Learning how to create 3D virtual films in a Machinima training session.
"What makes social media different from existing media is that it is largely democratic and participatory - the greatest effect I've seen of social media lies in how learning can be made active, made discoverable, with greater ownership given to participants."
With this statement, Dr Kevin Lim summed up both the immense power and incredible potential of a platform that is becoming part-and-parcel of learning and life for many young people. Cyberculturalist and Assistant Director of Strategy & Experience with The National Art Gallery, Singapore, Dr Lim was a keynote speaker at the New Media Academy, a national event organised by Innova Junior College (IJC) from 20-22 June which gathered nearly 70 students from 13 secondary schools.
During these three days, the participants picked up various digital media tools. Working in teams, they then applied their new skills to create short films for a segment called Project 909. Two keynote speakers, Dr Lim and Dr Katherine Anderson of the National Institute of Education's Learning Sciences Lab, also delivered vivid accounts of how new media will shape the way people express themselves as well as the education arena.
Acquiring skills and building character
Students picked up digital filmmaking before applying their new skills in Project 909.
According to Mrs Karen Yap, Head of IJC's Centre of Excellence for New Media, the New Media Academy is an annual fixture that addresses the pervasiveness of new media in education. "The New Media Academy is not just about learning technical skills," she said, "It's more about character building." Mrs Yap explained that apart from receiving training in new media platforms, the students discussed social issues and how these could be presented via new media.
The New Media Academy kicked off with an intense first day of workshops to equip the students with digital tools they could use to incubate and articulate their ideas. The choice of sessions included Broadcasting and Music Design, Digital Graphic Design, Digital Filmmaking, Digital Photography and Machinima, and were led by experts from Canon Singapore, Musicon, Mastereign, NurtureRich, Popular DMG and the National University of Singapore's Computer Centre.
Shooting digital photographs to translate ideas into creative imagery.
Mrs Yap as well as Ms Maxine Tan, a Teacher Consultant who co-organised the event, both were surprised at how quickly the students mastered the new media tools, including machinima, a technically and conceptually challenging medium that involves filmmaking within a real-time, 3D virtual environment.
Emerging from a workshop on Broadcasting and Music Design, Ginn Ong, a Secondary 2 student from Mayflower Secondary School, said the training would allow her to contribute to her school. "We are currently short of deejays," she stated. "With what I learnt, I can help with broadcasting during school events."
Conveying social messages through new media
Teamwork and interpersonal skills came into play during Project 909, which occupied much of the Academy's second day. Organised into teams of five or six under the mentorship of a NUS undergraduate assisted by two IJC students, the participants had nine hours to produce a 90-second film on a selected social topic such as animal abuse, teenage pregnancy or opportunities for ex-convicts. Each group comprised members who had attended different training workshops, so every individual had a unique skill to share.
Producing film posters was the task of graphic design workshop participants.
Noting how her team rose to the occasion despite being from different schools and not knowing each other beforehand, Ginn remarked, "All my group members put in a lot of effort in the project. The group was very friendly and we all worked well together."
Ednue Zaheerul Haziq, a Sec 3 student from Christ Church Secondary School, was in a group that took on the challenge of producing a machinima film. Despite the medium's difficulties, the team delivered a witty machinima entitled
The True Power of Mother Tongue. Haziq shared that given more time, the work could have been better. "There was quite a lot which I didn't get to do, like adding subtitles."
Exploring social issues through virtual reality in a machinima production.
Such demonstrations of personal investment into the project heartened Mrs Yap and Ms Tan, who were delighted to see the students articulate their ideas and mine their creative wells with confidence. Noting that these were perhaps the most significant lessons of the academy, Ms Tan said, "I was also thrilled that they were able to think critically about the topics and deliver the messages through the videos in their own perspectives."
As Mrs Yap reiterated, the programme is ultimately more about developing one's character than merely imparting skills. Expressing her desire that each student will leave the Academy a more confident person who can learn independently and contribute to society, Mrs Yap shared, "I hope that the students will use their new media competencies to be engaged in community and national issues."