September 2014: M-Passioned Member Dain Olsen

dain_olsen3a1) What do you do?

I am a media arts specialist and artist who is working on the development and implementation of “media arts education”, as a newly distinguished “5th arts discipline” at local to national levels. So, for over 20 years, I’ve been teaching multimedia at high school and middle school levels, with intermittent service as a content specialist and in higher-ed. I currently serve as Media Arts Writing Chair for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. I am on an arts education task force in California for the development of 21st C Instruction and Curriculum. I’ve developed and administered 13 media arts programs in LAUSD. I consult and write in these areas and on the intersection of aesthetics, technology, culture and learning.


2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.

The National Core Media Arts Standards and Model Assessments are media literacy embedded, and are now available voluntarily to all states, districts and teachers, PK-12. In the full standards-based production process, students must analyze and deconstruct the diversity of media arts forms and their methods of managing experience, making meaning and forming culture. They become versed in identifying and interacting with the various components, contexts and systems of media arts experiences. This process is engaging and relevant for students, including those who are considered “at-risk” of academic failure. The recent publication of these voluntary standards is now leading to the development of the media arts community of educators who will need support in implementing this in programming and instruction.


3) Why is media literacy important to you.

As a media artist and educator, and particularly as a parent of young kids, I am keenly aware of the pervasive and potent influence of media in our society and for youth. I believe these lifelong capacities to critically examine our media-based culture are best instilled through the positive empowerment of creative practice. It’s essential for our democratic society that all students can analyze and evaluate the full range of media arts processes and experiences, while producing their own quality communications. Media arts education is necessary to fulfilling the accessible and participatory potential of these media for all students. I’m not a technophile, but I’m definitely enraptured by technology’s creative power. At home, we are very deliberate in how our two young boys use “screen time” so that they get a variety of experiences and appreciate a balance. I’m beginning to think that we may be out of the norm on that!


4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field

I’m excited by the capacity of media literacy to support students’ critical awareness of even the complex and immersive forms of media that are emerging, such as virtual reality and transmedia. One could describe this as a form of “mediation literacy” because it is an experiential understanding of the aesthetic and cognitive effects of media environments, as they also learn to design them. Also, for media arts to become a distinct PK-12 core subject area is a huge leap for media literacy and arts education, if not for education as a whole. Media arts forms a “creative hub” for interdisciplinary projects that seamlessly integrate academic content and 21st C skills, authentically preparing students for both college and career. This translates into every type of media form and experience imaginable, including film, tv, web production, animation, 3D interactive game design, environmental design, etc. It promotes self directed learning because it can be based in their personal learning pathways and cultural perspectives, and the needs of the community. This prioritizes the creative design process and learning about learning itself.


5) Why did you become a NAMLE member and how will it support your work?

I became a NAMLE member because of the importance of media literacy in this educational development. I have been in contact with leaders in media literacy since I began working in this area nearly 10 years ago. I was a member of the Center for Media Literacy at the beginning of my media teaching career 20 years ago. This community’s understanding and support of this work is very important to its vitality and full implementation in school programs. I look forward to the continuing collaboration as media arts education develops, and as our culture and its media forms and technologies continue to evolve.

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