A level Media Studies support site

A level Media Studies support site
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Friday, 31 December 2010

Theory for the A2 exam

Back in November, I asked members of the OCR Forum to post details of which theories/theorists/critics they had used for the A2 exam last year. I think most members of the forum must be very shy as hardly anyone responded! Anyway, thank you to those who did and here's what they said. I'm also doing another link to the Examiners' report from last summer where others are highlighted. After the January exams, I'll put up another post to indicate what we find in the scripts we see from the small January entry.

Collective Identity - British Asian and British Black:

Stuart Hall - Racial clowns
Chomsky - relationship between profit seeking media and govts.

And for identity creation in the Online age:
Huizinga - Homo Ludens

(Manju Nair)

This extract on Anthony Giddens' ideas from David Gauntlett's book, Media, Gender and Identity, is very interesting on collective identity: http://www.theory.org.uk/giddens3.htm

(Julian Gurr)

A useful selection related to music video:

Synaesthesia - Ferdinand Saussure
iconic indexical symbolic signs
Roland Barthes Mythologies
Interpellation Louis Althusser
E. A Kaplan visual hook
Laura Mulvey
Intertextuality, parody, pastiche
Andrew Goodwin
Sergei Eisenstein - montage
Classic Narrative text
Lyrics  and visuals - High level of incoherence, amplification, disjuncture, contradict, undermine
Dyer - utopia
Dyer - star quality
Hybrid of identities
Postmodern text - hyperreality, state of simulacrum
WE Media Gillmor
(Susan Gorney)


Lyotard (Grand Narratives) and Jameson (Constitutive Directives) as well as Baudrillard's simulacra. 

(Sophie Hill)

Once the students could apply the theories to this focus text, I started
to link these ideas to specific philosophers (Baudrillard, Deleuze,
Foucault, Barthes, Lyotard) and used 'PoMo Theory Cards'

(Matt Hall)

Any more for any more? feel free to send them on!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Final INSET event- Dec 10

There were 35 people at the final event in London, with the jelly baby activity possibly going better than ever!

Feedback was once again very positive, with almost 100% agree or strongly agree on every question. One delegate was concerned that there was not enough time for questions and that my responses to some questions appeared rather rude. I do apologise if this was the case, as it was certainly not my intention and I have scratched my head trying to think what I said that could have caused offence. In terms of time for questions, I did say at the start that I guaranteed every question would be answered, but that we would use the post-it method rather than interrupt the flow. A number of people left early, but some stayed well beyond the finish time to ensure that all remaining questions were addressed individually.

If anyone does still have unanswered questions from any INSET days, do feel free to mail me at petefraser@me.com

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Writing frame for G325 from Julian McDougall

G325 Sample Writing Frame (Collective ID)

Please note this is generic and is not a direct response to a specific exam question, so candidates will need to adapt this.

Start with quote, paraphrase, critique on identity, representation, media.

Identity is complex. The relationship between collective identity and media representation is not straightforward. In this answer I will discuss this complicated relationship in relation to (CANDIDATE'S FOCUS - ONE GROUP ACROSS MEDIA OR TWO GROUPS OR MORE, OR CONTRASTING EXAMPLES).

For each example / study, quote, paraphrase, critique is now applied to the material researched. One example from more than 5 years ago is included. Textual analysis is ALWAYS connected to theories of representation and / or identity. These theories can be from any time period but the majority of the examples used for discussion must be from within 5 years.

Next, connections are made between the examples / contrasts are discussed.

Finally, a conclusion is offered which goes back to the start - the complicated relationship between identity and media representation. A prediction for what the future will hold is included here.

To secure high marks, all of the above is accompanied by referencing (when an author is mentioned, their name and year of the book / article / web material is given in brackets after the FIRST mention).

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Manchester INSET 16/11/2010

A very enjoyable day! Delegates commented particularly on the opportunity to askl questions and get clear responses, on the tips for teaching, on the chance to do some moderation, on the quality of exemplar material and on the sharing amongst colleagues which went on.

Morning session responses to the question

"What does a new media student need to know..."

50/50 coursework/exam
making it clear what they will be doing so they don’t have misconceptions especially about practical element
seeing the interdependence between theory/production

media terminology/key concepts- a new language
where to start- genre, representation, semiotics, mediation?

knowledge of/understanding of what’s going on in the media

creativity in context/framework
sense of responsibility

emphasis on research skills and its variety in the course
problems of independent learning- teaching how to be independent learners

need to know how to use the equipment- do lots of ‘drafting’ and practice activities

to be open minded about what they see and are introduced to and to be receptive to criticism

amount of time and commitment needed

working with others especially those not their friends

Some questions raised on post-its and responses:


Would you advise centres to focus on just one brief rather than doing two or more?

Yes, one, as it makes the teaching more focussed and can limit problems with internal moderation.

Will centres be penalised for doing horror/thriller opening at AS?

No. It would be nice to open up more genres for students to consider, though

The brief says a film opening should be no more than two minutes. How strict is this?

Aim to get your students to work as close to 2 mins as possible, but there is no penalty for doing more. It is likely that the longer the sequence, the more it may go 'off the boil'

Most modern film openings contain little or no titling. Principal credits are at the end.

I don't think this is necessarily true. While I have seen examples in the form you suggest, a look at a range of openings will show most do have some titles at the start. As the task asks for titles and opening, then that is what they will be expected to do. Use www.artofthetitle.com for examples.

