Youths’ Digital Movie Creation

Brass, J. J. (2008). Local Knowledge and Digital Movie Composing in an After-School Literacy Program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51(6), 464-473.

Article Review

Brass (2008) presents a case study of a Latino teenager’s movie making in an after-school literacy program. Noticing a divide between the decontextualized school literacy practices and the cultural resources students bring to school from their out-of-school worlds, the study drew on the sociocultural aspect of New Literacy Studies to investigate how a high school sophomore established initial directions for his digital movie composing and how he re-conceptualized his out-of-school practices to lead to the focus and elaboration of his movie. The after-school program lasted for ten weeks with about 20 instructional hours in total and was taught by Michigan State University faculty and graduate students in 2003. The goal of the program was to teach high school sophomores and their teacher using digital video cameras and movie software for movie composing. The data of the study included the focal student’s final video (three minutes) and video- and audiotapes of his collaborative production processes with peers. The data analysis drew on Dyson’s (2003) work, focusing on intertextual and contextual analysis of the movie, to unpack how the student recontextualized his cultural material/practices in producing texts for his movie composing, while the video- and audiotaped observational data served for understanding student’s processes of designing and redesigning the movie and how he made choices related to his cultural resources/practices. Findings convey that the focal student adopted various multimodal texts (i.e., magazine pictures, photos of peers and school, advertisement, downloaded hip hop song, and his own typed texts) dominated by discourses of hip hop to compose the movie, while symbols related to the school contexts (e.g., peers and themes from taught curriculum) were also included. The findings re-emphasize a home-school divide and imply more opportunities of such texts creation can be made even for a school-sanctioned textual practice.

The study contributes to a limited literature body of research on children’s creation of digital stories. However, it has a few limitations in both theory and methodology. First, the theoretical framework of the sociocultural aspect of the New Literacies Studies is not clear. The majority of the studies under the “Conceptual Framework” are related to the background and problem of home and school “divide”, instead of focusing on the sociocultural theories of New Literacy Studies as well as enough empirical studies in this topic. Thus, it could be further improved if it could include more discussion of empirical studies and how that might inform its theoretical framework and intrigue the research questions. Second, data of the study seems not adequate enough to understand the contexts of how the focal student made his design choices. More student and teacher interviews might help to better understand the school and home contexts, instead of using global contexts (e.g. the post 9/11 spike) to explain students’ choices of inserting patriotic symbols. Furthermore, its data analysis replies on Dyson (2003)’s approach of intertextual and contextual analysis. Maybe, a more rigorous multimodal-analysis approach (Norris, 2004) might need to be considered, since there are different modes chosen by the student.

EdLab Connection

This study may intrigue us to think about potential 2011 AERA proposals and future research studies at the EdLab, since similar media lessons have been giving to secondary students in Brooklyn by our video producers. It is very possible that we can draw on some data from on-going media projects and think about potential studies related to students’ self-created video stories, students and teachers’ takes on new literacies, and their perceptions on integrating new literacies in classroom curricula.