The red notification spots on our smartphone home screens and the corners of the most popular Apps which hundreds of millions flock to daily are designed to maximise time-on-app by delivering little loops of incentive and reward which drive behaviour deep in our psyches.
Its not as though Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, three examples of the digital world’s most visited and arguably most addictive services, necessarily set out to nefariously use the same behavioural science that casinos have to get us hooked, but they’ve managed to get there in the end anyway.
Employing the science of ‘behavioural design’, which grew from research in laboratory rats pulling levers for food over 85 years go, has lead to the internet and increasingly our smartphones becoming the ultimate reward levers for our subconscious behaviours.
Nir Eyal, who wrote a book aimed at tech entrepreneurs named: “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” describes state we’re currently in: “When you’re feeling uncertain, before you ask why you’re uncertain, you Google. When you’re lonely, before you’re even conscious of feeling it, you go to Facebook. Before you know you’re bored, you’re on YouTube. Nothing tells you to do these things. The users trigger themselves.”
The stakes in moulding our collective behaviour couldn’t be higher, there are billions invested in and depending on continuously refining the addictive digital services inducing dopamine responses in our brains. The question is, who’s ultimately in control? Clearly the impulsive mind can be drawn into digital services which can hook and loop us into almost continuous repetitive behaviour… question is, how can we employ the same patterns for our personal benefits?
Consider learning platforms like Duolingo, teaching its users new languages. The reward and response loops are the same, but the purpose is a higher one than the pointless ego and affirmation-stroking likes that Dave Eggers’ protagonists prophetically obsess over in ‘The Circle’. Reality again mimics fiction and vice versa.
Next Monday marks that time of year to celebrate the dark myths and characters which have inspired some all time highlights of cinema history. We’re talking the vampires, werewolves and zombies, so its gotta be Halloween.
TimeOut have compiled this most excellent list of London events revisiting some of the classic, from The Mist to Little Shop of Horrors, The Shining to a Lost Boys & American Werewolf in London double-bill not to be missed at Picture House Central. Yes, Rocky Horror is still going strong at the Prince Charles. If you’re outside the capital, consult your local guides – keeping a keen eye out for the pre-mentioned classics!
Whilst everything seems to be changing some things stay remarkably the same. This is so often true, and no more so than in the world of filmmaking. Here, Virtual Reality (VR) and crowdsourcing are both shaping the future of the medium but are themselves constrained by and ruled by a factor much older than film itself.
First, Virtual Reality, long predicted in cinema from Tron to the Matrix, is finally here in affordable headsets whose movement latency is less than you’re brain can notice, so you’re ‘there’. Debates rage in the filmmaking world about what it means when audience members EACH become the protagonist and the scenes unfurling are not so much watched as they are experienced. Is VR really the descendent of cinema or just another enhancement of video games? One thing both the technologists and the traditional filmmakers can agree upon is VR’s ultimate success will depend on STORY and whether the journeys audiences are making in virtual worlds are ones that they perceive to be worth their while beyond the novelty of being immersed in a brave new world with not much to truly learn from being there.
Crowdfunding has exploded in the last decade, with great pet projects and big business ideas being funded through those first few steps of infancy to sales. Independent filmmakers have flocked to the likes of Indiegogo and Kickstarter to pitch their latest film ideas and raise the money to cover their productions. Success stories like the Veronica Mars Project which raised nearly $6m on Kickstarter and Zack Braff who raised over $3m for his ‘Wish I Was Here’ in 2014 are evidence that enough fans can make it happen with small donations. What funders avoid, however, is a lack of STORY. Case again of a very modern solution to the film funding challenge coming up against the wall of the age old core challenge of filmmaking. Is the story you will like to tell, in the way you’d like to tell it likely to inspire your audience and fans to trust you before you’ve even started? In the end, story will determine 90% of a crowdfunded project’s chances of success.
We can conclude from VR and crowdsourcing and the promises they hold for filmmaking in future that while the equipment and sources of finance around making and distributing films will continue to evolve drastically, the core purpose of the industry: to tell great stories that fire our imaginations and entertain us is the timeless ultimate purpose of the whole sector.
