2003 Conference Reflections by Liz Thoman

2003 NEMC LogoBy Liz Thoman, Founder, Center for Media Literacy

“The best media literacy conference – ever!” was the general consensus of the 445 participants leaving the 2003 National Media Education Conference in Baltimore July 1 after three days of nearly non-stop presentations, screenings, workshops, panels, bookstore binges, exhibits and a Monday night crab feast. Read on for reflections and highlights from CML staff and others.

  • Over half the participants had never been to a national conference before, indicating major growth of the field in the US and the emergence of a new generation of voices and leaders.
  • The quality of the presentations, panels, workshops and sessions was outstanding along with keynotes by tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, cultural critic Farai Chideya, and Australian media literacy pioneer Barrie McMahon.
  • The conference attracted not just classroom educators but also national leaders including Denee Mattioli, president of the Nat’l Council for Social Studies; Nancy Grasmick, Maryland State Superintendent of Education; technology consultant Alan November (Empowering Students Through Technology) and Judith McHale, president of Discovery Communications, Inc. Video greetings came from Bill Moyers whose PBS News Show, Now received the AMLA Media Literate Media Award along with Janine Jackson, host of “Counterspin” from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and Howard Kirsch, columnist for the Washington Post.
  • CML’s Project Manager Sarah Bordac was “impressed by the sheer number and variety of high-quality model media literacy projects now going on in the US. Small and large projects are providing creative, cross-curriculum applications of media literacy curriculum for all grade levels. These projects are providing measurable data on the dramatic impact media can have in educating today’s youth and will lead the way for further integration of media literacy into classrooms everywhere.”
  • The CML/GPN Bookstore and Preview Room was the absolute happening place! Taking up the whole end of a ballroom, display tables were organized by topic and arranged for browsing and comparing. The room was the brainchild of CML Founder Elizabeth Thoman, who spent many hours consulting with teachers and answering questions. “There are so many terrific resources now available for teaching media literacy – it was great to have the space to showcase them and help teachers find just what is right for them.” CML plans to continue the spirit of the bookstore through expanded descriptions, reviews and customer comments for the teaching materials in CML’s web catalog plus organizing special collections and “guided tours” of related resources.
  • Meeting people whose names grace the books on your shelves is one of the special treats of the NMEC – Kathleen Tyner, Steve Goodman, Sue Summers, Barry Duncan and Chris Worsnop from Canada, Geoff Lealand from New Zealand, Len Masterman from England – and so many more! A special table was reserved for presenter-authors to sign their books.
  • CML’s Jeff Share and Liz Thoman conducted the preconference “Media Literacy 101” to acclaim from a packed room of “newbies”. As for attending sessions, Jeff’s favorite presentation was by the Boston YWCA Youth Voice Collaborative. “They began with a racial lineup activity where they asked everyone to copy a list of nine titles: athlete, terrorist, governor, dictator, pimp, cop, actor, gay and drug addict. Then we had to match the title with a photo on the wall. The pictures were of men and women from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Once the audience made their choices, Susan McDonald and Elaine Ouimet ran an excellent debriefing session where they challenged the group to identify the visual cues that led them to make their choices. This was a terrific activity to focus media analysis on issues of race and gender.”
  • CML’s President and CEO was particularly thrilled to participate in the pre-conference workshop sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Education for the grantees receiving federal funding for demonstration projects in media literacy and the arts. “CML is starting the third-year of our grant in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District, the Education Division of the Music Center of LA, and AnimAction, Inc. Meeting others who are doing this important work was inspiring and seeing the work that students have produced was truly awesome.”
  • Faith Rogow president of NMEC host-organization, the Alliance for Media Literate America (AMLA), declared media literacy no longer a “movement” but a full-fledged academic “field.” Read her inspiring opening remarks on the state of the US media literacy field.
  • CML colleague Rose Pacatte noted the “holistic environment” of the conference that “allowed for diverse philosophical, cultural, religious/spiritual, and educational perspectives…The level of civility and respect for diversity in where each person is at in learning about and practicing media literacy education has increased greatly.”

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