Cocktail statement and update

It’s that time again when I need to stop and ask myself “what is my project about?”, “what have I achieved thus far/over the summer?, “what’s left to do?” and “what questions do I have?”  My current MFA Project Development course requires the answer to those questions today! So…

What is my project about?

The cocktail statement: I’m documenting (by way of a blog, podcast and installation) the needs and opinions of learners and educators regarding the public, private and alternative-education high school system. In doing so, I hope to build a bridge of communication between these two parties and larger academic circles regarding the conditions that influence happiness in these settings.

I began this program with the idea that I would like to document the experience and process of working with a high school teacher, new-media artist and students to design a (grade 9) class project that would incorporate media. It would have begun by considering a lesson plan currently taught in a (most likely, geography) class and explore ways of making it “come alive” with media that would appeal to each student in the class. Simply put, this ambition was to explore and document the benefits of experiential learning in a class where rote learning was typically emphasized.

This plan, however, proved to be impractical during the course of this MFA program due to a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to): the difficulty in developing a relationship with a teacher in Toronto that could afford the time to pursue such planning, and my gradual desire to hear from students directly about the what they want from their educational experiences. My interest in hearing from students exclusively then morphed into a curiosity about how teachers feel about their ability to reach out to their students and what is limiting their comfort and satisfaction with the system of teaching they are immersed in.

This blog has been an immensely helpful and fun way to record the process of my engagements with interviewees thus far, as well as my thoughts and ongoing web-research along the way (see delicious and twitter widgets in the side panel).

What have I documented thus far?: 22 great interviews!

  • Private school interviews: 3 students (video), 4 teachers (3 video, 1 audio) – summer
  • Public school interviews: 8 students (7 video, 1 audio), 1 teacher (audio) – last winter, spring & summer
  • Alternative school interviews: 4 students (audio), 2 teachers (audio) – last spring & summer
  • Educational mentor from Pathways to Education (audio) – last winter
  • Media Ed. adviser/creator from EMSB (audio) – summer

More details: July, August & September

What’s left to do?

  • Acquire 2-3 interviews from: OISE, Waldorf, Montessori, home-schooled = October
  • Panel interview with 2-3 directors/principals/authorities from: public, private & home-school sector = November
  • Locate a classroom for the (June) installation = October
  • Firm up installation design = November
  • Set up the podcast section of the blog = November
  • Develop & record my personal narrative regarding the project = January
  • Edit media content = Nov/Dec/Jan/Feb
  • Harness contributors creations to add to the installation = Oct/Nov/Dec
  • Literature review = ongoing
  • Write thesis document = March & April

Primary questions

  1. How to include participation the learners being interviewed? I have begun to ask them to interview one another (with my guidance) & would like to incorporate creative works that they are proud of in the installation (and on the site, if they chose) but I think I need to determine if that is the best way to invite their voice to this project as it has come to be.
  2. Does my thesis development seem clear?
  3. How should my hypothesis be documented?
  4. It might seem like I’m taking on a lot for the MFA requirements but as the blog/podcast is ongoing (post MFA) should I place extra weigh on the installation as it’s a ‘final’ event?

(Note: Cover image courtesy of “eo was taken“. See full image HERE)

About cayoup

Colleen Ayoup was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. She has been engaged in media creation for nearly twenty years. After attending the Dawson Institute of Photography (Montreal), she worked as a commercial photographer for several years until the craving for different creative pursuits gave way. This desire led to two subsequent degrees in Psychology/Film Studies and Film Production (B.A., B.F.A) at Concordia University in Montreal. Her short fiction films and documentary, Kings (2001), about drag-king culture in Montreal toured festivals internationally. In 2004, she joined the National Film Board of Canada where she coordinated Doc Shop, a program designed to give emerging filmmakers an opportunity to learn trade skills from industry professionals and produce a short documentary for broadcast on CBC. She also contributed to the development and creation of CitizenShift (, the NFB’s first social-media website that she subsequently coordinated for five years. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Media at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)