Are hard copies of print work at A2 needed for moderation?

No, digital is all we need.

We are concerned about the consistency of moderation. Can you offer some re-assurance about the process? Do some moderators have unrealistic expectations about what can be produced on low budget?

we are working hard to ensure that consistency is as accurate as possible through training and analysis of moderator samples. In terms of what can be produced, as we see a wide range of work we have an idea of what is possible. A low budget should not prevent high quality work

Do powerpoint evaluations need to be filmed?

No but if they are bullet points and filming would help to draw out more of the candidate's explanation, you can do it and include in the sample

Why can blogs be text heavy and powerpoints not?

I think it is all a matter of balance. Putting an essay on a powerpoint doesn't really fit its purpose and equally a blog with a lot of writing ought also to have lots of other evidence- visuals, video, etc

How can students show in depth textual analysis for research and planning without detailed writing?

They don't need to. They need to reference their research but there is no need to write an essay

What can be done to make radio blogs creative?

Photos, screengrabs of the program in action, photos of scripts, any variety in the evidence will help, although it is unlikely to look just like a film opening blog, which moderators would take account of

Can we use Wix for blogging and how do we show individual contributions to group blogs?

Yes and either by tagging posts or in the written teacher evidence on the cover sheet to justify your marks.

Is the number of blog posts important or is the amount of varied content more important?

A three month project might be reasonably expected to produce a blog a day but this may come as a multi-post catch-up sometimes. We should expect a clear account of the journey of the project to be built up but what is there is more important than just the sheer number of posts. there is a big discrepancy in what we see so some candidates may only have 5 posts, others 105, so it would be hard to see these get the same mark!

What evidence is acceptable for showing for music video that they have actively sought copyright clearance?

A copy of an e-mail or similar, pasted onto the blog will suffice

Which software works best for web-building?

Dreamweaver, though someone suggested WYSIWYG is a cheap alternative.

Can company logos be used in coursework?

yes to a limited extent but for something like an advert in a paper, they are better off inventing a new brand.


Do you need to reference theoretical frameworks in 1a of the A2 exam?


Can we have a list of theorists for exam topics?

Yes, I will put a list of those cited for various topics in a post next week. It will not be a 'canon' but a list of those I know were cited in the exam last summer across the country. Nor will it be a comprehensive list!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Textual analysis ; elusive A grades

David Allison wrote: "The exam question is always phrased something like: "Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs the representation of (say) gender using camera, editing, sound and mise en scene." It does NOT ask how CESM contribute to genre or narrative.

For me, sound is typically about narrative, genre and the audience's emotional response to a scene. It's pretty rare, in TV drama, for sound design to get a great deal of attention. Then there's editing, which for me is primarily about narrative. I've studied many textbooks, but never read an example of how ellipsis makes a character appear more masculine, or how an eyeline match speaks volumes about class differences. I think professional editors would find the idea amusing. Sure it comes into play occasionally, but 90% of the time, TV editing is hasty and perfunctory, as it was in the early days of cinema - the punctuation of moving image. (I was a TV producer for four years, so I'm not coming to this clueless.) In all but the most artfully constructed of novels, would we really ask the role that commas and colons play in character construction?

Certain that I'm missing something, I turned to Julian McDougall's textbook - but I remain none the wiser. Reading OCR exemplar scripts offers few insights either: the 'High' answer A on Monarch of the Glen refers only to 'smooth' editing, whatever that means. Even if it does 'imply continuous editing' as the examiner writes, what does that have to do with answering the question? Answer B comments nicely on s/rs representing two characters' opposition, but that's it - the reference to eyeline match is a technical device to explore camera and mise en scene: the use of close up, facial expression and props to explore the teenager's childlikeness.

Back to sound and in response to candidate A, the examiner notes: "Further, the candidate attempts to draw out the issue of the use of sound in the representation of age, considering the multifaceted use of sound in the extract: "Jovial folk music is played when there is an up-tempo scene where everybody is at work, but this quickly changes to a sombre low key piece when Amy is running away. The change of pitch and tempo sets the mood and our stance on the scene." I'm sorry - but how is this drawing out the issue of the use of sound in the representation of age? And how is it so much better than Candidate C's point, which the examiner says show 'minimal engagement': "Non-diegetic music in the extract gives a feel of vintage Scottish music, which is played whilst the older males are shown working in the extract. It is also very lively and active. So the music is relating to the older working males in the clip." Now, badly worded it may be, but the candidate is clearly attemp!
ting to relate the tempo of the music to the vitality of the older working men, which is more than candidate A tried to do.

The Doctor Who examples shared by the board at Get Ahead don't help me much either. Only one of the three points about both sound and editing in the June 09 exam overview pertains to gender representation. In the 'sound and editing' exemplars, Candidate A's points actually refer mainly to camera and mise en scene - references to to editing seem incidental to gender, and the term 'jump cut' is repeatedly mis-used. Candidate B talks about the ticking of the clock, but while that's great for narrative and mood, what does that have to do with gender?

