NATIONAL MEDIA ARTS EDUCATION INITIATIVE
National Media Arts Committee
National Coalition for Core Arts Standards
“Connecting people and creating systems to advance and sustain quality media arts education for all learners.” - Mission Statement, NMAEI
This document is intended to frame and initiate establishment of media arts education (MAE) as a national effort. It provides an overview of MAE’s current status in U.S. education and its benefits for learners, communities, and the educational system. It briefly presents MAE’s historical and present status and a set of prioritized strategies and tasks in order to achieve its vision and mission, where all learners have equitable access to high quality, standards-based media arts education.
It is critical to establish a robust system of research, development and support for media arts education. The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards’ Media Arts Committee has developed this document for wide dissemination in order to make clear the needs of the discipline and to launch a national call to action - the National Media Arts Education Initiative (NMAEI). This document is addressed to the nascent MAE support community and invites participation in this nationwide effort. We invite you to join us in the effort to implement the National Media Arts Education Initiative.
Media Arts and Media Arts Education
We live in a world increasingly infused with and interconnected through media arts. "Media arts", defined as technology-based creative production and design, and including the diverse forms of photo, video, sound, animation, graphics, social media, interactive and virtual design, is fundamental to how we experience, comprehend, and interact with our world. Ninety percent of Americans gather their information and learn from the multimedia-based internet, and for eighty percent it is their primary source for news (Hitlin, 2018). Screens and devices streaming internet content are essentially media arts interfaces and production platforms, with expanding capacities for people to access, create, and share media. Younger generations are increasingly interacting with this emerging virtualized world. Students' screen time is ever-growing, and two-thirds of students that are online have produced and posted some form of content (Lenhart, 2007; Rideout, V., Common Sense Media, 2015). These prevalent forms and capacities are not adequately utilized or studied in the current educational curricula. In 2012, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) made the determination to separate media arts in their development of national arts standards due to its unique creative qualities and the vigorous contemporary evolution and prominence of the discipline. This resulted in national media arts standards, published in 2014, and now adopted or adapted by 32 states and counting. Yet, the adoption of standards is not the full establishment of the discipline. Full establishment would mean that "media arts" is an official subject area that is explicitly named in state education code, along with all other separate educational structures (credential, courses, etc.)
It is imperative that these vital forms of production and design become standard, high-quality offerings in schools and other educational settings. These offerings are important for students to skillfully wield these forms for their own creative expression, academic development and career preparation, as well as to gain critical literacies in analyzing multimedia experiences. All learners should have equitable access to high-quality, standards-based media arts education to gain broad proficiencies in creating, producing, responding to, and connecting through media arts. In other words, students must move from being passive consumers of media to empowered producers and critical analysts of media arts experiences. Media arts education offers great benefits for students, schools, and communities and should be rapidly scaled up and established nationwide to meet the current and future needs of our society.
“We envision a world where all learners have equitable access to the emergent power and potential of media arts.” Vision Statement, NMAEI
As a result of engaging in media arts education:
Learners have knowledge and skills to read, analyze and create media effectively.
Learners are more likely to be civically engaged.
Learners are ready for future careers.
Learners gain comprehensive 21st century academic and workforce competencies, including:
Creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking
Design thinking, interdisciplinary integration, systems and computational thinking
Media/tech/digital literacies, civic engagement, cultural agency
Emerging media production, project management, learning about learning
The possibilities and potential benefits for learners resulting from the full implementation of media arts education, as defined by this Initiative, include:
Creatively unlimited virtual laboratories and tools for all learners across the educational ecosystem.
An accessible and democratizing art form that reflects contemporary ideas, capacities and culture
Increased learner engagement, self-direction, and cultural empowerment
Increased alternative access for all learners (e.g. Special Education, English Language Learners, socio-economically disadvantaged) to other academic content and processes
A hub discipline for trans-disciplinary learning - media arts connects to and complements all arts and academic disciplines
Increased outreach and interactions between learners, schools and communities
School to work connections and pathways
New, more effective, flexible, equitable, and adaptive approaches to learning, teaching and education
Comprehensive range of 21st century skillsets and competencies
Literacies across media, technology and digital culture
A Brief History of Media Arts Education
Since the early nineties, high schools have offered MAE courses in photography, filmmaking, video production and digital imaging, usually under the visual arts category and credential. This instruction has been largely ad hoc and DIY, depending on the ingenuity of individual educators who secured funding and resources, developed programs and curricula, trained themselves in complex classroom management, instruction, and assessment, and maintained evolving equipment and software. This innovative, sporadic development has, to a limited degree, continued to adapt to new technologies, methods, and productions reflecting diverse media arts forms, such as 3D design, 3D printing, immersive media, and game design.
As accessibility to digital media devices, the internet, and social media have increased, media arts has become a dominant cultural force, and has become more common in schools. A variety of teachers, from English Language Arts to history and computer science, have accessed media arts as a content area and teaching tool. As a result of the 2020 pandemic and subsequent “distance learning”, many teachers at elementary and secondary levels have become versed in the basics of multimedia production and presentation for themselves and their students.
