For centuries the media has played a vital role in public life. Whether through print, radio, television or online platforms, the media plays a key role in the curation, dissemination and understanding of the key social and cultural themes that thread throughout our society. The media has played a key role in major social, cultural and political change. The influence of the media over our lives has long been debated and discussed, but it is hard to ignore the influence the media has had. Over the last couple of centuries, the media has largely been a one–way street – comprised mostly of big organisations with the resources and capacity to send their messages to the masses.
The environment for media makers and consumers of media has changed significantly in the last two decades. With the introduction of online technologies and the democratisation of media through community media the power is very much shifting to the hands of the consumer. Technology now allows us to make media for ourselves and allows us to diversify the number of perspectives and methods of communication available to us. Media consumers are no longer passive, but active participants in the creation of media. Websites like YouTube (video sharing), Flickr (photo sharing) and DeviantArt (art sharing) thrive on communities of active contributors who make the media for themselves – often in the comfort of their own bedrooms. Mainstream media is becoming increasingly reliant on the contributions and feedback of its audiences. Technology has allowed media to become a two–way dialogue.
For educators this is an exciting and challenging opportunity to diversify the ways we achieve our learning outcomes. We have the unique opportunity to allow students to speak for themselves, produce high quality media and reflect using a wide array of digital, social and online media tools. As consumer electronics technology becomes cheaper, students now carry the ability to make media in their own pockets. Chances are you have social media superstars right under your noses. We, as educators, play a vital role in helping the generation of digital natives navigate their way through a world that expects them to no longer just sit and consume, but to also create and construct narratives of their own. It is our challenge and responsibility to teach these generations how to use these technologies and platforms responsibly, but to also encourage them to innovate and exercise their creative skills. Young people in 2011 have more opportunity and access to express themselves than ever before.
SYN Media is an organisation dedicated to not only providing these platforms and skills to young media makers aged 12–25 years old, but also providing a wide range of free resources to assistant students and schools wanting to learn more about and study in the field of media. From its beginnings as a partnership of student radio stations in 2000, SYN gained a community broadcasting licence in 2001 and began broadcasting in 2003. Since then, SYN has grown into a thriving multiplatform youth media organisation delivering content across radio, television and online by young people and for young people. Our education and training department teaches thousands of students each year about the values of community media and provides essential skills for quality media making. SYN prides itself on the values of access, independence, participation, diversity and innovation. We are a place for young people to share and execute big ideas in media making. We also have a lot of fun.
Using a mix of broadcast and online platforms, SYN provides the support, space and opportunity for young people to exercise key skills in broadcast and digital literacy in a safe, comfortable and fun environment. SYN’s volunteers play all of the vital roles across the organisation. From programming, producing, presentation and technical operation, SYN thrives on providing access and opportunities for young people to develop and maintain these skills. The cornerstone of our organisation is being a voice for young people, by young people and run by young people. Regardless of the platform, SYN’s strength is in its ability to be a platform and voice for youth.
The important distinction to make here is that not all of these young people necessarily want a career in the media. Many of the young people who come to SYN come for the sense of community and for their unique perspectives to be heard – to have a voice. Whether it is social, cultural, political or creative perspectives they wish to share SYN is a vital platform for inclusiveness and understanding. The skills required for media production are broad, engaging and applicable to a number of key developmental skills. Media making requires leadership, teamwork, creativity, critical thinking and the ability to articulate complex concepts to diverse audiences. Producing media is one of few educative tools that traverses multiple skill sets. For educators media making is an engaging and adaptive way of introducing key curriculum concepts in an innovative and effective way.
One of SYN’s major roles is in supporting educators across Victoria to use media making for education. We welcome classes for interactive tours, podcast and vodcast workshops and designate a significant amount of our radio airtime to schools. Our Schools on Air program gives students direct access to the airwaves. The students are in control. They play the music they want and talk about the topics that matter to them. Students from across Victoria use SYN’s radio, television and online platforms as an engaging way of interacting with curriculum. SYN’s operations and programs have a strong history of engaging the disengaged by giving them access, skills and the autonomy to speak for themselves.
However, SYN Media cannot be everywhere. While we would love to be all across the country (the world even!) delivering our programs and espousing the great value of community, digital and social media for young people, our humble Victorian base can only do so much. It’s for this reason that we at SYN have developed resources that can help young people and educators to use these platforms without needing to be experts themselves. With technology reaching a point where ease of use and access are now two of the highest priorities for technology makers, we believe now is a great time to jump in, experiment and see how technology can complement and enhance your learning outcomes.
In partnership with the Foundation for Young Australians, SYN has developed VidFest – A collaborative online film festival that gives teachers all the resources and information they need to run a mini film festival with their students. Using SYN’s expertise and experience in media making with young people and collaborating with teachers, VidFest is a free toolkit for interactive learning through media making. Teachers sign up for VidFest at our website (www.syn.org.au/vidfest) and can download resources for an online film festival to fit almost any curriculum aim they can think of. The toolkit provides tutorials in storytelling and narrative, film language and technique, video editing and publication of content and guides teachers through the process of running the festival and adapting it to their curriculum aims. Schools can then host their film festival at www.syn.org.au amongst content from other young media makers.
SYN also provides resources direct to media makers themselves. Our Youth Make the Media project provides resources to media makers at our website (www.syn.org.au/training) that allows them to develop their skills from their own bedrooms and also complements our existing training programs. The resources cover writing, audio, video, software, copyright and a whole suite of media making tools. SYN is constantly looking for ways to empower young people to make media for themselves. As technologies evolve, SYN is the hub that gives young people the access, support and resources to have their voice heard and to develop their skills.
As the media industry changes and evolves, SYN is the place that allows young people and educators to work together and use technology as a tool of empowerment, creativity and innovation. Our volunteers and students benefit from having the space, freedom and support to have their voices heard. After so many years of the media being an ivory tower in the hands of few, we believe young people have a unique opportunity to frame discussion and learning through their own eyes.
Jonathan Brown has been involved in community broadcasting for over six years as a broadcaster, producer and media trainer with Radio Adelaide and SYN Media. He ran the inaugural “CBloggers Project” in 2010 – A national project that trained 20 young community broadcasters in new media and leadership skills.
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