On Tuesday, the students from my Digital Media class, as well a few invited guests and colleagues, enjoyed a screening of the Best 8 Student News Projects from the unit. This project, the first major assignment for the unit, takes place after 4 weeks of workshops which introduce digital video cameras, sound recording and (very) basic lighting, non-linear editing and copyright in media production. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but the culmination of these workshop is a project in which students, working in groups of 4 or 5, get exactly one week to produce a 3 minute news story on the basis of pre-assigned topics (all of which are based on relevant local issues).
Once the projects are completed, part of the feedback process is not just comments from myself or Christina (who is tutoring half of the classes, I’m tutoring the other half) – although we do give a fair bit of written feedback – but we also have a reflective seminar where the projects completed by the groups in these seminars (there are 4 groups in each seminar) are viewed and the other members of the seminar offer written and verbal feedback. I find this is always a very rewarding process, as students often engage more directly with peer feedback. To top it off, at the end of each seminar (there are 8 ) each seminar votes and the best project, along with the top from the other seminars, become those which make up the Best of Student News screening. While I am a little hesitant to place too much weight on the ‘best’ projects – learning is, after all, not a competition – students nevertheless respond well to this voting process. I suspect the idea of them deciding the best projects rather than the course staff is very appealing! Then, in the Best of Student News screening, the students get to vote once more and select their choice for the Best Student News Project of the year.
I have to say, I think the level at which students produced their projects this year has been outstanding. Even though most of them have learnt their media production skills over 4 one and a half hour workshops, many of these projects can stand up against the work of professionals who’ve had 3 year of training. The Best Project for the year, as selected by their peers, shows that humour – when used properly – really is one of the universally appealing elements of media. So, without any further ado, this year’s Best Student Project takes a comical look at the role of community radio in the era of media conglomeration.
At the screening, there is also a Staff Award given the the project which got the highest overall mark. This award went to the group behind a technically outstanding project which explored whether Australia’s young Olympians are adequately prepared to be thrust into the media spotlight at the Beijing Olympics.
There are two other projects from the screening I wanted share: one takes a look at the proposed redevelopment of the Perth inner city foreshore, and the other asks to what extent Earth Hour is a genuine attempt at ecological change.
One other noteworthy aspect of these projects, and of many others students created for the course, is that after our discussions on copyright, each of the projects above has selected to place their finished work under a Creative Commons license. Among other things, this suggests that far from the end of the conversation, some of these student projects may, indeed, have an interesting life being screened and remixed in different settings.
The students in this unit are now working hard on their second project, which is explores more specifically the affordances of digital video on the web, and I have to say, having just heard their Pitches for these projects, I’m really exciting to see the next projects as they’re completed!