A few titles that you might have to ask any film student or indeed film aficionado what they are possibly waiting for if the answer is ‘no, they haven’t seen it yet’… For the rest of us – there are probably a few on this list we know are a worth revisiting again and again.
Hotel Rwanda tells the real story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who saved thousands of refugees fleeing the genecidal militia that had taken over Rwanda.
Gandhi is a biography of the famed leader of India, from his beginnings as a lawyer to his eventual embracing of non-violent protest to his assassination.
Alive tells the true story of a rugby team from Uruguay that must survive in the Andes mountains after their plane crashes.
Super Size Me. See what happens when one man lives on only McDonald’s food for 30 days. Shocking to learn what a fast food diet does to your body.
WALL-E touching animated film envisions a future that could be where modern culture takes itself without restraint.
Erin Brockovich is based on a true story about an ordinary woman who takes up a cause when she learns about dangerous groundwater pollution.
Up, an animated film dealing with issues of urban sprawl, ecology, and responsible stewardship in the midst of a touching story about unexpected friendships.
Gorillas in the Mist, also based on a true story, this one focusing on the work of Dian Fossey as she lived with and studied the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. After fighting against the illegal poaching of the gorillas, she was mysteriously murdered.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A popular choice in college-level English classes, this movie is not only filled with classic British humor, but also provides examples of the idea of the literary quest, allusions to the legend of King Arthur, and more.
Dead Poets Society provides a great chance to study the poetry mentioned within as well as show a deeply inspirational film to your students.
Almost Famous. Following a rising rock band, a young man in high school writes a story for Rolling Stone Magazine on the band, in this coming of age classic.
WarGames When a young man accidentally hacks into the US government’s computer system, he is invited to play a game that is actually initiating World War 3.
There may be a few that you’re incensed we’ve dared to miss. Feel free to list a few of your essential selection for students under Comments below!
Exercise: From any of the classics listed above, ask your students in small groups to choose one of the (preferably) live films, for all the group to watch the film, and then together try to recreate a 90 second segment of the film.
Few education professionals would deny that a revolution in teaching has started relatively recently, or at least within living memory… and it has continued to accelerate relentlessly until we find ourselves now smack in the middle of the most exciting and progressively evolving time in the history of education and learning. Stepping back and tracing where we’ve come from and stand now in the midst of this change provides some clues for the future and how we can take full advantage of the new approaches, technics, and tools spreading through the education world. Keeping up is standing still. Anticipating, preparing and embracing what’s next will ensure our students’ future success.
We’re all familiar with the so-called ‘traditional classroom’ model of institutionalised education with its rows of desks, teacher lecturing at a blackboard/whiteboard, homework exercise books and huge final exams. Many are also familiar with the outright inappropriateness this model offered a huge minority of learners with faster or slower abilities and aptitudes. Bored and under-challenged students were underserved by teachers pre-occupied with the troublemakers, and slower students were also neglected and discouraged by inevitable exam failures. Its a rigid and grim image which nonetheless spewed out billions of schoolchildren with wildly varying degrees of success for centuries.
The thing that’s changed of course, as it has changed every aspect of our waking lives, is online. The digital revolution since the 70’s and 80’s heated up with the Web in the 90’s and Social and Mobile in the naughties. Riding the tide of these society-changing waves has led a few luminaries to utterly rethink what’s possible in education to fulfil the dream of EVERY student receiving the same: optimised learning paths which ensure we’re all equipped to become our best-actualised selves during school years and for the rest of our lives.
