February 2015: M-Passioned Member Donnell Probst

donnellprobst1) What do you do? 

I am a photographer, full-time student at Arizona State University, and a homeschooling parent to my daughter, who is a sophomore in high school. I also have spent many years as a parent mentor and special education advocate for parents who are struggling to access supports and services for their children through the public school system. I also have two younger boys and serve on the board of the PTO at their elementary school.

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

As the parent of a child with a disability and an avid supporter of the disability community, I am struck by the lack of inclusion of people with disabilities in media as well as media literacy education. Similar to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality, people with disabilities are narrowly constructed and widely underrepresented in all forms of media. Currently, little research has been conducted on this topic, few media literacy curriculums focus on the media construction and inclusion of this population, and few media literacy education resources are available to teach media literacy skills to children and adults with different learning needs and abilities. I have recently connected with others in the field of media literacy who share my passion for MLE and special education and we are working to identify opportunities to introduce these potential research and curriculum opportunities to the media literacy community.

With the wonderful support of Erin McNeill at Media Literacy Now, we are in the initial stages of creating a Missouri Chapter of Media Literacy Now. I will be working to increase awareness about media literacy education in my community and beyond, hopefully laying the groundwork for the introduction of media literacy education legislation in the state of Missouri.

I also serve on the Student Leadership Council for NAMLE and curate media literacy resources for the NAMLE Monthly Update.

3) Why is media literacy important to you?

Media literacy is the intersection of all issues of justice and equality. Whether we are examining issues of race, gender, education, disability, class, bullying or sexuality, media literacy education provides a road map by which to effect positive change. As a parent, I have experienced the powerful effects of media through my three children. Media literacy education allows me to better prepare my own children for a pervasive media culture while simultaneously breaking down societal barriers and promoting equality.

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

I am excited about our media literacy work focusing on people with disabilities and special education. There are so many difficult issues facing the disability community, such as access to healthcare and community supports, special education, social inclusion, and poverty, yet these issues are largely ignored by news media. The narrow construction and lack of representation of people with disabilities in all media makes it increasingly difficult for these individuals to fully integrate with their peers as their media construction often portrays them as helpless or limited by their disability, which can negatively affect social acceptance and emotional health. This new area of research and curriculum design offers the opportunity to give visibility to a community, which affects people across all cultures.

5) Why did you become a NAMLE member – what benefits do you see to membership and how will it support your work?

I joined the organization after an article I wrote about media literacy for The State Press drew the attention of Tina and Michelle. They have connected me to so many individuals and resources, which have been invaluable in helping me better articulate the direction in which I wanted to take my work in the field of media literacy. So much has happened since I joined NAMLE, so I am excited to see where the opportunity takes me in the future!


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