Learning about Learning

So last week, while at Roberts, I was mesmerized from watching Renee walk through a media literacy exercise, modeling for the fantastic teachers at Roberts how they can begin to teach a "reading" of films as texts. Throughout much of the stimulating discussion, I wanted to jump in and give away the answer, draw people's attention to what they might have missed, start asking: Whose interest is being served here? Why would producers and production companies, distributors and news outlets, be interested in a particular definition of the "reality" of different cultures and countries? Can't we see here that in this film, Iraq is being treated again through the same prism of primitivism or victimization!?!?

BUT I realized as we were talking, that media literacy takes a long, long time to build, that it cannot be an understanding forced upon a person but as Renee pointed out, it must come through independent learning. And we are there to facilitate the learning process. Not impose it or control it. That is, as educators, we must all be open to the learning processes of the people with whom we work. We must not be tied to our own definitions of what the "right answer" is and must be open to witnessing all the ways that students and teachers alike come to view the texts around them in new ways.

Come to think of it,  documentary filmmaking in itself is a perfect model for practicing this more peaceful, this more open form of media education because in making doc films, you can't impose outcomes on your subjects or on the environment you are filming. You can't have too many expectations - you can have hopes, but you also have to be as open as possible as much as possible to the process of following a subject and an event and hoping that you will make the wisest decisions about what to capture. As would a teacher, a doc filmmaker must have a framework for understanding, a framework for perceiving the environment, a framework for moving forward, but beyond that, he or she must be willing to go with the flow. Though as Renee points out, having a few learning outcomes in any situation can help a great deal.

And something really fascinating I learned today: after years of having heard the word "Shia" around my family,  and after having stood in the Hagia Sophia three years ago and listened to my Iranian cousin teach me and his young son the sucession of Imams in Shiite Islam, I finally read today that "Shiite" stands for "Shiat Ali," which means "followers of Ali"!!! 

I also learned recently that the symbol in the center of the Iranian flag (the flag of my country!) reads "Allah" and the calligraphic, rectangular etchings along the rectangular borders read, "Allah Akbar." "God is great." I can't believe I didn't know this before!!!!