Profile by Emily Bailin
The nation’s first Graduate Program in Media Literacy began at Appalachian State University in 1999. It was developed and introduced by Dr. David Considine a noteworthy scholar in the field of media literacy for more than thirty years. Housed under the auspices of the Educational Media program, students could choose a concentration of Media Literacy, Media Production, or New Media & Global Studies. Redmond explains, “It was a rich program from the start. The New Media and Global Studies Program was always taught online and was really advanced for an online program. It focused on fostering critical media and global perspectives and looked at cultural diversity in addition to examining online environments using networked media.”
Currently, the Media Studies faculty in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction are working to combine the New Media & Global Studies program, coordinated by Dr. Herb Brown, with the Media Literacy program, currently co-coordinated by Dr. Redmond and Dr. Damiana Gibbons. “This will not only provide students with a background in media literacy that is so rich at AppState, but also with an opportunity to look beyond what’s been done in the past with media literacy education and connect it with more of a global studies context and new media design. The production component that was historically campus-based will be folded into the online program in a way that provides students with the opportunity to develop online environments and use new digital networked media to create environments for whatever their professional goals might be.” Redmond shares, “This merge will broaden the scope of how we think about media in a global age and media literacy practices…It’s pretty exciting!”
A lot of schools are exploring how to best teach online right now, but AppState is focused on how to best preserve the quality of pedagogical practices and experiences that students get with face-to-face instruction and interaction in their online offerings. A noteworthy aspect of the media literacy program at AppState is that it is housed in a College of Education, specifically within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. “We’re more forward thinking and focus on how we can create online learning experiences that tie people together.” Dr. Redmond spoke about a unique course that was offered online this past spring called “Multimedia and Mind.” The instructor, Jeff Goodman, is interested in developing connections across digital spaces so he asked his students to use media to create real world connections by doing a walk through of their respective neighborhoods and then mapping it out on Google Maps. Each student took photographs at various points on the walk that they mapped and then created a discussion of their walk to share a bit about themselves using media and engaging with their classmates in online spaces. There seems to be a conscious and substantial focus on community, at both a micro and macro level, woven throughout the programs and course offerings at AppState.
Although the New Media & Global Studies and Media Literacy master’s program merger is in progress, students eager to start their coursework can enroll in the New Media & Global Studies program and there are course offerings that extend well into media literacy topics and practices. This upcoming fall, for instance, Dr. Redmond will be offering an “Emerging Issues and Trends” course online that is focused on ‘Emerging Literacies and New Media,’ which will provide students enrolled in the New Media & Global Studies program, who may be more interested in the media literacy side of things, opportunities to blend the two areas and maintain a focus on their academic interests while they await the official start of the new melded program.
The online program operates on a rolling cohort model, which provides students with an opportunity to enter the program at any time. “There is a strong sense of community facilitated by this model,” Redmond notes. Students come from across North Carolina and beyond state borders and faculty include AppState professors and international adjunct faculty from across the U.S. and abroad. “We get students who come from traditional K-12 backgrounds, community college faculty who are looking to integrate media literacy for online design into their classes, and we also get a lot of folks involved in instructional technology as well, so the shift in combining new media and media literacy has really worked with a variety of populations to more fully extend media literacy into the 21st century.”
Of important to note, AppState offers an undergraduate teaching preparation core that includes media literacy, which is quite uncommon. “If you were to do a search of core teacher preparation courses across the nation, you’re not likely to find media literacy represented, which makes AppState rather unique,” Redmond explains. Teacher prep programs across the country typically focus on educational technologies, but what makes the AppState program distinct is that it regards technology integration as a pedagogy and focuses specifically on what learning and thinking skills come through the technology tools. “We often encourage our students to think about pop culture media that’s not designed for educational purposes and consider how they might integrate this type of text into standards-based teaching and learning. I had a high school chemistry teacher in one of my courses this semester who integrated a clip from an episode of The Big Bang Theory into one of his lessons. He not only connected it to the chemistry standards, but also folded in a discussion of product placement. It’s not only a hook for students who are excited when they see their culture represented in the classroom, but it also gives them a more critical literacy perspective when they watch those media texts on their own time.”
Redmond also shared “We have a campus-based media production and learning lab and community members have the opportunity to use it. “For instance, we had a teacher who did his Master’s in Media Production here at AppState, when the program was still offered face-to-face on campus, who was also teaching 8th grade. We were able to work with him and his students to facilitate their production work as they designed a multimedia piece to represent their perspectives on a story they were reading at the time. That’s a piece that’s really growing and in progress.”
In addition to the media literacy offerings for education majors, Curriculum & Instruction at AppState also provides an undergraduate Media Studies minor, which is particularly interesting because it is housed in the College of Education. The undergraduate courses offered for this minor are some of Dr. Redmond’s favorite to teach, “…there’s something a little different and special about students who are not necessarily into their careers yet; they’re still searching and figuring out what they want to do.” These students may be coming from public relations, communications, electronic media and broadcasting, or journalism and Dr. Redmond shares that “it’s a very different experience when they take courses in our College of Education.” A word often used by these students to describe the value of the courses in the minor is ‘creative’. Redmond expands, “The ways we encourage students to think about the tool(s) they use to create media and how and why they create media is very much from a media literacy perspective. For example, I had a marketing major in class this semester and he described experiencing this moral dilemma of how to continue as in business and advertising while also taking into account his audience and the values he holds and the values they may hold. It’s a great opportunity for students to examine their careers from multiple perspectives and critical literacy perspectives.”
If readers are looking for an excuse to visit Boone this summer, The Free Learning Conference is coming up in July. It is run by AppState’s Learning Technology Services, specifically Emory Maiden III. LTS is the campus wide support and professional development group that helps faculty and students integrate technology and media in their teaching and learning. The conference mostly attracts a higher education audience where teachers, faculty, staff, and students both attend and facilitate workshops using instructional tools and media for teaching and learning. In some cases, presentations might be on topics like how to engage in community building in online environments, what sorts of tools could you use to foster community and dialogue online; or how to use screen-casting software like Jing not only for creating instructional materials but also for remixing practices for student projects. In essence, Redmond explains, “the conference focuses very broadly on tools and technologies and perspectives in instructional technology, educational media, and media literacy, which gives all participants an entry-way to learn more.”
Connect with Appalachian State University:
- Program Information: http://edtech.appstate.edu/
- Contacts: Dr. Herb Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Theresa Redmond (email@example.com)