As with any societal shift, the advent of Modern Learning Systems is neither easy or smooth, with pitfalls and the occasional wrong turn along the way. However, unstoppable technical trends and growing ecosystem of effortless, almost invisible technologies will continue to change education in the following key ways:
• Learner engagement evolves from just :
|Classtime and desktop access||
always on, 24/7, in pocket, just-a-touch-away, informal, multi-speed, multi-platform and social… learning
|What it means for you:||increasingly expect to be less the teacher and more the coach and guide for their learning through this new knowledge wonderscape.|
- Both students and teachers have access to tools growing from:
|Simple search and email notifications||
|Browse Catalogs, Faceted Search, Individual Development Plans, Dynamic Recommendations, Learning Paths, Learner/Manager Dashboards, Email/Text/Mobile Notifications, Ratings and Reviews, Badges/Leaderboards|
|What it means for you:||Limitless possibilities to make your teaching smarter, and your students’ learning self-driven, social and boundless… with better results.|
- Learning Content and managing it has evolved from:
|Simple, rapid authoring tools, SCORM, instructor-led||
|Sophisticated authoring tools with media library and testing functions and management of that content available through any device. Content is part of learning and workflow management tools including ongoing review|
|What it means for you:||Easily publish and share your course’s knowledge with your students, automatically testing and accrediting them along the way – teachers become coaches for the students by guiding and tweaking their learning with help from deep learning analytics.|
For Film and Media learners and educators of all ages and abilities, see how Quickclass is already delivering most of the Modern Learning System features mentioned in this article. Its now simpler than ever to reap all the benefits the digital age is bringing for a tailored and best education possible for every student.
Ever wondered why Americans adopted different spellings to a number of English words which have left the British, Americans and much of the rest of the English-speaking world grappling with peculiarities such as colour/color, centre/center and flavour/flavor? Turns out that centuries of confusion have been down to ONE man, Noah Webster of Merriam-Webster dictionary fame. After US Independence, Webster wanted to ‘simplify’ unreasonable spellings from the British… so went about implementing his own way of doing things.
Oh, the power of publishing one’s own dictionary!
Many of his efforts however, seemed to go a bit far, for even the the newly self-governing 13 States… ‘Determin’, ‘Leperd’ and ’Soop’ never caught on, but many others did.
So started 2 centuries of divergence, which in today’s interconnected world, can be argued is slowly beginning to fade away. Like in many strands of popular culture, American influence might just, over time, convince even us Brits that there might be something to be said for losing those silent u’s…
Enjoy the short markerboard film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmxHfRCrMCM
Hollywood has long dominated the UK’s box-office receipts. there’s no disputing the fact. And although there’s been a decade long surge in the numbers working in UK Film production, much of this is ironically production work farmed out from US studios taking advantage the UK Tax Credits alongside a highly skilled and creative workforce… Which brings us to another metric, that of quality over quantity.
Yes, film is ultimately an art and thereby criticism and praise are entirely subjective. This doesn’t stop both film-lovers and cinema critics having strong opinions about what they’re watching and sharing their views, which online culture has made ever easier to collect and collate. Two metrics which can be used to measure the very widest range of opinions are the Metascore as calculated by Meta Critic (a weighted average of reviews from top critics and publications) and IMDB’s Rating scale which allows the public to rate films 1-10 stars.
So in the broadest battle of top line ratings, how do US and UK films fare with audiences and critics?
Interestingly, the UK’s films are rated higher, with audiences awarding on average 6.15 stars vs 5.93 stars in a comparison of all films on all budgets between the two countries. Film critics’ Metascores inspire an even more pronounced gap, with the average for all Hollywood films between 2006 and 2010 at 50, whereas for British films made under £500,000 the figure was 65. This is a significant difference and means that Hollywood films received “Mixed or Average Reviews” whereas the UK films garnered “Generally Favourable Reviews“.
Again, this is all subjective, but where might this difference in broad opinions originate? One theory is there are fundamental differences in what drive the two industries. Britain is a literally nation, with a fifth of the population, but only half the number of books published, and since the early days of cinema, its been seen as a continuation of great literature, civilising the nation. By contrast in the US, Hollywood was founded out West to evade Edison’s patents and make money. The end result is that the British ideal is the moving drama whereas the American ideal is a spectacular blockbuster.
This is highly generalised, and there are a myriad of exceptions from both sides of the Atlantic, but one interesting takeaway is that art produced for potentially higher ideals than primarily making money will generally do a better job at delighting audiences.
