Creative Digital Media Intermediate 1

Today I am in Dunblane for a workshop run by the SQA entitled “Skills for Work Creative Digital Media Support Network”. I am two hours early, mainly because trains from Stonehaven to Dunblane are infrequent, but also because of a popular religious icon visiting nearby. I wanted some peace and quiet to be honest although the slim chance of meeting the Pope on a train would have made good friend Gordon Bell chuckle no doubt.

Creative Digital Media appeals to me because I feel it provides more usable skills than the current Intermediate 1 Computing Studies. In fact, although we teach Computing Studies at S3/4 level, our combined hybrid bears an uncanny similarity. We teach Multimedia from January to July in S3 and this extended period (80 hours+) allows pupils time to deepen their knowledge of the subject area and become comfortable at either Intermediate 1 or 2, rather than be pushed through both units in single terms 12 months apart. The courses also share common ground in developing analysis, design and self-evaluation skills as pupils make their way through the creative process. However I am very interested in the idea of encouraging them to explore different design briefs – this suggests a greater affinity to the personal investigations undertaken by Art and Design students.

CDM also encourages workplace visits to see “work in progress… at different stages” so students “may see the various contributions from the range of industry disciplines.”

The course places particilar importance on suitable hardware and software being in place to allow pupils to participate fully “in a learning environment similar to that of a real digital media work place.” A difficult time to be approaching your headmaster about offering this course perhaps, but it shows a need for careful forward planning with regard to IT purchasing. Apple Macs are a creative industry standard yet few schools deliver courses using anything other than PCs – I feel this can hold pupils back, and stifling motivated, talented pupils is not why I became a teacher.

It allows direct transition to NCs in Digital Media Computing as well as providing a portfolio of work which was highlighted at June’s “Heriot Watt Look To The Future Conference” as one of the most important CV components for those looking for work in the Computing sector.

Although the introduction to the event itself failed to wow the participants (I was not the only one who found it disappointing that the morning presenters merely read out PowerPoints to a collective who wanted to see the point in teaching a creative digital media course!) it did allow for closer inspection of the NABs as well as provide fruitful networking time.

Andrew McArtney is a Creative Media teacher at Baldragon Academy, he has invented his own subject area and attracted 60 pupils to his S3 course this year: an increase of 300%. He has used his experience of radio broadcasting and contacts to create a school radio station funded through Fairer Scotland. The class host visits from Tay FM and Radio Scotland presenters and as well as running a community station the pupils share their knowledge with primary pupils. In addition to the radio station the pupils visited Pacific Quay in Glasgow to gain experience of video recording, script writing and interacting with the public. Find out more about the radio station at

The afternoon session was a highlight. Three mini presentations from 3 schools or colleges that had delivered the course during last session.

Michael Mullin, Stirling High delivered the course to 20 S5 pupils last session. 12 completed the course with 6 passes. He shared his ideas and experiences and recommended that practitioners use elements from Intermediate 1 Media Studies and Access 3 Music Technology to enrich the pupils’ experience. He noted that some of the terminology used in the course is also used in Intermediate 2/Higher Business Management, so some existing resources could improve pupil comprehension.

With regard to resources he found the provided DVD useful during the Access to Industry unit as well as YouTube for introducing pupils to radio shows (Little Britain, Mock the Week, etc.) and the idea of script writing and pre-recording material. Examining the difference between college and university prospectuses allows for discussion on publishing houses, design briefs for photographers, use of text. He also recommended using online job websites to help pupils learn about jobs available, salary and progression in the media sector.

Art and Design links again with the use of mood boards: pupils collect images that inspire them over a period of time, then start to pull them together noting colours that work well together, exploring fonts, generating ideas. Michael pointed out that these mood boards are also useful as evidence of filtering and making design decisions.

James Wilson & Matthew Kerr from Glasgow Metropolitan College described their partnership with East Renfrewshire Council to deliver the course to 14 S5 pupils from 7 secondaries in the area. This was possible due to the authority’s unique aligned timetable that meant that every school was able to sent pupils to take part in college courses at the same time – without this agreement and alignment it would have been unfeasible.

They worked with the OFCOM digital literacies network which they feel made course more successful. Pupils started by producing a video entitled “Getting to know the Met”. They had to interview staff, use video editing equipment and pull together a mini website before delivering the final product. They involved industry professionals where possible including visits to Pulse FM, a community radio station situated in the grounds of Barrhead High. Here pupils chose their favourite Christmas songs and were interviewed by the radio presenters about their best presents. The show was pre-recorded and broadcast later which gave them motivation to prepare and to behave responsibly.

The Glasgow Met organised a digital literacy event in March. The students were briefed to create a flash animation for the information website, and to construct an email invite to advertise the event. On the day of the event pupils were ushers and video recorded the event to reinforce technical and social skills.

The HMIE highlighted the Met’s achievements as an example of excellence, bringing together “soft creative skills and hard technology skills.”

In the future James and Matthew plan to link the class work with the Adult Education Awards in East Renfrewshire as well as forge an inter college link with HND Television students.

For those interested in running the course, James and Matthew highlighted some key points to consider:

  • Using a mini project to engage and excite at the beginning of the course
  • Timing is (as always) a major factor. They only had pupils for 2hrs per week and it was at times difficult to keep pupils on track due to prelims, exams, university open days, etc.
  • There was a lot of administrative paperwork in their first year. As the NABs have been rewritten this may be reduced as a result. They want to use blogs as evidence rather than paper.
  • Consider integrating the units. Last year Glasgow Met approached the course in a linear fashion. They are confident that it will be a more natural transition between units this year and as a result more productive.
  • Role play important to appreciate and reinforce personnel skills

Unfortunately I had to leave for my train at this point as the course was running a little over time but will add more details about the third demonstration when I receive links from the SQA.

I definitely see value in the course as a means of providing pupils with the necessary people and organisational skills for the world of work. The creative aspect also builds the all-important portfolio but I’m unsure if Computing has to be the subject to deliver this. There were English, Geography, Maths and Behavioural Support teachers – just at my table – who were all able to deliver this. I need to investigate the case studies and existing resources further before taking this to my line manager.


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