From hours of reading exam board exemplars, I've so far got the following codes:
a.. Shot/reverse shot can be used to reinforce relationships - sometimes by exaggerating opposition
b.. Jump cuts can connote disorder
c.. Eyeline match can provide insight to a character's private thoughts, though mainly through camera and mise en scene, actually.
d.. Pace of editing can imply character qualities - fast pace suggests energy, for example.
e.. Choice of music can do the same
f.. Crescendo implies a build-up of power or emotion, be it in dialogue or non-diegetic music.
g.. err.. that's it so far. Anyone got any more?
Sorry if this seems like a bit of a rant, but as you might be able to tell, I'm beginning to despair - I really want to help my students improve their scores, but I'm not sure I understand how. Or is it not just me - are we ALL bluffing about this, in the hope that no one notices...?"

Vicky Allen responded: "Don't know if this helps but I think the whole point is teaching how the micro contribute to macro (the three macro being narrative, genre and representation). The task set by the exam board states that they are looking at how MCES create macro representations of XYZ. In the case of the MOTG clip, the use of sound (jovial music played when the middle aged workers were on scene v. threatening sound motif to introduce Amy) clearly represented the difference and contributed to a stereotypical representation of age (adults - good, youth - bad), so I agree that Candidate C response was more in line with what I think the exam board want (candidate A may have been a better response overall though so perhaps this was just a weak aspect of their answer).
I always try and get my students to write a sentence about the narrative at the start so they a) understand the clip and b) link it to the other macro of representation and how the difference in representation helps us understand the narrative. The shot reverse shots, action matches, eyeline matches, montage etc as part of editing in that clip all contributed to stereotypical representations of age and there were loads of examples in the clip."

James Baker added: "I'm not sure that building up a list of codes and their fixed 'meanings' is going to be particularly helpful for students. At best it tends to lead to the kind of deterministic analysis which often characterises weaker responses, as the context of the codes is lost in the belief that Code A always equals Meaning B (see the constant plea in the PE reports for G322 to avoid discussing colour palette in this superficial way - a white shirt does not always mean that characters are 'pure' and red trousers do not necessarily signify their 'passion/anger'!)

One approach to both sound and editing is to look at the way in which technical elements are used to create perspective or viewpoint within a sequence - a key element of the process of representation that goes beyond the identification of 'character traits'. By understanding, for example, how screen time, p.o.v. or reaction shots are distributed, even weaker students can see how hierarchies are established, leading to certain representations being privileged where others are marginalised. Stronger students are able to develop this further by discussing how the audience is positioned in relation to the representations on offer - the best answers in the June session of G322 offered some great discussion of the way in which editing frequently shifted the viewer's relationship to dominant views of gender in different scenes, for example. Another important factor is the way that the editing of the sequence grants or witholds narrative information from the audience in order to encourage identification or rejection of particular characters/representations. Fans of 1970s screen theory will recognise the essence of Colin McCabe's work on hierarchy of discourses in classic realist texts in this approach - obviously massively watered down! There are good chapters on this in John Fiske's Television Culture and Bernadette Casey's Television Studies if you want to mug up."

and "As far as the Primeval sequence was concerned, I was thinking along the lines of those students who were able to build a discussion of the way in which the content/mise en scene suggest that Cutter's masculinity is undermined by being the victim of the sabre tooth attack in which he requires rescuing by Abby, while the editing of the sequence positions him squarely as the protagonist through the frequent reaction shots, the way in which he motivates the editing through his actions and the final slow-mo shot of his relieved expression, rather than cutting back to Abby who's just saved him! Not many male stars would be happy if they missed out on a triumphant close up at the end of an action sequence.

There are some obvious contrasts to be made to the final sequence of the extract, where Jenny is ostensibly the protagonist but the cutting makes it obvious that she controls situations through dialogue rather than action (arguably feminine vs masculine skills) - she motivates the shot/reverse shots, emphasising her manipulation of West. In addition, her lower status in relation to Cutter is emphasised by the fact that her last minute rescue is not signalled by a cutaway to the team arriving with guns and the fact the sequence cuts to their determined expressions rather than to her."

and finally from James Shea: "David, in reply to your question about attaining the A grade might I offer a left field answer? I used to be Head of English and Media before moving on to my university role and the concept of A grades in any paper was a key central issue. What we actually found was that some students could have the knowledge but not get an A grade. Some students had 50% of the knowledge, but still got an A grade. Comparing papers, the difference between the two was remarkably clear: the latter group could write really well. I mean by that their composition was strong, their arguments and use of evidence effective, their ability to draw together thematic ideas and present high level arguments was smooth and in general they wrote with confidence even though they didn't actually have a great deal of knowledge.
By refocusing some of your efforts into the demands of effective prose writing rather than knowledge you might actually break down some of the issues you are meeting. We found that those that did English Literature and Media got better marks sometimes in the Media exams - simply because they were better at writing sharp focused scripts at speed.
It is something to think about, but I wish you luck in hunting down those elusive A grades - it plagues us all."

File Conversion

Several people have sent comments to the e-list about file conversions.

Here are some points:

David Burrows: "With videos for G321/G324 in mind, can anyone suggest (ideally freeware!) software for this? Haven't found any that convince so far!
Also, any recommendations for sound/video file converters?"

Gary seal: "File converting - FormatFactory does the job and is free."

Hannah Cayton: "For screen recording on a Mac, I use Snapz Pro. It was around £60 when I bought it a couple of yeas ago. Not free, I know, but it works really well for recording moving image and demonstrations.

keepvid.com is great was grabbing videos from YouTube, offers you several formats and file sizes, and is free."