The recent flurry of reports and rumours about the new Samsung Note 7 phones thanks to the propensity of their batteries catching fire (but not ‘exploding’ like a bomb) have had predictably dire consequences for the company. The fault apparently lies in cramming the battery too tightly in the phone’s body, in the never-ending quest for more power, and the rush to get new devices to market at breakneck speed. The results have been a massive recall of Note 7’s and potentially a second recall as the replacement batteries might not be solving the issue. Particularly alarming are reports of the phone’s catching fire on airplane flights, where the stakes of onboard fires are as high as anywhere.
The question is, should incidents like this make us unduly worried about the technology in our pockets? If we’re literally putting ourselves physically in harms way, should we not step back and slow down our endless pursuit of the latest and greatest gadgets? In particular, when we’re talking about students, should we err on the side of caution if their putting physical wellbeing at risk?
There are a few factors to take into account here. First, the odds. Samsung rightly recalled millions of devices after a few incidents were reported, because even if the chances of anything going wrong are more remote than other dangers we face in modern life, if there’s danger of even one user being injured, then every precaution should be taken. Luckily consumer protection laws around the world judge and fine companies who neglect their users’ wellbeing extremely harshly, and arguably online user forums and the tech press are even harsher.
Cases like the Note 7’s are likely to appear from time to time, but luckily, the backlash that companies like Samsung receive in the market for failures like potentially flammable phones (however remotely possible that may be) ensures that future designs and safeguards against such unwelcome outcomes are beefed up. A tiny danger therefore becomes an almost negligible one with each new generation of tech.
Invite your students to list examples of both UK and US films they love from the last 10 years. Steer a discussion about the differences between the two lists in terms of plot, acting styles, use of special effects and scale.
Now challenge your students to produce 2 short clips of the same script excerpt of your choice, but one as they would imagine a US production would treat the script and the other how a UK production might do the same.
Compare and contrast the differences (beyond what can lead to hilarious accent impersonations) in the resulting clips and discuss how these might be reflected in terms of response from both UK and US audiences.
All film and media teachers know which of their students are serious about building the qualifications towards a career in the visual arts, including film, TV, radio, advertising and increasingly online production. They’re the ones who show true passion for your subject and the most creativity in producing their own nascent films for projects and accreditation. They’re media literate beyond their years and with an encouraging nudge here and there, have a shot at leaving their mark on the UK’s future mediascape.
Giving these students the boosts and encouragement they need is so easily backed by a workable knowledge of the industries they’ll have the biggest chance of channelling their talents into for fulfilling careers. So what do these industries look like and what are their prospects for the future?
The UK’s film industry has had a bountiful decade and counting largely thanks to the UK Tax Credit system introduced in 2006 which effectively subsidises productions to the tune of 20% of budget. This has allowed not only more affordable domestic productions, but also for foreign (mostly Hollywood) projects to base much of their production in the UK.
On the ground, this has meant while the industry segments working in Distribution and Exhibition amount to around 25,000 employees nationwide and is relatively stable, the number in Production has rocketed from also around 25,000 a decade ago to around 60,000 today. This growth has been almost entirely from inward investment from foreign productions taking advantage of not only a tax sweeteners but at the same time in recognition that the quality of creative work produced in the UK are consistently high.
In addition to the rosy view in film, TV production has grown 50% since 2006 with production revenues exceeding £3billion a year. In total, the estimated number of UK jobs in film, TV, radio and photography in 2015 was 231,000. These figures indicate an industry currently enjoying something of a golden era, but with threats looming on the horizon from the newcomer on the block: digital media. Audience migration from the more traditional media outlets of cinema, TV, newspapers and radio to a web-enabled fully-fragmented digital mediascape through our smartphones and tablets pose a massive disruption to our ‘big screen’ audiences of yesteryear.
The important things to convey to your students is that although evolving quickly, the UK’s media industries have thrived with an influx of foreign investment and productions, and this has lead to a golden age for the creative industries even as audiences migrate to smaller screens. The UK’s creative industries should continue to thrive and hopefully provide abundant outlets of opportunity for your most ambitious and creative students.