our culture, eager to put in your two-cents worth.