Friday, 15 October 2010

Q&A from second INSET day 15/10/10

Should evaluation questions all be answered at the end of the process or as they go through the process over time?

The centre should guide candidates on this, but clearly preparing candidates for the evaluation questions/tasks can start from the outset and I know of at least one centre which is getting candidates to make part of their evaluation task videos as they go along. The final seven responses should be put together for moderation at the end of the process, e.g. at the top of the group's blog.

Are they penalised if all their posts are over a short period of time?

Not necessarily, but to be honest, it doesn't look good and doesn't look like planning, especially if they are all done at the end!

If titles are an art form, shouldn't this be a discrete brief?

In a way, it is! Candidates need to be looking closely at how film openings work as part of their research and a significant element of this is the titles. Look at the work of Saul Bass, for instance, which offer artistic titles but which also opens films very effectively, suggesting narratives, themes and characters.

Is it a level playing field between topics on G325?
Yes. There are expectations of depth and breadth for all topics.

Do ALL G322B topics need to include indie v major contrast?

no but they should be contrasting in one way or another, otherwise there is a danger that candidates will be caught out by the question and find they have little to say or worse still answer as if their single case study represents the only way their industry works.

Should the A2 exam be longer?

It has to be 2 hours. But we do understand that for Section A 30 mins can be a bit tight and that markers' expectations should be for what is possible in the time allocated.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

INSET feedback

The first get ahead event of the year took place yesterday in London, with 37 delegates in attendance.

All responses to questions about the course fell into 'agree' or 'agree strongly' and 73% of delegates who responded rated the course as excellent, with the other 27% giving it good. This was very heartening!

Things they liked most were: activities done during the day, opportunities to share ideas and work in groups, ideas for teaching from the presentations, an A2 assessment task that we did together, feedback on coursework and examples shown, the resources to take away and the chance to have an open forum at the end of the day.

We look forward to seeing more teachers at the rest of the events!

What does a digipack look like?

Examples of student digipack and magazine advert from the summer. level 4 work. A digipack should be four or six frames and a magazine advert should follow conventions in terms of promotion of the product. these are very good examples.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Useful links

Useful resource for the AS main video task .

Elsewhere on the site are some brilliant tutorials (Photoshop, InDesign etc) including one on CD covers for the A2 music video task.

from Ted Faulkner

Clarification 13: cameras

From David Allison: "Finding the right camcorder is getting ridiculously difficult. A year ago, Pete Fraser advised sticking with DV, but that's not possible anymore. The four major camcorder manufacturers (Canon, Sony, Panasonic and JVC) have stopped making DV cameras for the consumer market - it's all SD cards and HDD drives now. Canon still lists 5 standard-def DV models on its website, but they're no longer available to purchase.

"Secondly, there's no longer any way to get quality sound from a cheap camcorder - even an HD one - as NONE of the manufacturers include mic jacks in 2010 models below about £700"

"In other words, it can no longer be said that cheap cameras give perfectly good results - it used to be true, but the market has sadly changed for the worse. Given the current economic climate especially, the board should expect to see a decline in sound quality in student videos from all but the private schools and media colleges - there's no way to afford pricey cameras like that at the moment. I trust our students won't be penalised for this?"

David is right- the manufacturers have once again changed the technology and phased out an older format. However, I don't think this is necessarily making things any more difficult as far as sound is concerned. We used bottom of the range camcorders with built in mics for ten years for all our student projects; if shooting dialogue, students needed to plan for it in advance. Most sound was added afterwards, so there's no reason to think this will lead to a decline in their videos. With all technology, it's about students making the best possible use of what is at their disposal.

From Tom Barrance: "I always suggest that students make films without recording live sound and put the soundtrack together on the computer. This means you can get high-quality sound without the pitfalls of live recording.

An option for live sound is to record it separately using a digital audio recorder and sync sound and picture up at the editing stage (you need a clapperboard and timeline-based editing software). This gives you a lot more flexibility with your sound design as mic position isn't limited by having to be connected to the camera. The new Zoom H1 digital audio recorder is around £100 - plug a £30 tieclip mic into this and you can give actors or presenters as much freedom of movement as if you were using radio mics. (You might think this too fiddly for your students.)"

great advice!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Clarification 12: Local paper poster

"Can anyone give me guidance on what a poster for a new local newspaper
might be like? Does anyone have some previous work I could look at?
Neither the student (nor me, based on past experience) wants to do the
website brief so he has to do the poster. Many thanks."

In practice, this might be better considered as an imaginary billboard advertising the new paper. We had so few entries for this option that it is difficult to provide examples which really worked well. Consider how any print artefact might be advertised on a poster and think about how this might be adapted for a new local paper.

From Donna (Principal Moderator for A2)"What we are not expecting is the sort of A-board put up outside newsagents. Here are some real examples: one local and some nationals



and a good idea from Vicky Allen:

"We think that the poster for the local newspaper should be based on the competition/event that is also being advertised on the radio trail and on the paper itself to create synergy'.

Clarification 11: Blog sites to use

Someone asked what are good sites avoiding linking up with Google?


