THE MEDIA PACK: SECOND EDITION. By Stephen Kruger and Ian Wall. Pounds 42.50, Nelson, Nelson House, Mayfield Road, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey KT12 5PL
This pack presents itself as an all-in-one pack for media teachers, with a price tag that also suggests its one-offness. Not many schools would allow such expenditure to sit alongside a range of alternative materials. So is this a good thing in a field notoriously uncharted by accessible, comprehensive text books?
The answer has to be a qualified yes. It would be downright churlish to deny the appeal of a resource that packages the promise of a route through a media syllabus together with convenient, photocopiable classroom materials.
Media concepts are grouped together in the first section, television, film and radio in the next three and pop music, advertising and the news make up the last.
Each component consists of a discursive text and questions, and then tasks, often focused on visual materials.
Everything is couched in easily understandable, student-centred language. Remarks addressed specifically to teachers are confined to the one-page introduction, which offers either a medium or concept-driven route through a typical GCSE syllabus.
However, there is a downside to all this. And that is to do with the very nature of media studies as a discipline. Many would hold that the power and popularity of the subject is bound up with its difference from subjects that can be taught with text books and worksheets.
There is a complex dynamic at the heart of media studies that stems from learning how to read media texts from a position of empowerment: students are active, knowledgeable and differentiated readers themselves.
I am not suggesting that The Media Pack is incompatible with such an approach. Reflective, experienced teachers with a grounding in critical media pedagogy will be able to make very effective use of the materials it offers, selecting and integrating material with their own approach.
But there is a danger that it will be used as a prop for inexperienced teachers who feel safer with pre-set questions than embarking on exploration and discussion.
The discursive sections aimed at students are in effect densely-packed articulations of media theory. If these can be unpacked by students, making connections between media content and concepts, then fine. However, its compactness leaves little or no space for inclusion of semiotic analysis as a fundamental building block of work on texts and how they are read.
Also lacking in prominence is work on independent and alternative texts and institutions, and there is nothing on multimedia, the information superhighway or Internet.
None of this should detract from some evident strengths. I particularly like the "Language and Style" section on film, which brings mis-en-sc ne, narrative and genre into clear, concise focus, and incidentally would make an excellent foundation for an extended piece of practical work.