The Future of Video Curricula beyond Traditional Broadcasting

Article excerpt

Media teachers across every decade have raised questions about the relevance of their teaching to their day's technology (Rubin, 19881.

We must ask that question again today: Is our highly specialized telecommunications curriculum truly relevant to the profession and the discipline of our time? Other questions frequently follow: Are we adequately assessing the future in order to prepare for it in our curriculum design? Are we preparing to provide the most effective technical working and teaching environment for tomorrow's students? (Hakanen, 1991)

Background

A broadcast-centered curriculum model. From the earliest days of curriculum design for education in the electronic media, academic planning has usually centered on a broadcasting core (Stasheff, Tincher, and Willis, 1958; Martin, 1958; Wright, 1962).

In the '60s certain experienced voices were heard calling for serious curriculum reconsiderations that would lead to more effective equipping of the telecommunications student (Donner, 1960).

Spread across the years have been those writers who were mainly concerned with the broadcast-centered curriculum. However, they were calling for inclusion of more critical evaluation (Press, 1965), concerns for "overemphasis on production courses and a lack of concern for media influences and responsibilities" (Berkman, 1964), a plea for a wide integration of technological study (Nottingham, 1974), the outright call for more intensive preparation of students for careers in nonbroadcast media (Porter, 1979, Oliver, 1978), and beckoning for a new paradigm directed toward teaching the future of telecommunications (Leichti, 1979).

On countless campuses, today's instruction in the video production arena continues to focus on the commercial television studio in single or multicamera operations. Field production and small-format editing are often seen as advanced production, rather than as a basic creative style now in use worldwide.

In many course catalogs, "television" continues to describe production courses while "video," a more generic term, is replacing the earlier broadcast-centered terminology (Grant and Leebron, 1988).

In the name of salience, Durham (1992) calls up Laswell's (1948) familiar formula by asking our discipline to search for "salience [which] can be achieved by asking who we are trying to teach through which channels and with what effect." McCall (1993) reports that authors Blanchard and Christ (1993) are calling for a "new professionalism." Pease (1993) warns of a widening gap between the academy and media professionals.

Many writers are voicing their interests in today's changing audiences (Baldwin, Barrett, and Bates, 1992; Fry, 1988). New technologies for viewer control of personal programming are severely altering old definitions of program content (Klopfenstein, Spears, and Ferguson, 1991; Ferguson, 1992).

In a recent published lecture, Shaw (1991) pointedly observed that "no medium, once it has lost its dominant position [traditional open-channel television] has ever returned to the top." Shaw further notes that

Audience choice, made possible by modern technologies, has made the concept of "mass media" obsolete; and audiences are not necessarily loyal, exercising when available to obtain information and entertainment in the most efficient way possible...

Such evidence illustrates long-standing concerns. The search for a relevant communications curriculum grows more intense.

In matters of short- and long-range planning, budgetary as well as curricular, one also finds many tensions present at institutional levels above one's own department: the school, the college, or other higher academic division. Those are the realms of academic life often administered by people who have little appreciation for, and perhaps no experience in, the creative and substantive studies of electronic media in its many varied contemporary forms, applications, and social implications. …