Have all been recommended so far. I will add any other recommendations here

from David Allison: "I use Wordpress, which works very well, and this year I've refined the setup a little. I've set up an Administrator account from which to run all the A Level blogs, and then two Editor accounts - one for AS, one for A2, using gmail accounts for email addresses, as every account-holder has to have some kind of email address. Students in each cohort (AS and A2) are on their honour not to interfere with each other's work, but there were no problems with that last year. Giving them Editor status means they can't change the main password or profile, and they can't change the template for their Blog, but everything else is up for grabs.

Last year I had individual and group blogs, so that I could differentiate assessment for certain tasks. That was a bit of an assessment nightmare, so this year it's one blog per group, but with a subsidiary page for each member for any individual reflections, and for their evaluations. I've also set up categories for each group, so that students can 'sign' their entries. I've put a category cloud in the sidebar, and as their work progresses, the relative size of each of their names should show who's contributed to the most posts! Clicking on one of their names will then filter the blog to show only those posts authored or co-authored by that student.

Over all of this I have one main blog page for each cohort from which I link to each group blog. Later, when the sample is called, I will create a page especially for the moderator linking to their group and individual work. You can see an example of this from last year here "

Monday, 4 October 2010

Clarification 10: Short film Brief A2

There have been several comments and questions, plus some useful links posted on the site in the last few days.

"The definition of short film is so broad that surely there are going to be many different results. If moderators are wanted basic fictional narratives than that should be addressed in the brief. My students are creating short films based on a theme. We have several different types of short films, two of which I've included there. Two of the groups really like these films and may borrow the ideas/structure. Both I would argue have a clear narrative structure, but they are not fictional and not traditional short stories".

here and here

these look like good examples and if an A2 short film was as good as these, we'd all be well pleased!!

"I'd have thought a sort of Three Minute Wonder documentary format would work well: Is 3 minutes too short even if its done well?"


Up to five minutes is the stipulation, so 3 mins done well would be fine!

"There are many documentary style short films. Have a look at BBC Film Network which has a whole category dedicated to them. See also Fourdocs and 4docs - the films on the latter often will not play. The factual short film form is wholly legitimate for students to attempt, in my view. The problem as I see it is that some simply copy the format of a conventional TV documentary in shortened form with endless interviews and a narration. I think that they should be more adventurous and try to impose a distinctive style of some sort. A characteristic of short films seems to be that they are often quirky in some way. This requires a lot of imagination, and there's the rub!"

Very good point- it's all in the execution.

Advice from Rob carlton: "Centres can do documentaries as an option if they want to under the A2 short film task.
However centres should be aware that those who have attempted it so far have found it problematical to get their students to produce a whole documentary film lasting only five minutes, with moderators reporting that these have either tend ed to end up looking like news pieces or unfocussed social realest films or unfocussed cross overs between music video and documentary .
Students may find the A2 short film task more accessibile and engaging if they stick to fictional/narrative based short films."

So, overall fiction and non-fiction are both possible, but bear in mind the advice here. The most important thing is that it is a complete short film!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Clarification 9: key Terms for Moving image

We often receive requests asking for clarification of key terms from G321 Textual analysis. A full glossary is beyond the scope of this blog, but a quick google reveals the following useful sites here and here

Particular terms which a recent correspondent wanted clarification on were those in italics here

- Production design: location, studio, set design, costume and make-up, properties.

- Soundtrack: score, incidental music, themes and stings, ambient sound.

Properties are better known as props or objects.

Themes and stings are music terms
Theme: A melodic or, sometimes a harmonic idea presented in a musical form.
Sting: distinctive background music used to add emphasis to an important moment in a film or tv programme

We were also asked what exactly do we mean by cross-cutting and parallel editing and how are these different? A brief explanation of cross-cutting appears here, though I think they are interchangeable as terms.

The best book for all moving image terms is probably still ‘Film Art’ by Bordwell and Thompson, which I first bought as an undergraduate back in 1979. The latest edition, much updated, is available on amazon.

Clarification 8: G325 scripts

"I have asked for copies of exam scripts for G325 in order to see how the grades looked in terms of an A, a B and C. Mainly because I felt a bit insecure teaching it last year. Unfortunately all the grades have clearly been moved by a very significant margin e.g. 12 marks overall, which I was not aware of when I was given the marks originally.

They have not been broken down according to the questions so I have no idea what marks are awarded for what questions. This makes it very difficult to create a good exemplar to deconstruct in class.

Is there any way I can find out and has anyone else had this problem?"

This relates to the tables Rob put out on the list last week. The boundary for A grade had to come down a lot, as is common on the first full sitting of a new paper, so a candidate scoring 68 this time was raised to 80. All papers should contain the original marks allocated.

I wouldn't worry about the scores for deconstructing an exemplar in class- get the students to have a look at the answers and map them against the mark scheme in the different levels. their ultimate target should be to get their work to level 4 in all areas, so what would the papers they are looking at need to do in order to achieve this?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Clarification 7: Theory (and a comment on INSET/CPD)

"Having relevant theory that covers ALL aspects of the exam is something that would be useful-and not something that is reserved for costly INSETs. What didn't help last year was (in my opinion) a satisfactory answer to some aspects of media theory on this forum for the exam. (The thread was closed). As HoD, I am seriously considering the future with OCR A-Level Media Studies."

