Consumers or Producers?

I first started video editing when I was fifteen. One of my first big projects was to rework the video introduction of the TV programme Survivor to include teachers for my school intranet. On reflection this practice links with Barbara Comber’s work on critical literacy (Comber, 2001). She talks about subverting texts and redesigning them for real-world use to have a particular effect – this appears to be what I did at the age of fifteen.

A quick search on YouTube shows that others have also chosen to do this. ‘Scary Mary’ and ‘Shining‘ are two such examples. These users (and I include myself) are influenced by texts of popular culture and subvert them to add their own mark. What I find interesting is this is an increasingly frequent technique used by advertisers especially the UK television channel E4. Above is a video of an advertisement for the film ‘Entrapment’ where they have chosen select clips and a sarcastic narration to present the actor in a completely different way. Advertisers try to influence our decisions, but are we starting to influence theirs?

Literacy Policy and Policy Literacy


I have always followed the controversy surrounding the teaching of reading in the UK with great interest, not least because I use a phonics-based approach with my class to develop their decoding skills. I have great issues with the narrow view of phonics taken by the DCSF guidance and scheme of work. So it was with great interest that I found this inaugural lecture by Kathy Hall at the Open University. Some of the statements she makes ring so true, not only for the teaching of reading but the foundations of education and where it is heading. I love the way she talks about how literacy research cited to justify policy should reflect a broad understanding of literacy, should meet high standards of quality and have the potential to improve learning. It might sound the obvious… but why doesn’t it happen?

A High School Grumble

altI have never subscribed to the notion of popular culture and new technologies bringing about a ‘toxic childhood.’ I have always believed (and still do believe) that schooled literacy should take account of new and varied literacy practices so that children can make meaning through the modes that society provides.

However, yesterday I visited ‘Toys ‘R Us’ (a different story) and was greeted by a huge multimodal display that incorporated the brand of High School Musical. I have nothing against this as a film (in fact I actually enjoyed the first one a great deal) but something struck me as slightly concerning about the multimodal advertising techniques being used. I then recalled how my class are boreding on obssession with this particular ‘brand.’ What started as a simple TV movie has escalated into a brainwashing corporate cult. I even saw branded make-up accessories for children… let’s not even go there.

This reminds me of something I read in Eve Bearne and Helen Wolstencroft’s book about how although children engage with multimodal texts at home they only have a subconscious understanding of them and accept their meaning at a superficial level. This appears to be the case with ‘HSM.’ If ever there was a need for Critical Literacy in schools… it is now!