6. The Audience

The Audience
As I have explained elsewhere, the idea for Vidtionary grew in large part from my experience teaching English in Japan and Korea. From the onset then, the primary audience for Vidtionary is learners of English, both native-speaking children and ESL students (English as a Second Language, also sometimes referred to as EAL, English as Another Language). Admittedly, I have not given much space to how ESL learners learn and how ESL teaching practices might benefit by the video dictionary. My years of experience directly teaching students and creating materials for ESL teachers has given me the necessary confidence to believe that Vidtionary can be an effective tool in the ESL field. On informal occasions, I have discussed Vidtionary with Canadian elementary school teachers and fine art students. Many have had their own ideas of how Vidtionary might be used. Bearing this in mind, I focused my literature review on visual literacy to deepen the thought process and potentially take it beyond the realm of ESL.
I have not focused Vidtionary at a certain age group, but I would suggest that it might not be suitable for pre-school or early primary school students. I have little experience with early education, but I am aware that educational materials for this area need to be specially tailored to the early stages of cognitive development, in terms of Jean Piaget’s model. I think the pacing of editing in Vidtionary, and the play of signs contained in its videos, might be more appropriate for students at a later stage of cognitive development, who have more fully formed basic concepts. There are some who would suggest the children in early education should not even be watching a television or sitting in front of a computer screen (Winn, 2002, p. 71). Rather than watching the video ‘cube’, younger students might be better off playing with a physical thing such as blocks. Later as they are developing reading and writing skills, the Vidtionary video can be a way to review or introduce the word cube. Piaget’s model of cognitive development has four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete-operation, and formal-operational (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry, & Shapka, J., 2009, pp. 26-29). The concrete-operational stage takes place between the ages of 7 and 11, while formal-operational takes place from 11 to adult. It has been suggested that some people never fully leave the concrete-operational stage, while the great majority of adults never develop drawing skills beyond that of a 12-year-old (Jolley, 2010, p. 10). Thus, I would argue that an adult is not necessarily more visually literate than an 11 or 12 year old, and sometimes less so. Therefore, I tend to think that Vidtionary could be used just as easily with a 10-year-old native speaking child or an adult learning to speak English. I am aiming Vidtionary at a general audience, and intend for the videos to be neither childish nor adult-oriented.
In defining an audience for Vidtionary, it is interesting to look at works such as Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood or Meyrowitz’s No Sense of Place. Postman suggests that childhood is a concept that emerged around the time of the printing press (Postman, 1994, p. 18), while Meyrowitz (1985, p. 248) describes the way that the stages of traditional literacy sheltered children from the world of adults. They both detail the ways that new media have removed, or at least blurred, this separation of the worlds of adult and childhood. In a review of Postman’s work, Geoff Olson (2007) notes that while children are exposed to more and more adult content, adults are also increasingly watching content that might have once been only shown on Saturday morning TV. Olson then refers to new concepts such as ‘down-aging’, ‘babydults’, ‘permayouth’, and ‘adultescents’. In contrast to literature, Meyrowitz (1985) writes, “Television has no complex access code to exclude young viewers or to divide its audience into different ages groups” (p. 239). For better or worse, the arguments in these works suggests that it would be difficult for me to suggest that Vidtionary is for adults or for children. Nevertheless, I intend to take the safer, less controversial, route and follow conventional broadcast standards about what is suitable for children. Following the system of television ratings in Canada, the C8+ rating might be appropriate for Vidtionary. It is outlined in detail on the website of CBSC (Canadian Broadcast Standards Council) at http://www.cbsc.ca/english/agvot/englishsystem.php. Wikipedia summarizes the C8+ rating as:
Suitable for children ages eight and older. Low intensity violence and fantasy horror allowed. No foul language but occasional “socially offensive and discriminatory” language allowed if in the context of the story. No sex or nudity. Usually used for teen shows or shows that are mostly about “fantasy violence” like iCarly, Drake and Josh, or Pokémon. (Television Content Rating Systems)
As Vidtionary evolves, it will be necessary to define more precise guidelines. Research into what kinds of images are suitable for children would certainly constitute its own project.