Two things here

1. Though there is plenty of relevant material on 'theory' in the A2 textbook, our view of this for the spec is that we did not want it to go down the route of rote learning so have deliberately left it more open. To have hundreds of answers all trotting out the same 'line' does not represent good learning, so we have a much more open view of what candidates might refer to than perhaps teachers think we have! The main problem in the exam responses was the total absence of reference to theory in candidate essays (particularly q.1b), despite it having been taught in many cases (as evidenced by material on centre websites and anecdotes from teachers I have spoken to). So the challenge is how to teach it in a way that students will then be able to use it. So i'd stress, there is not a fixed body of theorists that they have to reference.

2. On costly INSET. I would hope that people feel they get value for money from the INSET we provide- I certainly always try to give it; I would argue that it is part of the continuing professional development for teachers that they take advantage of such sessions and that schools and colleges, even in these cash strapped times do have money available for it in their budgets. In addition, we do go to great lengths to try to provide the maximum amount of options for getting people better informed- autumn traditional day events, the conference in March, the e-community, the Get Ahead blog, Julian's twitter feed, the media magazine blog...

and from Julian McDougall: "Regarding stretch and challenge, I would just restate my 'mantra' on this which is that the majority of A2 Media with OCR is either coursework or related to coursework. For an A2, the only 'pure theory' work a student has to engage with is a one hour exam answer, so I think a comparison with other subjects / boards would be unlikely to lead to the conclusion that OCR are asking for more academic / theoretical endeavour. Please refer to the examiner's report and look at the exemplar scripts and commentaries when they are made available as these have been produced to demonstrate a variety of ways of getting to particular mark bands. The most important quality a candidate needs to demonstrate for Section B is making connections between ideas. That said, the weakest area was question 1b where candidates often struggled to 'apply' arguably more basic genre theory to their own work.”

Clarification 6: Digipak

If you look up digipak on wikipedia, you'll see it contains four or six frames. There are loads of examples on play.com and several linked to this blog via candidate blogs. This one contains a digipak which is very well constructed and comprises six panes. Scroll down to find it.

"When making the music video as a group, is one digipak per group enough or is each member of the group meant to do their own digipak? I know that individual presentations are required but not sure about digipaks"

One set of products per group is fine, but it can be quite good to see each member of the group making their own ancilleries so the group has more to discuss in the evaluation about how to reach the audience. Evaluations likewise can be done as a group, but as always, teachers need to be clear on individual contributions in their marking.

From Kirsty Lowdon: "I just wanted to feed back my own experience of this artefact based on our own coursework component last year. Apologies if it is a long response, but I thought that it might be worthwhile information. There seems to be quite a lot of confusion about it, but I actually think that the students are the ones who get this right, even without trying that hard. My A2 students excelled in their coursework and were very successful with the digipack aspect, many of whom received 10/10 for their attempt.

We felt that it was really important for students to actually get out there and look for concrete examples of digipacks as part of their research and planning. They needed to handle the product and consume it in order to work out what it was. They actually went together to HMV (having asked the store manager) and analysed the digipacks available within the store. They soon worked out the difference between a digipack and a regular CD cover. Essentially that a digipack offers the audience a lot more in terms of content than a regular CD cover.

From this they then produced convincing digipacks which included some or all of the following aspects (depending on the group choice):

Membership postcard/flier
Lyric section
Disk impression
Band info section/booklet
Free image/poster

My students didn't produce the actual CD that went inside it, and this was not commented on by the moderator. However, some students included an impression of the disk on paper and just placed it inside for the effect. I think it really does depend on what the students feel makes the product look convincing.

By doing this, they were able to construct convincing artefacts which met the criteria. At the end of the day, it is a digipack and not a CD cover that they were making.

I think that it would be prohibitive as a teacher to stipulate completely what is required as this restricts student creativity (something that they might be expected to comment on in their exam and certainly something that the specification promotes).However, I think that it is safe to say that something more is expected than just the front, spine and back in order to actually meet the definition of a digipack.

This approach worked for me this year and I genuinely feel it was because students were made to discover for themselves the various forms the artefact can take"

Clarification 5: UMS

Sometimes your coursework results are lower even though the moderator has not adjusted them, or lower than the scaling applied by the moderator. This is due to the impact of UMS, which depends upon where the boundaries for a unit (in any subject) are set. Thus if the boundary for an E is 45 rather than 40, anyone on 45 will be moved to 40 and anyone lower will also drop. It also impacts on marks in between the A and E boundary. It is very complex to explain but exams officers should be able to talk you through it.

there are various explanations online, none of which are entirely satisfactory, including a youtube video. A search for 'uniform mark scheme in google will take you to some- take your pick for which makes most sense!

From Rob Carlton: "Form Rob Carlton: From a quick read of some recent posts it seems there is some confusion over the UMS mark system (employed by all awarding bodies).

It is important to bear in mind that nobody can lose a grade through the UMS conversion process and no candidates are disadvataged.

If I take for example, the grade boundary for a grade A this summer for Unit G321 (Foundation Portfolio) which starts at 81 raw marks; if a candidate scored 81 raw marks their mark would be converted to the same point on UMS grade boundary (the UMS grade boundary is fixed for the life of the specification). Grade A on the UMS scale starts at 80 marks out of 100 so the candidate's raw mark on the boundary of 81 in this case would convert to a mark of 80 UMS and they would still receive their grade A.

OCR have an explanation of UMS for teachers and parents posted here
or if you prefer, OfQual's explanation is posted here (see pages 12 and 13 of the document)

Clarification 4: A* grades

" would like to know which institutions achieved the A* in OCR Media Studies and some advice to their methods and content."

