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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Embracing screen-based learning in the classroom

Anne Chesher

Anne Chesher is a lecturer at the SAE Film School, Byron Bay, and a teacher at St Michael's College, Gold Coast. She is also working as an education producer for Essential Media & Entertainment, the production company involved in the creation of ABC Television's new series The Making of Modern Australia. Email anne.chesher@media-ed.com

The Making Of Modern Australia is a four-part television series about social history appearing on ABC television. The series is accompanied by an interactive website that allows ordinary people to upload their own stories and experiences of Australian history. As such The Making of Modern Australia is a unique and engaging educational resource that may be of particular interest to teachers and students of history, English and media. This article briefly provides a context for the series, and outlines its key features.

The use of multimedia and television in learning

As a format, the screen is now widely recognised as a particularly effective means to engage students across different ages and levels of learning ability. A number of organisations are now producing high quality educational materials that reflect students' propensity to use screen-based technologies and multimedia learning environments. These organisations include ABC Television, National Film and Sound Archives, Screen Australia Digital Learning and The Le@rning Federation. At the same time, Screenrights and Enhance TV provide registered schools and parents with weekly updates about new engaging educational film, television and online learning content, relevant to the curriculum.

The quality of programs provided or selected by these organisations is evident not just in the technology they apply, but in the fact that they express contemporary social values, a sense of belonging and community and a sense of national identity.

A strong value base for these programs is needed not only to meet the standards of integrity that parent's expect but also to respond to students' growing interest in topical questions and to relate to the personal belief systems they are developing. The Australian History K‐10 Curriculum notes that in Years 7–10 as students grow into adolescence 'their interests extend well beyond their own communities. They begin to develop concerns about wider issues – established conventions, practices and values' (ACARA, 2010).

For history and English subject areas learning technologies can take us into the visual archives of life – past and present, where the experience is real and dynamic.

One example in the United Kingdom is the StoryVault project which called on oral history stories from the entire British community. StoryVault is incorporated into the UK National Curriculum for middle primary level. It encourages students to interview, record and upload video clips of their grandparents. Providing first-hand personal historical accounts, StoryVault 'promotes understanding across generations and helps children to understand that ''the past'' wasn't so long ago!' (StoryVault, 2010).

The Making Of Modern Australia

Similarly, The Making Of Modern Australia gathers life experience stories from ordinary Australians. Spanning the post-war period of Australia's history, this production is a true 'people's history' of post-war Australia.

In some ways, The Making Of Modern Australia is more ambitious than the StoryVault project. Its content sets it apart from other multiplatform experiences. It is comprised entirely of our own everyday yet fascinating family stories – fading memories that might otherwise be lost. Each story was submitted to the series website which is notably designed for uploading rather than downloading.

At home, when stories are submitted through the website, children may well be involved in the processes of recording and uploading.

In the classroom, The Making Of Modern Australia is relevant to history, SOSE, HSIE, civics and citizenship, English and media. It directly relates to the new Year 10 Australian History Curriculum course for implementation in 2011.

The series immerses students in the lives and experiences of their parents and grandparents. They will witness historical triggers for change in our community, sense the 1950's apparent childhood freedoms and see how the rock'n'roll rebellion would sweep away pre-war conservatism and change Australian society forever.

Under the episode themes of Child (Childhood and Parenting), Home (The Australian Dream), Heart (Love and Marriage) and Soul (Faith and Religion), this series contains photographs and home movie footage that illustrate social and cultural shifts of Australia over the past 60 years. It addresses many curriculum themes: from national identity and nation building, population and cultural diversity, religion and community, family and home, work and leisure, transport and technology to social influences from the 1950s until today.

  • The television series was produced by Essential Media and Entertainment for ABC Television in association with Screen Australia. It will appear on ABC1 Thursdays at 8.30pm July 22 – August 12 and on ABC iView (http://www.abc.net.au/iview/).
  • The interactive website (www.makingaustralia.com.au), with a dedicated education portal, was created by Hoodlum Entertainment in association with Education Services Australia – The Learning Federation and Australian Teachers' of Media (ATOM).
  • The book was written by actor, author and the series narrator William McInnes. It includes Teachers Notes by Hachette Publishing. It is available at all leading bookstores.

Programs to inspire and excite

Riding the wave of new learning technologies is not always easy for the educator trying to find the right balance between surfing the vast ocean of content, a skill in itself, and knowing how to effectively teach it. Double-click culture is upon us and we need to learn how to swim.

There is no escaping the integration of new technologies in our lives, and therefore in education. In just two decades we've moved from scarcely a computer seen in our classrooms to almost every child with their own laptop. But a laptop alone is simply a tool; the key is what we access through it and where we go with it. As educators we have the ability to guide our students to programs with integrity and worth that inspire and excite.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

Television in education
Multimedia systems
Mass media
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Audiovisual education