Digital Media

Towards a Career in Digital Media

We’re pretty excited about our latest release: Towards a Career in Digital Media – a High School Teachers Guide.

First of all, because it’s so topical, so relevant.

Digital Media is the modus operandi of young people today. That’s fairly obvious for the computer science students – but maybe less so for those in writing and the visual arts. Many of them are looking at how they can apply their skills to DM products, like games, for example.

The question for teachers becomes, how can I steer my students in the direction of the DM industry if that’s where they want to go?

Towards a Career in Digital Media provides an innovative and insightful way of doing that. Based on the reality of a DM team of programmers, artists and writers, it brings together students and teachers in computer science, visual arts and creative writing to experience the energy of a DM team. They learn about their own roles on the team, and importantly they learn about the roles of the others.

Secondly, because of how we developed the Guide.

With a very experienced DM producer and creator at the helm (Ron Lamoureux, who is a former high school teacher), we enlisted 3 Manitoba high school teachers (in the visual arts, creative writing and computer science) to develop lesson plans in their areas. They worked as a team on the general lessons (e.g. on pre-production, production and marketing), and then individually on their specifics.

So the end result is a 12 lesson mini-course that can be integrated into existing curriculum, with learning objectives and outcomes in “education-speak”; and the realities of the DM industry built into the methodology.

Brilliant….

Ps and another link to industry: Towards a Career in Digital Media is based on CHRC’s competency chart and profile for a DM Team that was developed by practising industry professionals. A reality check for teachers and students alike.

Lots on the go…

2 months into it, and we’ve settled very comfortably in our new offices in downtown Ottawa – discovering the “office crowd” a few blocks away from our old Byward Market haunts.

Lots on the go…

Releasing Digital Media resources has been our main focus over the past few weeks. In review, starting with the research from Nordicity and the Context paper on the intersection of technical and artistic skills in IDM, we have produced, with the IDM industry:

We’re also putting finishing touches on From Competencies to Curriculum – a guide for educators and trainers on how to use CHRC’s competency charts and profiles. This will be available free of charge on our web site.

We continue to manage “Building Careers in Heritage”, DCH’s youth internship program, and hope to do the same for “Career Focus”, HRSDC’s youth internship program, in a call for proposals later this year.

The Art of Managing Your Career online training modules are being reviewed in a final quality assurance process as I write this. This will provide yet another iteration of that great resource that Canadian self-employed artists have been using for over a decade! We know that talented, skilled, highly creative artists are still not hitting the ground running with essential business skills after they graduate. Their lack of interest in the marketing, management, communications, legal sides of being self-employed, as they pursue their artistic studies, is quickly replaced with an urgent need to know about those things as soon as they step out of the academic setting into the real world!

The India connection (our contract to advise the Indian Media and Entertainment Sector Council (MESC) on occupational standards) continues to bubble along. India is making fast strides in identifying skills for people in its arts and entertainment industry.

Summer closes in on us as the government realigns its priorities and spending, following the sun setting of the sector council program. We’ll see where culture finds itself on the national skills agenda in the coming weeks.

CHRC continues to build its networks e.g. attending the Creative Cities Summit and the National Roundtable for Teacher Education in the Arts; and linking up with organizations like Canadian Women in Communications and the Canadian Network for Arts and Learning.

We’ve also got HR Forum 2014 on our agenda……

Coming to fruition

As we draw to the close of the sector council program at HRSDC, and the beginning of a new chapter in CHRC’s story, a year’s work in Interactive Digital Media is coming to fruition.

It began in the fall with the release of the Context Paper, Canada’s Interactive Digital Media Industry: Where Creativity Meets Technology in the Digital Economy.

Last week the interactive competency chart for an IDM Team went online. This new and innovative “team” approach to competency analysis and online interactive presentation responds to the complex IDM industry in a way that a traditional chart couldn’t. An interactive profile – a more detailed version of the chart - will follow.

And we will be releasing a training gaps analysis that examines training needs from employers’ and workers’ points of view in the IDM industry.

We’re also in the thick of developing practical tools based on the chart and our research.

  • a high school teaching resource that outlines in 12 lesson modules how to introduce visual arts students, creative writing students and computer science students to an IDM Team – what their roles would be and what skills they would need if they chose that career path.
  • a resource on Starting up a DM Business – tips and pitfalls for young IDM entrepreneurs 
  • a revised InterZone - the Digital Media website in our Careers in Culture series
  • an Educator’s Guide - from competency chart to curriculum  which will help educators and trainers to optimize their use of CHRC’s many competency charts to develop skills based curriculum.

We’ll have all this and much more to talk about in March as we once again move across the country, meeting with members and colleagues in the broader sector – with a focus on the present and an eye to the future. 