This can only be done if individual centres are willing to post something to the e-list as obviously there are privacy issues for centres and their results.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

3000 hits in 17 days!

I hope this blog is becoming as useful as the number of hits suggests! Do let us know by posting a message to the e-community at OCR

Clarification 3: centre reports

How do we get our centre feedback?

Centre feedback is available on Interchange, rather than as a hard copy. Your exams officer will be able to print it out for you.

Clarification 2: Blogs and Evaluations

Can the evaluation be on the blog too?

As much relevant research and planning evidence as possible should be on the blogs, if that is what is used. The evaluation questions should be explicitly addressed at the end of the project, which could also be on the blog, but should be clearly flagged up as the evaluation. There are good examples linked here.

If paper R&P is used at AS, try to keep the size of folders down- paper only rather than big binders. Leave out piles of questionnaires and just send one rather than sending them all!

Clarification 1: Soundtracks

Often, people ask questions on the e-community asking for clarification of spec issues. As the same questions frequently come up, I'll post our responses here too so people can check this blog first before asking!

What is permissible for soundtrack use?

* The Music Video should be the only area where candidates are using found material
* Copyright permission should be sought from the artist/label
* All material for all other tasks to be produced by the candidates with the exception of non-original sound or image material used in a LIMITED way in video/radio work - which means using sound or video that they will have difficulty in recreating themselves e.g. an explosion or news footage

For a music video, students could use any band/artist BUT in my experience it works much better to use a little known band so that the 'image' of the original does not 'hang over' the project. Thus their actors can play the part of a band without the audience always having the original in mind.

For all other AS and A2 video, copyright audio MAY NOT be used. Soundtrack must be original or from a royalty free source. This could however mean that the students perform an existing song/piece of music themselves- as the audio is made by them. Remember that soundtrack for projects other than music video need not only be music or need not feature music at all. it's all part of the creative process. Good use of foley sound is worth a lot of credit!

Monday, 13 September 2010

INSET Events Autumn 2010

Please try to get to one of this term's training events or register interest for a venue where one is not yet scheduled. The URL to visit is on the poster.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Headlines from examiners' report

It is important to read the whole thing, but if I had to pick eight headlines...

1. Set up a blog hub if you are using blogs with your students

2. If submitting disks, reduce it to one or two well organised and labelled DVDs for the whole centre

3. Go for a multi-task creative evaluation- NOT an essay!

4. Get the students to keep lots of research and planning evidence- a post a day throughout the project!

5. If doing Magazines, make sure you have decent DTP facilities and the students can use them!

6. If doing film openings, make sure titles are properly researched and properly done- actors, key crew members and company names should be on there!

7. Start preparing for q.1a and b of the A2 exam right from the start of the course!

8. See part B of the A2 exam as a chance for students to apply ideas to their own CONTEMPORARY examples

Thursday, 9 September 2010

1400 hits in five days!

You may have noticed the counter below the advert for the MLC. I put it there last saturday to see how many people would use the blog after reminders on centre reports and the e-list and am pleased to see the huge number of hits to date! Of course not all are unique visitors, some are returners, but this is very encouraging as I believe the resources here will help people a lot in their work!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Collective Identity: Englishness

If you are thinking of doing this topic, an obvious example would be the new series 'This is England 86' which starts on tuesday (7th sept) at 10 pm on Channel 4. A good comparative study would be the work of photographer Simon Roberts, whose exhibition 'We English' has just ended at the National Media Museum. his blog is a fabulous resource both for his own work and the wider set of debates around collective identity and Englishness- well worth a look!

Some stats on the A2 exam

Examiners were asked to keep some data on Section B of the exam in June so that we would have a sense of which topics were covered and what examples tended to be used.

I have analysed the data from a sample of 15 examiners, who marked a total of 165 centres (around one third of the total cohort), totalling 3034 candidates. In 24 cases, centres seemed to have covered more than one topic- which is quite a small number.This table gives a snapshot of the numbers involved. At INSET, we will look at some of the examples that were commonly used and what examiners identified as working well and what went less well. A summary overview is available in the main examiners' report.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Summer 2010 blogs

We have added a number of blogs from work submitted for G321 and G324 which illustrate either particular strengths or particular issues in relation to planning, research, construction or evaluation evidence. Links are already accessible down the sidebar, with comments on each blog to follow as posts below.

June 2010 examiners report

Can be downloaded here

Scroll down the page to find it

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A2 Blogs

The evaluations from this A2 group are available on the INSET disk as well as linked here. One of the candidates' G325 exam answers for questions 1a and 1b are also on the disk, which give a good indication of successful strategies for using the coursework in a response. As the candidate refers to the AS project, the blogs are linked here too.

This extensive A2 music video blog contains many features which help it to attain level 4 for both research & planning and for evaluation.

This A2 trailer task blog is also accompanied on the INSET disk by extracts from the candidate's exam answer. A moderator's commentary will also be available to delegates.

The short film task is very popular. This blog illustrates a very solid level 4 approach to the research, planning and evaluation.

Another good A2 blog.The evaluation may be a bit text-heavy but is nonetheless very substantial.

This blog uses a lot of good visual material for the music video task.

Another blog where the candidate's exam response is available on the INSET disk.

