Investing in the Future of Media
Last October, a video short called, A Vision of Students Today, generated a buzz in the Internet world after it was posted on YouTube. Within weeks, the broadcast had been viewed more than a million times and provoked thousands of comments and blog mentions. It shows a number of young men and women, sitting in a lecture hall, successively flashing hand-written placards with the results of a survey their class had done about college life. A sample of what the signs read: “I will read 8 books this year, 2300 web pages, and 1281 Facebook profiles”; “I will write 42 pages for class this semester and over 500 pages of email”; and “When I graduate, I will probably have a job that doesn’t exist today.”
Granted, this is the work of a single group of undergraduates. But in less than five minutes, the messages they convey underscore some indisputable facts: Students are learning and communicating very differently than their parents did. And technological innovation will affect their futures in unforeseeable ways.
No group has embraced digital technology more wholeheartedly than youth. According to recent research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than half of American teens are actively involved in creating digital media content, from producing blogs to posting their stories, photos and artwork on social networking Web sites like MySpace. Among adults—who were mostly raised on print and analog broadcast models, such as television and radio—the number is one in 100.
Clearly, society is in the midst of a seismic shift. Young people’s widespread familiarity with new media, combined with the breakneck speed of emerging technologies, makes command of the critical and technical skills to analyze and shape digital messages more important than ever. Whether they choose to participate fully in our media-driven culture—or to challenge it—students need to be taught how to intelligently create, obtain and analyze information.
As a result, media is no longer a boutique field of studies; it has become a fundamental area of knowledge. In a world dominated by bits and bytes, basic literacy means more than the ability to read and write. It now requires understanding how digital media works.
To succeed in the workplace, to become engaged citizens and critical consumers, people must learn how to interpret the digital messages with which they are constantly bombarded. Just as importantly, they must know how to communicate using today’s multimedia tools. And colleges are increasingly expected to provide the training, services and content to students who are already immersed in electronic media before they even set foot on a campus.
To meet this challenge, Evergreen has committed itself to providing students with the tools to understand and shape media in the 21st century. In the fall of 2009, the college is slated to open the new Center for Creative & Applied Media (CCAM). Located in the library, it will be fully equipped with a soundstage, multi-camera high-definition video studio, cable and Internet broadcasting facility, workshop space, surround audio recording and mixing suite, and experimental effects lab. As the college’s physical and conceptual hub of media and technology, the 10,000 square-foot facility will provide a functional space for production, teleconferencing, broadcasting across the college’s audio-visual and computer networks, and preservation of a burgeoning collection of media files in formats that are accessible in the current technological environment.
Media education has always been an important part of an Evergreen education. When the college opened its doors in 1971, it offered a state-of-the-art studio with three cameras. Over the years, the studio was used for a variety of humanitiesbased media projects. Many graduates have gone on to build careers in media-related fields, from animation and music production to filmmaking and programming for interactive Web applications. Furthermore, students enroll in the college specifically because of its reputation for media studies. In a 2005 survey, 28 percent of new first-year and transfer students reported plans to focus in media or closely related studies.
In recent years, however, with rapid technological innovation, the college lost ground in its ability to deliver quality, upto- the-minute media access to academic programs, students, faculty and administrators. On top of that, in 2004—due to competing priorities and limited resources—Evergreen had to suspend the operations of its only dedicated video production studio—after 30 years of use—as well as most of its broadcast facilities.
In bringing the Center for Creative & Applied Media to life, Evergreen will be able to develop new, innovative media education programs, and restore key functions from the past. For instance, faculty members will be able to utilize the television studio as a place to experiment with interdisciplinary teaching, document student presentations or interact with students in projects involving performance, roleplaying, or public-access production work.
Peter Randlette, Evergreen’s head of electronic media who is heading up the effort, believes that the center will be instrumental not only in giving students an excellent broadbased education, but also in giving them a leading edge in their careers. “You can learn the technology at a tech school, but here, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the school, you learn the technology in the context of art, music, history and a broad range of other subjects and issues. And that gives you something more valuable to contribute when you’re in the job market,” he said.
In many campuses across the United States, the gap between student and faculty perceptions of technology is widening, according to the New Media Consortium’s 2008 Horizon Report. Students have adopted the latest platforms in unprecedented numbers, yet these technologies remain a mystery to many teachers. Emphasizing the importance of fulfilling student expectations, the report adds that “successful learning-focused organizations have long known they ignore these expectations at their peril.” When the equipment at CCAM starts rolling, Evergreen will narrow the gap and shape the future of learning in our community.
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