Despite decades-long presence in schools and cultural ubiquity, “media arts” is still relatively unfamiliar to many educators. It is not widely recognized as a formal and distinct arts discipline, even with its inclusion in the 2014 National Core Arts Standards. No states have fully established MAE on par with other arts disciplines and subject areas. Full establishment would include distinct categorical structures in education code, courses, credentials, credits, and funding. There are no post-secondary programs that result in a specific media arts credential. Media arts also lacks a national association of educators, such as the other arts disciplines have. It should be noted that Career Technical Education, a national vocational program, has an “Arts, Audio-Video Technology, and Communications Career Cluster”, which offers high school level media arts type courses such as film and sound engineering, but without a specific “media arts” designation (California has a Design, Visual and Media Arts pathway under Arts Media and Entertainment)
MAE found some institutional footholds at the turn of this century. It was formally established first in Minnesota in the early 1990’s with its own standards and curricula, albeit within the state arts school program and limited student numbers. South Carolina developed standards for media arts in 2010. Los Angeles Unified School District had a Media Arts Initiative from 2006-2010, which developed district standards, 8 regional Demonstration Media Arts Classrooms, and curricula and instruction across the breadth of media arts forms.
National Media Arts Standards
In June of 2014, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) published the first set of National Media Arts Standards. This established MAE’s independence from dance, music, theatre, and visual arts and supported MAE’s formalized presence in the national K-12 education system. As of this writing, 26 states have adopted or adapted Media Arts Standards based on the 2014 Standards.
Due to the lack of a formal service organization for MAE, NCCAS formed a Media Arts Committee (MAC) to oversee the writing of the 2014 standards. MAC, comprised of arts educators and practitioners representing various related backgrounds and organizations, has continued and expanded its efforts to serve MAE since publication of the standards. In the quest to understand needs, determine definitions, and build infrastructure for the emerging MAE field, MAC began to shape a vision and mission for MAE, as well as the process for achieving them, as described in this document.
MAE requires structures currently available to other arts disciplines in order to effectively support districts, educators and students:
Media arts teacher preparation programs in postsecondary education institutions
Media arts teacher certification pathways
Media arts professional organization support for educators
Media arts represented in federal, state, and/or local education policy and funding mechanisms
Inclusion in local state educational code, standards, courses, and credential
Community media arts organizations linking teaching artists with schools
Promising Examples of Media Arts Education in States
There is no means for researching MAE’s detailed status in various states; media arts is not a significant or separate inclusion in state or federal level data reporting on arts education. In lieu of data, the authors offer the following case studies as two examples of state efforts in MAE.
In Pennsylvania, the grassroots organization Media Arts Coalition of Educators (MACE), under the guidance of NCCAS and with the support of the PA Department of Education, began offering professional development opportunities for media arts educators. The organizers found that educators from multiple disciplines were searching for the same answers to the question “Where can I connect with media arts educators like me and find resources to help me with my instruction?” This question underscores the need to form a professional media arts education association that networks teachers across the country.
California has a globally-renowned media arts-oriented "creative economy” of $640 billion (OTIS 2020). Nevertheless, MAE is not fully established as a separate content area within K-12 schools. In the late 1990’s multiple efforts by outside organizations began seeding a variety of curricula and school programs, primarily within LAUSD. On this basis, CA’s Career Technical Educational programs in the Arts Media and Entertainment pathway have flourished, now serving over 230,000 students. LAUSD had a Media Arts K-12 Initiative from 2006-2010, resulting in its own board-adopted standards and institutional support for instruction and professional development for 150 media arts teachers. Based on these developments, and due to strong community advocacy, CA now has its own media arts standards and framework. It is now on the verge of organizing its statewide educator network and moving towards a legislative effort to full establishment.
Despite its widespread cultural presence and decades-long presence in schools, MAE is a newly-designated arts discipline without system-wide recognition and support. As with other arts disciplines, it is an elective subject with voluntary national standards. It is not meeting its full promise as a trans-disciplinary hub that could serve as a connector between other disciplines and its potential systemic benefits. This presents a number of endemic challenges for this new arts discipline to attain full institutional establishment and its greatest potential for learners and schools:
Media arts is not widely or readily recognized in education.
There is little self-identifying cultural constituency as exists with other arts - dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.
There is a lack of internal institutional promotion. MAE requires deliberate, consistent, persistent and informed internal and external efforts to initiate media arts-specific staffing, program development, and educational support structures, such as inclusion in ed-code, credential, course titles, administration, and resource assignment within classrooms, schools, districts, and states.
MAE is diffuse; it is currently taught by a wide variety of teachers under diverse titles and circumstances who may or may not self-identify as “media arts teachers”.
MAE teachers require specialized knowledge and skill sets across pedagogy, media production, technologies, facilities, fundraising, classroom management, programming and community connections.
A lack of media arts specific higher education and K-12 training, credentialing, and professional development programs.
The National Media Arts Education Initiative
Due to these challenges, MAC presents a call to action in the form of a national initiative to fully establish MAE for access by all learners.
Organizational - MAC will launch this Initiative towards the subsequent formation of a national organization, the Media Arts Education Association (MAEA).
Policy - Support for any and all governmental policies and support structures which would serve MAE’s full, sustainable establishment.
Advocacy - Inform legislators, districts, boards and communities of the need for and content of governmental policies and structures.
Promotion - MAE requires effective branding, marketing, information distribution, and community engagement to establish its identity and to communicate its educational benefits.
Research - MAE requires research into its own current status across states and internationally, its own arts discipline as a cultural and global presence, and its possibilities and practicalities for the benefits of learning and creativity across education. The Arts Education Partnership’s ArtsEdSearch database can serve as a repository for future research.
Resources - The NMAEI needs to acquire substantial fiscal, organizational, and human resources in order to scale up the Initiative, the NAMAE and its state affiliates, and the discipline’s established and substantial presence within schools and communities.
Networking - The nascent and widespread MAE community, including individuals and organizations across diverse sectors, holds the knowledge, connections and drive that are needed to advance this effort.
Professional Development and Support - Media arts educators at all levels and across different settings, e.g. K-12 educators, higher education programs, and teaching artists, need support, connection, and training in their own professional learning community and to promote their programs and the discipline.