A youtube video evaluation using chromakey and a presentation.

A centre with a plethora of excellent blogs

A more limited blog for the documentary task

What grade would this get? An interesting question! is this commercial music video any better than what students produce for A2?

This single post blog is just an essay pasted in, rendering the format pointless.

A rather nice video evaluation which makes use of a range of techniques.

113 post A2 Music Video blog which documents the whole process very well

AS work

On the INSET CD, some material will appear which exemplify the characteristics of particular levels for construction. Some of the blogs are linked here, for further reference.

This level 4 video would not score so highly for the blog, which could do with more extensive evidence of the process and particularly a less writing-based evaluation to match the high standard of the video work.

This level 3 video features a quite extensive blog with some more varied evaluation tasks.

This blog accompanies a level 1 video available on the INSET DVD. It is quite substantial, but at time unfocussed and too text heavy; it would score more highly than the final video however, as there is a lot of evidence of the process here. The evaluation is quite weak and simplistic and again very text heavy.

The level 3 magazine here is quite stylish and follows conventions meticulously, but the blog is very brief and heavily text based for the evaluation. Pictures in the magazine could be more varied, with the use of more than one model.

The evaluations on video by this group make good use of creative possibilities with a mix of answering questions to camera and insert video footage from the project. In addition, the group has done over 60 posts detailing the project. In all three categories, this work attained level 4.

In this blog, the creative potential for research, planning and evaluation tasks is fully exploited in imaginative, original and lively ways. Indeed, the whole site is designed and built by the students themselves from the basic Wix template. Research, planning and evaluation all gained full marks, though the actual finished video was level 3.

In this blog, the candidate has produced a very limited number of posts and an evaluation which only randomly connects with the seven questions. The finished magazine has potential, with some good images and a sense of targeting its audience, though the double page spread looks rather minimalist. There is evidence of research collated in the powerpoint slides, but planning is very limited. The older posts indicate that the candidates had the choice of two tasks and had done both preliminaries.

This blog makes a lot of use of scribd and slideshare embeds. Though this is fine, it can start to give the impression of lots of illustrated word documents uploaded and then embedded, when maybe more use could be made of the blog itself for illustration and development of the process?

This magazine task blog from January is generally quite good at showing how the project develops, with screengrabs of various stages of construction. This one likewise is quite extensive.

Lots of centres use blogger, with wordpress being the second most popular blogging option. There are others, however. This centre uses weebly, which has the advantage of the website 'look' with tabs, but maybe gives less of a sense of the journey of the project. This wordpress blog illustrates the way in which organisation may be made simple, but it
does involve the reader clicking on every title in order to view all the work. This one is also quite tricky to find your way around and needs simpler, clearer organisation. Blog.co.uk does not seem to offer much potential as illustrated here.

Aggghhh! colourscheme! And all text too. Why use scribd for the evaluation? He might as well have just typed it into the blog. A good one to get your students to deconstruct to consider the pitfalls to avoid.

This blog is simple but makes good use of images and takes us through the process well. the magazine is really well done, though a bit too reminiscent of kerrang!

Prezi is a useful tool to try out. This evaluation is rather artistic, like a Saul Bass graphics sequence, but maybe isn't yet using the potential of the format.

Organising your blogs both for use during the year and when submitting for moderation is important. This school is a good model of practice.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Marking the blogs and evaluation

The two blogs linked on the sidebar are both examples where level 4 would be appropriate for both research and planning and evaluation.

the A2 blog contains 71 posts and is very extensive. At the top are the finished productions, followed by evaluation tasks, with the research and planning chronologically from the bottom. Task 1 makes good use of their own video and videos researched, with bullet points to expand ideas. There is substantial thinking involved in a task like this, selecting appropriate images and showing how they match conventions. Task 2 involves some creative work and good use of available technology. Task 3 is wordy but reasonably thorough and Task 4 contains a summary of key points about technology use with some attempt to show how it all integrates, particularly in the image. Overall, the evaluation gets into the bottom end of level 4, with 17/20.

Research and planning is very thorough- remember this is an individual blog- and takes us through the project journey, illustrating the process very well, including early ideas, refinements in the light of feedback, the planning and logistics and where ideas have come from. Taken with teacher comments on how the candidate worked on R&P, it scores 19/20.

The AS blog is organised in the same way, with the final production accessible for the moderator at the very top. Again with 56 posts, this is very substantial individual evidence. The nine frames task is expanded upon in a lot of detail and each of the other tasks takes up a different approach to consider the question, each using some form of illustration and often stretching the use of the technology, with task 5 for example showing the use of labels on youtube as well as voiceover. The level of detail and sophistication gives this evaluation top marks 20/20.

The research and planning is similarly detailed, thorough, systematic and well illustrated making good use of the blog format and all online potential and covering a huge range of areas, all of which has benefited the production. Again it scores top marks 20/20.

Updates and links to resources

the OCR media teachers conference 2010 here
example scripts from january G325 including examiner comments can be found at the bottom of the page linked here

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Annual Conference!

To book: course code OMSF4 on www.ocreventbooker.org.uk

Saturday, 9 January 2010


How are people approaching the new A2 units? In early february, we will be looking at successful strategies for both the coursework and the exam, based upon what we see in the January entries. Until then, there may not be much happening on this blog as you'll appreciate we are likely to be heavily involved in examining and moderation.