Social Reconstruction through Video Art: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Social Reconstruction through Video Art: A Case Study

This case study of teacher, Judy Freedman, suggests means of incorporating student concerns, social content, and video art into teaching in many subject areas. Freedman's work departs from abstract and theoretical discussions of social reconstruction by using action research, along with theory, to influence teaching.

As Freedman learned about social reconstruction, she found theory that affirmed some of her intuitions as a secondary school art teacher considering art education's potential as an agent of social change. Her teaching of video art had entailed the critical analysis of commercial advertising which culminated in students' production of alternative advertisements of their choice. She revised her teaching of video art in two ways: 1) to include socially critical content which students chose as meaningful to them and 2) to change the classroom atmosphere to foster student independence and social agency.

In her teaching of secondary school art, Judy Freedman used a unit on television advertisements as a way to focus on student social concerns. Always concerned with students' active participation in the classroom and their construction of their own ideas in art, Freedman worked for many years to develop the students' sense of belonging as well as ownership of their work, learning, and the classroom. In developing this video art unit, she made what she sees as a break-through in the development of social responsibility in her classes.

In this article, we describe Freedman's past approach to teaching video, the development of participation in her classes, what prompted her to introduce socially critical content, and the changes she introduced into her teaching to draw on students' social concerns and sense of justice. This essay draws parallels to and builds upon theoretical discussions by Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux. This paper also suggests strategies to teachers interested in increasing the vitality of their classrooms, highlighting the relevance of their teaching to students' concerns, and defining students as agents of change.

In the recent past, Freedman had taught video units in which students created advertisements based on their knowledge of commercials from television. She focused their attention on the techniques and approaches generally used by the media in the marketplace. Both Freedman and her students viewed videotaped commercial advertisements, analyzing the camera angles, tempo, rhythm, and technical aspects with and without sound. She also focused their attention on techniques used to manipulate viewer perceptions and emotions.

A problem she noted with this approach was that regardless of student interest in producing a video advertisement of their own design, many students never completed their videos. Freedman conducted action research, studying one's own practice in order to improve that practice, to examine the obstacles to teaching and to develop means to improve her teaching of video. This action research revealed that the students had difficulty completing the work because of the time the project required for completion and their difficulty working effectively together.

The Actual Change - What Made It Happen

Subsequently, Freedman (1999, October) saw video art about AIDS and read an article on video activism in a graduate seminar.(1) She recognized the affinity between social reconstruction and her views on teaching. She realized she could refine her teaching to 1) address the problems her earlier action research uncovered and 2) align her teaching more closely with her social values and her ideas of community. Freedman observed, "the classroom is a community or `culture' in its own right" (1999, October, n.p.). She wanted each person in the class to "feel that they are an important member of that community, and that they can freely voice their ideas and opinions, in a safe environment" (1999, October, n. …