Validation session for our DM Team Competency Chart in Halifax

Held the last of our validation sessions for our DM Team Competency Chart in Halifax today. A foggy rainy/snowy Maritime day. But the warmth of the group which gathered at The Hub to give us their comments on the chart eclipsed the dreary weather!

As it turned out, this session included only creators. At every other stop we have had more producers, managers and educators in the mix. At our Halifax session we had, among others, Joel Duggan, a cartoonist, illustrator and podcaster who released his first published work today! (We bought signed copies :-))

The creator perspective on how a DM Team works is essential and integral to the whole. Our Haligonian creators offered up several adjustments to the chart that ensured that perspective. For example, the skill to “Write a proposal” which both creators and business people need on a DM Team should be described more broadly as “Create a proposal”. This change in verb will better reflect the approach to proposals that a creative person might take, while still applying to a business person.  A nuance – but one that enriches the DM Chart to apply to all three “functions” in DM content creation: creation, project management, and business.

Our task now is to compile the comments and critiques from DM workers across the country in a final DM Competency Chart. We have faithfully recorded what we heard and will review all suggested changes with our Expert Advisory Group. They will make the decisions on what gets incorporated into the final chart.

For example, we heard in several sessions that creators, along with project managers and the business people, should be able to “Determine technology needs”. All three functions need this skill. The draft chart associated this skill with the project management and business functions. The final chart will associate it with all three functions. 

What does that all mean? Well…. for example… an educator developing a curriculum for visual artists who want to pursue a career in the DM industry will want to ensure that their students have the ability to “determine technology needs”.

As our focus now shifts to the release of the DM Team Competency Chart and its uses, our CHRC staff are exploring ways to make this valuable tool easy-to-use. Given its complexity, we are looking at an interactive version rather than a print version. Seems to make sense not only in terms of the content, but also in terms of the target users!

We are also developing other related products – more on that in upcoming e-newsletters and future blogs!

Hitting the east coast and back to TO

We closed out last week with 2 great validation sessions for our DM Team competency chart.

In St. John’s we met with several DM industry experts, pulled together by Steering Committee member Deirdre Ayre of Other Ocean. It was a lively exchange from mostly “gamers”. They brought years of experience to the table, and a keen grasp of where the industry is going. Especially insightful were the comments about the ongoing nature of a DM “product” or “experience”. It is not necessarily a final piece of content that then needs to be “marketed”, but is often a work in progress that evolves with the users. So, “going to market” can have a different meaning in the DM industry. We also had strong and helpful comments from one who is a “programmer”. He felt he was not represented in the few high level technical “skills” currently identified in the chart – and we concurred. That is what we’re trying to get our heads around. How do we define and describe technology skills in balance with artistic skills? He has helped us grapple with this issue. His comments will find their way into the final chart.

(Note to File: Murray Premises is a great hotel and meeting place! And the Gypsy Tea Room around the corner is a very cool restaurant/bar. St. John’s is starting to dress up for Christmas – it was made for that :-))

Don Henderson and Interactive Ontario were our hosts in Toronto. As it turned out, building on our “take aways” from the St. John’s session, we got from this group our best understanding of how the chart must incorporate technology skills. While the participants were somewhat cool to the process as we began, they warmed up to it quickly and were fully engaged right up to 12 noon when everyone had to leave for other meetings!

Time now to identify the consensus and compile the learnings from across the country.  In early December we’ll hold one last session in Halifax to test drive the revised chart – then hand it over to our own technology wizards to turn it into an interactive tool.

A bold new step for CHRC.

Validation Session with New Media Manitoba in Winnipeg

Day 4 – Winnipeg, Manitoba

 

We were the guests of New Media Manitoba on Friday, in their bright and spacious Winnipeg Board Room at 1000 Waverley.

 

What felt good for us, at this the 4th time through the chart validation, was that the same changes keep coming up. It means we are on the road to consensus. It augurs well for the final chart.

 

We had a good discussion on the next steps of the project – turning the lists of competencies into courses certified by industry and delivered through education institutions. To be sure, there was skepticism: how realistic is partnership with academia which is so steeped in its own processes and hierarchies?

 

The concerns are fair, but our early conversations with a few innovative institutions of higher learning have identified potential partners with more flexibility than we usually encounter. They have led us to believe that our partnership model has a chance of success.

 

Another means of delivering and disseminating courses created from the competencies is through industry associations. For example, New Media Manitoba.

 

It’s a good model especially if we tie the certificate to a “practicum” in a DM company. New Media Manitoba already has training built into its mandate. It would be a natural to pilot course delivery and industry certification through its own members.

 

Concern was also expressed around keeping the courses up-to-date. That’s a challenge. An ongoing CHRC industry steering committee is certainly a way to identify necessary changes. A licencing revenue stream through training providers could help to finance the up-dates…

 

Finally, there was interest in the potential for an online interactive version of the chart which could, for example, allow students to identify their own skills gaps and tailor their own competency profiles and training plans. That is an idea that is gaining momentum.

