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.
Next month in venues around the UK, the world’s biggest youth film festival returns with a host of new themes and wide range of films on offer to delight and entertain young audiences. Into Film Festival will take place 9-25 November will offer a diverse program of free screenings and events to ‘captivate young minds and bring learning to life’.
The annual celebration is made possible through the British Film Institute and Cinema First with lottery funding and will contains a mix of blockbusters, adaptations of novels and plays, British and classic films, documentaries and world cinema. This will include free screenings of films like James and the Giant Peach, The Angry Birds Movie, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, X-Men Apocalypse and more.
The festival has a number of high-profile supporters like actor Michael Sheen, who believes the festival is important because of its potential to inspire young people, adding “films have educated me as much as school has. Through film young people can broaden their horizons, be inspired to recognise their potential and tell their own stories so the rest of the world may one day hear them,” he said. “Film gave me this magical world that I could go to – I think that’s something that people can get from the Into Film Festival.”
Quickclass applauds amazing programs like Into Film and their annual festival for their missions to engage students with film culture and its power to transform the way we see the world from as young as possible!
It was only a matter of time before some clever festival organiser or other decided to pay homage to that great-grandaddy of internet memes and subcultures: The Cat Video.
Dog online popularity may be on the rise, but we all know who still ranks #1 in the digital animal stakes. Our Feline Masters. So festival founder James Elphick and crew will be putting on a night to remember on 25 November at the Coronet in London, including a series of cat-themed activities such as a cat gymnasium, cat meme gallery, feline cabaret and more.
“Join us for huge party celebrating the greatest cat videos that our furry overlords have to offer,” the festival’s website states. “A massive night of bangin caterwauling mewsic, cat-ivities and fierce feline performers! Lets make hisstory!”
15% of money raised will be donated to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
As tempting as it may be, Elphick recommends you leave actual pets at home.
“As much as we would love to have cats at the event, a venue with hundreds of people, bright flashing lights, loud music and dazzling projections is the last place that our furry friends should find themselves on a Friday night,” he said.
Balancing students’ exposure to technology in the classroom with considerations for safety, equal access and appropriateness is key to successful digital boosts to learning. Another essential but often ill-considered aspect of the mix is what parents want and expect for their children and the importance of introducing new methods of teaching with their full support.
The first step is communicating clearly what digital tools can offer over traditional teaching methods, and being able to counter concerns parents may have over safety. Once parents are on board with the many benefits, suggesting how they can support their children further on this front will help your digital efforts considerably.
Digital technologies are an essential part of learning today. Students are using them to connect with each other, to learn new skills and pursue their interests further than has ever been possible. In particular, learning can increasingly happen anywhere at anytime, not just in the classroom, and students can connect with others outside their school and even country! Access to a huge range of new resources as well as experts not available locally can make learning a far freer and richer experience and literally open whole new worlds to hungry young minds.
To support the digital direction classrooms are moving in, onboard parents can offer essential encouragement and practical help in a number of ways. First, when parents buy their children smartphones or tablets, its worth checking with the school what their BYOD (bring your own device) policies are and how well new devices will fit in with exist digital infrastructure. It’s often the school’s responsibility to provide device access to students without their own. Home internet access can help with homework and self-directed learning, but some schools also offer ‘after-hours’ online access for families who don’t have internet at home.
Finally, safety is the subject many parents express deepest misgivings about, and fortunately, they can play a leading role in ensuring their children are not exposed to the worst the internet has to offer. Solid advice for parents is to be involved, find out what your child is doing online, both at school and home, and have honest discussions about digital safety. NSPCC Online Safety [https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/] is a great place to start, as they promote confident, safe and responsible use of online technologies.
Understanding parents’ hopes and doubts about digital technologies in our classrooms and syncing your own efforts and communication with those will provide the biggest boost to your digital classroom initiatives, with your students reaping all the benefits from new learning practices and possibilities.
Does the thought that your students are a leap ahead of you digitally worry you? Do the mysteries of their Snapchatting and Tweeting baffle and fill you with concern that you’re missing out on the conversation?… and also missing out on a whole new host of eLearning software to aid and enhance your teaching?
In the next 3 minutes we hope to assure you that there’s no better time to start than now. That access to teaching apps and understanding their potential can help boast your teaching, re-engage your students and save you time. Finally, its worth mentioning why digital literacy for teachers and parents is an effective contribution to keeping children safely online generally.
Training teachers to become digitally literate is something Helen Mathieson,CEO of a multi-academy trust in Wiltshire believes in strongly, insisting that all teaching professionals need to have “high-level skills in digital literacy”. “Every aspect of teaching and learning is embedded in the ability to use technology to enhance understanding and broaden horizons,” she says, adding, “Any teacher who is not digitally literate would suffer by comparison in terms of the reactions, responses and engagement of the students.”
Sadie Philips, a newly qualified Inner London school teacher suggests: “Twenty-first century literacy has evolved, with a broader range of devices such as smart phones and tablets that give way to different forms of expression and levels of interaction. A digitally literate teacher will possess a range of skills to navigate this connected world and have knowledge of the basic principles of computing devices and networks, as well as cyber security and looking after your digital footprint.”
If you have a smartphone, you already have all the hardware you’ll need to dive in with education apps for teachers and trainers. One of the major benefits of the smartphone revolution has been that all the computing power we need for 80% of our requirements is already in our pockets, which has transformed how we interact online and is transforming learning as well.
Here are some tips to help you engage and start today, even if they are your first digital steps, these will get you going..
1. create digital spring boards and talking points out of simple-to-use tools like Powerpoint or Keynote – embedding video is always a good way to engage students as well.
2. Being conscious of your own digital footprint and leading by example, by not being scared of social media, and introducing its potential in the classroom when appropriate.
3. Follow key people on Twitter, and like their Facebook pages as well. This can include well known filmmakers, actors, and educators – each will invite you to an up to the minute discussion on your subjects!
4. Check out the teaching apps and increasingly the mVLE (mobile virtual learning environment) options [link to Teachers landing page] available for you and your students, to share and track the engagement with everything your course requires.
5. Search for online communities interested in your subject, try especially to look outside the UK, the most interesting ideas can come from all corners of the globe.
6. Start your own elearning page and use it, either on the school block or within a VLE document.
The social network phenomenon Snapchat so beloved to Millennials and younger, is taking a bold leap into face-mounted video capturing hardware, an area Google forayed into with their Glass project announced in 2012 but then canned in 2015 (but watch this space for its return!).
Not-quite-originally named ‘Spectacles’ from Snap Inc (Snapchat’s parent company) will mimic one of Glass’s functions with its unitary purpose of capturing 10 seconds of video from the wearer’s perspective (with a 115˚ lens for a more human, rather than camera-like perspective) and immediately transferring it to the App on the wearer’s smartphone and onto the Snapchat platform.
This is an interesting development because it so closely ties the hardware and software together to create a new experience and way of sharing for its users. One of Snapchat’s key features: digitally self-destructing posts, may well work in ‘Spectacles’ favour as it dampens privacy concerns which hounded and probably killed the first iteration of Glass.
‘Spectacles’ will probably offer great novelty to its users… let’s see if the £100 digital filmmaking goggles catch on and create a whole new category of face-mounted digital gems!