November 2010 M-Passioned Member: Alan Michel

What do you do?

I am the director and co-founder of Here-in Our Motives Evlolve, HOME, Inc., a non-profit organization that teaches video production and media analysis to educators and youth to foster confident, creative, individuals with the ability to think for themselves.  Our website is:  www.homeinc.org.
As a director, I inspire new service year volunteers, who take on the role as teacher and mentor for one year in media classes for high school and middle school students, I help educators develop confidence and try new approaches to teaching and learning with media. I also step back from time to time and measure what we are accomplishing, make adjustments, and reframe the issues that we are working on.

Can you tell us about your latest work or project in media literacy?

Right now we are working on several fronts to make media literacy more comprehensible.  Over the past year we have been working with ListenUp and Learning Matters to assess what students in media and media literacy are learning and then produce a certificate called a Verified Resume that can be used by students with employers.  We finished our pilot with 30 teens this summer during our Teen TV summer intensive. The focus has been on 21st Century Skills: responsibility, teamwork, listening, acquiring and evaluating information, Interpreting and using information and technology, creativity, negotiation, and working with cultural diversity. I am particularly excited by this new approach for assessing and credentialing because, for so long media literacy has been marginalized in education, in part because it has been viewed as a vocation that employs few, and is associated with presentation skills rather than the larger mission of enabling an informed and creative citizenry. You can see interviews with the teens and teachers on the Teen TV Summer Program video.

What is your favorite form of media?

I think I have to say it is video. I love the way you can tell stories with video and it has gotten so beautiful with high definition… easy and inexpensive. The video interviews linked above of our Teen TV youth were shot with a $ 120 full HD 1020P camcorder. Soon you can expect to have this kind of quality on your telephone, with the 4G network capable of uploading and editing on the fly. The ability to capture things as they happen is so powerful. Not only is video a wonderful art medium, but it also provides an easy way to capture stories as they unfold. I was at a meeting at a local newspaper, the Eagle Tribune and the publisher was talking about how he was buying I phones for his reporters so they can shoot, edit and upload videos from the locations of their stories. It is a fabulous democratic research and publishing tool.

Why is media literacy important to you?

I believe that media is at the heart of our sense of community and is at its best, a vehicle for testing our values. It allows us to look at ourselves and edit in what we like, and edit out what we don’t. In that way we are able to construct the world through stories that reflect not only what is, but also what could be. We are only at the beginning of this information transformation where content will be less filtered by institutions. Media literacy will become the cornerstone of education as we move away from static facts and institutional positioning towards information that is personal and that we act upon, build upon, and repurpose to make new meaning.

Why do you think media literacy should matter to others?

I think we all realize that ubiquitous media plays an important role in shaping our view of our culture and the future. The advertising industry is built upon this premise. We see it in the most mundane things….This of course is a double edged sword. On the one hand media helps to promote industry, which means jobs, more economic activity, and higher stakes … on the other hand it can tend to drown out discourse and more nuanced understanding of issues. Perfect examples of this were the financial system meltdown, and the false and unsubstantiated accusations that often affect elections.  The challenge with media literacy and new media, social networking etc. is to help build networks that can capture the essence of our times and help us to adjust and be responsive.  Wikipedia is a great example.

Can you tell us about how your work has been recognized? Awards you’ve received?

I have received a number of recognitions over the years. One of the ones I am most proud of is a certificate from the National Council on Family Relations for a video called Stand Back From Crack!  I was also recognized by the United Nations for my work on a Rotaplast mission to Venezuela. Over the years, I have been recognized by the cable industry, Cable In the Classroom, and the Telly Awards. But to be honest with you, I think some of my proudest moments are when students in our program get recognized, like when our students at English High School won the Fox News Challenge for best High School Newscast in 2007.

What’s been your proudest moment in your work in media literacy education?

I mentioned the awards of our students and they certainly make me proud.  Two years ago every one of our high school seniors got into college, most of whom received scholarships. Last year we helped design and run a year-long media literacy class for every 7th and 8th grade student in the Somerville, MA school district.  That was about 1,700 students. This was a brand new course that was co taught with our Lab coordinators and the school librarians and we created school web sites for each of the schools to involve teachers, students and administrators in tracking the student progress and begin to look at the media literacy work as a core element from which to develop student portfolios.  This year the school system elected to continue the project on its own.

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