 

It’s been a good week for the DM Team chart. It’s clearly on the right track, with well identified revisions. In the validation sessions to come (in Charlottetown November 1, Montreal November 2, St. John’s November 8, and TO November 9) we’ll continue to test drive it – and to explore its potential uses as we prepare to take it to the next level of “training tools”.

 

Validation Session with Software Developers, Gamers and Academics in Saskatoon

Day 3 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

 

Saskatoon was our biggest group so far (including 2 participants who drove in from Regina). A mix of software developers, gamers and academics – rigorous, with close attention to detail and process. They suggested good additions and changes to the chart, though grosso modo they agreed with its contents.

 

The computer science background of several of the participants slanted a lot of the discussion towards developers, a perspective that CHRC has been eager to capture. This was reflected in additional skills such as “conduct end user verifications or tests”; and “develop testing environment”.

 

One educator expressed frustration at the large gap between computer science programmes and creative arts programmes in universities. This is exactly what CHRC wants to address. How to ensure that students in the visual arts and writing, for example, have the technical skills they need to go into the DM industry? How to open the thinking of computer science coders and programmers so they can partake in a creative way on a DM team?

 

Some of the most dynamic discussion turned around the “Go to Market” series of competencies as participants underlined the importance of marketing skills – and how they are often lacking in a DM team.

 

There was also creative discussion on how the chart can be used and kept current. The point was well-taken that a competency chart for the DM industry shouldn’t be a print document  - witness the fact that several around the room were reading off their electronic versions of the chart – not the nicely coloured print versions we had carefully photocopied and stapled – old technology!

 

It got us thinking about how to disseminate the chart – and led us to imagine an interactive version to allow users to tailor it to their needs (whether you’re an employer, a worker, a trainer or a student). It’s a possibility we’re exploring along with a wiki-type gathering and exchanging of information and ideas on training needs and offerings.

 

Could be a very good way to keep the chart updated and useful, and let trainers know the immediate needs of industry.

 

This project keeps getting better…..
 

Validating the competency chart for a Digital Media Team

Day 1 – Vancouver, British Columbia

Our expert team that built the chart – Ron Lamoureux of Cafésonique,  web writer and editor Julia Kinsman , and executive producer Judith Beauregard from Toboggan Studio  – along with Pierre Morin, CHRC’s DACUM facilitator par excellence – flew across the continent to test their work out on their west coast colleagues.

Our first validation session was with members of the Vancouver Digital Media community in the board room of the new Centre for Digital Media. A lively group we had – supportive of our efforts, enthusiastic about the chart (“sorely needed in the industry”), engaged in the details (such as separate out “define user experience and user interface” into two competencies), and generous with their time and comments.

Under facilitator Pierre Morin’s steady hand we managed to get through the chart in the allotted time – but we could have gone on for much longer if that had been an option.

In truth, given how busy these people are, we were fortunate to get their full attention for close to three hours this morning.

We had a mix of game and web developers, people at different points in their careers, from a range of work experiences including very large companies like EA and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Finding consensus around the competencies meant that some had to let go of points they held dear, in order to fit into the mode of the competency chart which has its own rules. From time to time concurrent conversations around the table had to give way to Pierre’s résumé of the discussion, and we moved on together to the next competency. Reflective comments sometimes gave rise to heated discussion and then settled out at mutual understanding – or an “agree to disagree”.

In short, it was a rich and dynamic exchange. We were quite pumped about our first foray into the ‘real’ world with the chart – it seems to be holding water!

With changes, comments and criticisms duly noted, we fly back over the Rockies to Calgary for day two tomorrow.

Skills for a DM team

The cross-country trek has begun! Starting in the far west and heading east we are on a “whistle stop tour” of major DM hubs in each province to validate the competency chart for a DM Team.

And in case that is sounding awfully full of “governmentese”, let me explain…

CHRC enlisted the help of a DM creator/writer, a project manager, and a producer to come up with an exhaustive list of the skills needed to create a digital media product. 

Take a video game, for example. It would be conceived, produced and marketed by a team of 2 or 5 or 20 individuals – depending on the company.  Regardless of how many people are involved, the same skills would be needed: skills ranging from generating an idea or concept (e.g. researching, assessing and articulating ideas); to pre-production (e.g. preparing a project proposal and securing project financing); to actual production (e.g. developing and managing a project); to marketing the product.

CHRC’s trusty experts identified and organized the skills sequentially, in a readable logical format, and they are displayed in a “competency chart for a DM team”.

On our current trip to Vancouver (October 16), Calgary (October 17), Saskatoon (October 18) and Winnipeg (October 19), we will meet with professional practising DM creators, producers and managers to review the chart – have we misstated skills? Are we missing any?

We’re excited about the interest we’ve encountered in our efforts – starting with a full house in Vancouver’s shining new recently opened Centre for Digital Media.