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[P7] Input CBBC

A collaboration between Children's BBC Television and Ultralab to explore the future of kids TV. Computers and digital video cameras were placed in schools, community and learning centres across the North of England to find out what television could be like if children were to make it themselves.
When Sep 30, 2002 to
Feb 28, 2003
Where United Kingdom

Input CBBC logo

Aim: To design the support web site to explore the potential for students' creativity with video to be broadcast.
Reflection: Although Ultralab had shown that young people were capable of this kind of creativity, we were challenged to demonstrate this when working with other adults and young children from a range of backgrounds and the BBC's senses of propriety, quality, health & safety and risk analysis.
Contribution: I took the role of co-leader at Ultralab developing the key values, participant action research approach and philosophy, working with the CBBC Future TV section at the BBC.  I took on the visual and information design challenge of presenting help, templates and guidance in a child friendly web-site whilst maintaining a connection to the CBBC's visual style. My part: 25% (with Matthew Eaves and others)
Originality, impact and importance: The project was quite new for a national broadcaster to take a serious view of children's digital creativity. Its impact was on the BBC itself in informing its future policies and confirming the research outcomes from earlier Ultralab projects.
Evidence: The final report (Derrick 2003) was edited  by Cathy Derrick, a senior director within the BBC and was circulated to her colleagues to inform them in making sense of user-generated content by young children.

From the final report of the project:

SUMMARY

Input CBBC was a research pilot project which ran from October 2002 to February 2003, developed by CBBC, in collaboration with Ultralab, a research centre of Anglia Polytechnic University. It encouraged a group of children who’d never made a film before to produce their own output. It attempted to give children control at every stage of the process - from idea through editing to screen. It aimed to investigate the best ways to encourage such output, thinking ahead to a future where these methods could potentially be used on projects with bigger scale. Further pilots could also test the viability of children constructing whole magazines for themselves on broadband, with some content produced by them, other content being professional items.

It was known from the start that Input CBBC would be a tall order - the aim was to test its ideas harshly - to see if any child, with no special ability or ambition, could succeed at filmmaking with little guidance.

Forty children in Sheffield and twenty four in Hull, aged ten to fourteen, took part, working in groups of around four. The pilot was conducted “at arm’s length”, through established institutions, such as schools, community groups and City Learning Centres, with each group of children supervised by an approved responsible adult. The adult’s role was to organise film-making sessions, keep children safe, provide limited technological help if the children got stuck - but not to interfere in the creative process.

The children were introduced to digital cameras and to the editing package called iMovie by CBBC and Ultralab, then encouraged to learn through play and experimentation. They were made aware of important aspects about making a film, such as safety, copyright and editorial considerations. Amongst other methods of support available, Ultralab developed a prototype website, which also acted as a base for information and contact.

Final Conclusions

So, to conclude

  • this was an experiment - and it was tested really harshly - but still came up with results. It has proved that when children get their hands on equipment they are clearly producing media that is of value to them, for the first time.
  • the children and adults were co-researchers, keeping logbooks, doing interviews, being filmed. The research and their films are proving fascinating.
  • Input CBBC encouraged some more voices and empowered a group of children to make films
  • the other stated aims, of investigating and learning from how best to encourage this material, were met.
  • the project established ways of handling health and safety issues and rights management for user-generated CBBC projects at arms length
  • Input CBBC helped some children see television with new eyes:

First child: “We know how hard it is to make the films and stuff.”

Second child: “You just watch TV and like you don’t like see all the work that has been put into it.”

First child (of a different group): “I take a bit of sympathy with people who have the worst parts.”

Second child: “Yeh like soaps that have to make four half hour ones every week and it took us three months to do one minute, but they probably have millions of people.”

  • Input CBBC has proved children can be creators of content - and these are not children with special abilities or a burning ambition to make films - and they come from many different communities.
  • but it is not easy for children to produce films, because of the factors described earlier in this report
  • The jury is still out about the true extent that children may in the future be able to contribute en masse to programmes, much as they send letters and pictures in now.

CBBC, as the country’s foremost broadcaster to and for children, remains the best place to give children a voice on television. It is a stated aim that “your input is our output” and this project has fed that aim.

Finally, it is not just broadcasters who have learnt from this experience. Input CBBC has proved that filmmaking is a journey of growing self-discovery, self-expression, self-discovery and confidence building for the children concerned:

“Working as a team gets you a lot further than working by yourself.”

“I’ve learnt how to work as a group. I’ve never done that before. I’ve always wanted to be on my own which is my fault. I’ve learnt to be as a group, to be a good team-member.”

“I’ve learnt not to get frustrated when I want to use the computer and someone else is using it.”

“I can be hard to work with sometimes, very stubborn.”

“I’ve learnt not to get in a moody as such but to join in with the fun.”

“I kinda liked doing everything but I don’t think I would have been able to do it on my own - we needed each other.”

(Words: 1140 )

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Lewis Carroll describes a fictional map that had:

"the scale of a mile to the mile."

A character notes some practical difficulties with such a map and states that:

"we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."
— Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, Lewis Carroll, 1893

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