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Moving Image Education

We’ve all watched thousands of films and probably tens of thousands of hours of TV, but few of us have really taken the time to think about how they are put together and why they inspire.

In this section you will find key information about decoding the language of film and revealing how it engages and moves us.


The close reading of written stories and poems is common in schools, but the close reading of screen narratives is not, despite their universal popularity and ubiquity. Unfortunately, this disenfranchises many young people from education and can leave a dangerous gap in our understanding of culture and society. As Umberto Eco puts it:

A democratic civilization will save itself only if it makes the language of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection, not an invitation to hypnosis.

Learning the basic punctuation and grammar of screen narratives opens up a whole new world of appreciation and enables young people to understand better what screen narratives really say and mean. However Moving Image Eductation (MIE) is not just about learning the language of film, so that we can decode the communications of the media elite. It is also about developing a new pedagogy that seeks to place children at the centre of the learning experience, taking greater charge of their own education and creative destiny.

So how can MIE empower young people and improve literacy?

Moving Image Education refers to learning and teaching practices which develop moving image media literacy in particular and literacy in general.

Although traditionally defined as the ability to read and write, 21st Century literacy is now widely understood to be the ability to locate, evaluate, use and communicate using a spectrum of media resources including text, visual, audio and video.

Though great strides have been made over the last few years in terms of introducing information technology into schools, much less has been done to try and help young people read, discuss, analyse and create moving image texts.

We wouldn’t expect young people to leave school without knowing the basics of written punctuation and grammar and yet despite the fact that most of the narratives we now consume are audio-visual narratives, most people still have no idea about the basic shots and cuts and soundscapes that create meaning.

For these reasons, Moving Image Education (MIE) can often be a truly revelatory experience for young people as they unpick the techniques of screen narratives and uncover the meanings within.

This in turn empowers them to have an informed opinion about screen narratives and to be able to discuss the meaning, morality, aesthetics and politics of what they are watching.

MIE can also help improve traditional word-based literacy, in a number of key ways, including:

  1. By helping young people appreciate and analyse narrative and narrative techniques (e.g. character based narratives in fiction or rhetorical narratives in documentary), one can motivate them to take more interest in written narratives

  2. By encouraging them to use writing as a communication and planning tool (for scriptwriting, storyboarding and note taking).

  3. By motivating young people to listen carefully and to voice their insights and opinions.

In the world of MIE and filmmaking young people are not judged by their ability to write perfectly, but are motivated by their ability to communicate clearly through words, images, sound and music. An important distinction!

Teachers who have used MIE techniques in the classroom find a marked increase in the engagement of young people and the desire to work together on involved creative projects.