Media Arts: The (New?) Arts Education Discipline

Posted by Nelle Stokes, Sep 10, 2013 2 comments

Nelle Stokes Nelle Stokes

Film historians are still arguing about who invented the motion picture camera in the late 1890s. Depending perhaps on the birthplace of the historian, it was either Thomas Edison in America, or the Lumiere brothers in France. More recently, the digital revolution has resulted in an explosion of online media production by homegrown filmmakers of all ages, across the globe. Every sixty seconds, another 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.

It should come as no surprise to the arts education world that Media Arts has been announced as the ‘fifth arts discipline’ that will be part of the new National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). Due to be released in 2014, the standards will cover dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts for grades PK-12.

These new standards are designed ‘to affirm the place of arts education in a balanced core curriculum, support the 21st-century needs of students and teachers, and help ensure that all students are college and career ready.’ I’ve been honored to be a part of the Media Arts Writing Team—a diverse group of dedicated educators, administrators and practitioners from around the country, working in the fields of video, gaming, design, theatre, media, film, animation, and digital imagery.

Effective standards are devilishly difficult to articulate. If they are too broad, they run the risk of seeming watered-down. At the other end of the spectrum, if standards are too rigid, they can seem elitist or out-of-touch. It can start to seem like Goldilock’s search for the perfect porridge—not too hot, not too cold, but “just right.’

And how do you devise standards for an art form (or rather a wide range of different practices within that form) that is constantly evolving and changing? We realized early on that due to the rapid-fire change rate of technology, our standards would have to allow space for types of media that literally hadn’t yet been invented. We also wanted to embrace the connective nature of media—with other arts disciplines, with academic curricula, and with the world at large.

So what did we do?

We watched and listened to media (professional and student-made.). We looked at model lesson plans, rubrics, and benchmarks from all parts of the globe. We listened, we spoke, we argued, we wrote, and we wrestled with how best to approach the material. Often it seemed that for every question we answered, we asked at least two new ones.

In short, we went through a process very much like what we ask our students to do when they create art.

How did we do? The results are still to be seen—drafts have been sent out to the field and the review process continues. But whatever the outcome of the standards themselves, it’s clear that media arts will continue to spread like wildfire, with producers of all ages creating a wide variety of content.

In the time it will take for the NCCAS standards to be released, students across the country will have made a wide and wild variety of videos, games sound projects and animations, sharing them with the world on YouTube, Vimeo, and other platforms.

Our hope is that by crafting effective media arts standards, we can help educators to harness this outpouring of student artistic energy and engagement, so that media technology provides a window—not a wall—between the classroom and therest of the world.


(To get up-to-date information about the Media Arts Standards initiative, go to, or the NCCAS Facebook page

2 responses for Media Arts: The (New?) Arts Education Discipline


September 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Thanks for your comment, Rob! Have you seen the Wallace Foundation's research piece on Digital Arts? It's got some very interesting insights into students' involvement in media arts, both in and out of classroom settings.


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September 10, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Interesting to see Media Arts get their just due. Thanks for highlighting this discipline!

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