What’s New in the Rest of the World?

Now that the summer class is over (sweet glory hallelujah!), I’m trying to cull back through the last three weeks of blog posts. So, whatcha all been writin’ about?

Right off the top, via Will Richardson is a promo describing MIT’s new program Scratch. Like many things coming out of MIT right now, Scratch is free, and is deeply invested (so say the designers) in allowing young people to become active creators of media. The sample projects run the gamut from games to animations to essays. From the informational videos (available on YouTube), the interface seems incredibly intuitive; it’s based on a system of “blocks” that the user snaps together to integrate sound, picture, movement, etc.  [For the record, there is nothing I love so much as an intuitive interface.  This may come from being a long-time Mac user, but I really resent having to read directions for things.  Learning Photoshop last summer drove me absolutely batty.]

One of the questions that programs like Scratch engender is the fluid relationship between media outside the classroom and inside it.  During the promo video, designer Jay Silver states: “I like the idea of a tool that can be used in schools, but ultimately suggests to the learner that I can use this autonomously.”  Yes!  Absolutely!  This comes with a bundle of caveats, of course.  First and foremost, any use of something like Scratch in the classroom would mean developing some smart pedagogical applications that would actually inspire students to return to it.  In other contexts, people have argued that bringing interactive media (e.g., blogs, wikis) into the classroom domesticates them,  robs them of their potentialities for free use and independent knowledge production and thinking.  It seems to me that we could begin to think seriously about how particular pedagogical praxis would situate new media in such a way as to enable later autonomous use, as opposed to scholastic domestication.

What would this pedagogy look like, exactly?  Hell if I know.  Having just come out of the personal essay filmmaking class, it occurs to me that producing media is a thoughtful and painstaking process; what I’m most interested in as a teacher and as a media critic, however, is hearing about the choices students make in those productions.  Why this transition?  Why this particular shot here instead of this one?  I think I may have officially drunk the Compositionist Kool-Aid (Kompositionist Kool-Aid?), but I want to see analysis and reflection driving production, or at least intersecting with production in some way.  In a class, we can do this with writing (and all praise to those programs that include sections for notes—dedicated spaces for attention to these processes).  But what happens to these processes when production goes autonomous?

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