AATE: Keynote Day 1 – media literacy with Andrew Burn.

This is the first national English teachers conference that I have attended. As you can tell from my last post, I was a bit nervous. Why? Well apart from having to present twice yesterday, I was just unsure what to expect of a national conference as distinct from a state conference. I knew it was going to be big, and I wasn’t let down at all.
The AATE annual conference is being held at the impressive but maze-like Sydney Grammar School. Trying to navigate your way through the many buildings and levels certainly is an experience! Yesterday I managed to get lost twice – once on the way to my own session – and found myself telling a woman I wasn’t a stalker but I was following her and I am a fan-grrrl of Wayne Sawyer. Yup – oh dear Bianca!
The opening keynote was by Andrew Burn from University of London. His talk has a massive title that I’m not going to type cos I don’t think it will give you much insight into the content of his talk anyway. Burn opened with a passage from the Rights of Man about the arrogance of a generation claiming to be able to determine what should be important for the following generation. The cool thing was that he linked this to curriculum policy – do curriculum policy-makers (and teachers) have the right to determine what the next generation should value? Pretty sweet opening idea.
The rest of his talk gave an overview of his research into media literacy across a range of schooling levels. It was interesting to discover that media is taught separately to English in the UK. I guess it’s a bit like Multimedia in NSW because media in the UK is an elective. His suggestion is that media and English should be taught together to enhance learning experiences – something that I think is encouraged in the new and current English syllabi in NSW but perhaps not practiced by most teachers. He also got me thinking about the way we teach media texts in the English classroom – do we privilege the rhetoric or the poetics? I’d like to think I consider both, but in his discussion he covered important ideas about the media institutions and ethics that I think I don’t address enough.

I was fascinated by the student created games and machinima that Burn showed – and I was particularly delighted by the joy he expressed while showing them. I love academics that really are teachers at heart. It was wonderful to see someone so passionate about the connections to be made between what he called ‘elite’ culture (Shakespeare) and popular culture (video games). His 3-Cs model of literacy really resonated with me. Culture (elite and popular), Critical (rhetorics and poetics) and Creativity (sedimentation and innovation). I loved his faith in the ability of young people to reenegise and revive sedimented forms – they can awaken them and make them new in their own creations. Needless to say, I’m going to be reading a bit more about the work of Andrew Burn.

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