About Hands on a Camera

Hands on a Camera (HOC) is an on-going service-learning project developed by faculty and students from the Brigham Young University (BYU) Theatre and Media Arts Department.

The media literacy education project seeks to instill the basic principles of media literacy in local primary and secondary students by providing them with critical engagement and hands on experiences with a variety of digital media.

The Hands on a Camera project was founded in 2005 by Amy Petersen Jensen, an assistant professor at BYU, and is supported through grants from the BYU Theatre and Media Arts Fulton Endowment. The program has also been supported by the Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration in the Arts and BYU Mentored Learning Grant (MEG) monies. This on-going media literacy experience, guided by BYU students, helps young people from local public school classrooms:

* Explore media’s form and content

* Understand ideologies embedded in popular media

* Contextualize individual and personal understanding as media forms shape it

* Create media forms to make personal statements

* Make choices regarding media consumption and creation


K-12 Students—
Collaborating in the Public Schools

In phase two of the HOC project, currently led by project director Erika Hill, BYU media literacy student scholars spend fourteen weeks in elementary and secondary classrooms. Two to three hours each week are devoted to instruction, and three additional hours each week were set aside for preparation. They collaborate in this phase of the project with established classroom teachers to instruct young people in the basic principles of media literacy and production.

This pairing is successful in that the BYU students are prepared to share their knowledge about media and media education with the classroom teachers and his or her students. In return, the classroom teachers works to strengthen the BYU students’ pedagogical and classroom management skills in the real world settings.

Practicing media literacy and creation with public school students also allows members of the team to assess the practical value of the tools and theories that they have to offer. For example, we are continually working to balance the media literacy goals of the project with the production goals, this require the university students to consider the weight and value of literacy and production as key components of their future work.

There is also continual negotiation of teacher and learner roles in the collaboration that prove productive in terms of collective learning. For example, in-service teachers often allow university students to assume the role of ‘teacher’ while they observe. Conversely, the university students defer to the in-service teachers’ expertise concerning class management and pedagogical techniques. Additionally, both the university students and the in-service teachers regularly defer to the students discovery of yet to be demonstrated, or even unimagined, uses of media techniques, equipment, or expertise which created truly collaborative learning experiences for all involved.

Examples like these demonstrate the different backgrounds and expectations of collaborating team members and often result in differences in attitudes about the teaching and learning process that require discussion and reparation. Discussion of these differences allow for change in individual perceptions or a coexistence of differing ideas and processes. Ultimately the dynamics of the collaboration provides evidence that aids the collaborators in making some systemic change to satisfy the needs of future collaboration.


University Students—
Preparing for the Collaboration:

In phase one of the HOC project BYU students from across campus (Theatre, Media Arts, Humanities, Technology Teacher Education, and Education) participate in Media in the Contemporary Classroom (TMA 457) taught by Theatre and Media Arts media education and production faculty. Students study basic media pedagogy and instruction techniques. They also create documentary projects (video, audio, photo) that follow the same model they will eventually help K-12 students create in school settings. The university students also develop preliminary lesson plans based on media literacy principles and methods of digital storytelling.

These experiences provide the university students with opportunities to see differences in their own conceptions of media literacy education and documentary production. It also provided space for the university students to negotiate shared conceptions about appropriate learning models and classroom activities, and to develop clear teaching and learning expectations for themselves and their future students that aided their work in the implementation phase of the project.


Sharing their work with the larger community—

When the project is complete participating teachers, elementary and secondary students and their families are invited to BYU to participate in a Hands on a Camera Day, where the HOC community and their guests view the K-12 students’ documentary efforts.

'Students and teachers and other community members get to view and discuss the work of their peers from other schools. These screenings allow for reflection and celebration and hopefully extend the conversation of the group beyond the boundaries of the smaller partnerships we develop in the HOC collaborations.