March 2015: M-Passioned Member Tony Streit

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1) What do you do?

For the past twelve years I have worked forEducation Development Center, Inc. Our headquarters is based in Boston but I direct the Chicago office which we opened in 2008.  I manage a portfolio of projects that explore ways that educators can deepen learning through media, technology, and project-based learning.  We are primarily developing curriculum and training, often at the request of funders looking to have impact in a particular setting, either in-school or afterschool.  My entrée into this work is through my years of youth media instruction here in Chicago where I was fortunate to be a founder of Street-Level Youth Media, soon to be celebrating its 20th anniversary. 

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

Right now there are two major projects we’re working on that contribute to the overall effort to advance media literacy education.  The first is our work over the past 9 years to support Adobe Systems in the development and implementation of the signature philanthropic effort, Adobe Youth Voices.  To my knowledge, it is the first truly global youth media initiative intended to democratize the practices that I have spent my career advocating for.  I am so honored to be connecting with educators and youth around the globe who are using media to tell their stories and find their voice.  We are also partnering with Chicago’s McCormick Foundation on their Why News Matters initiative, a $6 million investment in strategies to advance news literacy in a range of settings.  The 30+ projects that have been supported to date, both here in Chicago and nationally, are wonderful illustrations of how citizens can critically analyze and respond to media to better participate in our society.  For McCormick, we provide program and evaluation assistance to the grantees and help the Foundation synthesize the lessons learned that grantees are reporting. 

3) Why is media literacy important to you?

From an early age, I have been drawn to the power of media to entertain, inspire and provoke.  Later in life, I discovered documentary and alternative media making that illustrated to me that media consumers can be more than passive and in fact empowered through media to affect change in our world.  Despite my studies and years as a freelancer, I felt most empowered as a media maker when I was teaching, using my own production talents to help others tell their stories.  Those of us who have advocated for youth media recognize that media literacy education goes hand in hand.  Now, I am a father of two young boys who are growing up in an age where the media landscape is shifting faster than almost any of us can track.  I want them to be moved by the stories we share but also be empowered to make smart choices and confront deception, cruelty, and injustice.  To be an activist today, you have to be media literate.

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

Frankly, I’m most excited about NAMLE – I think it is a critical time for this organization to grow and play a pivotal role in discussions of education, technology access, media policy, and democracy writ large.  It is exciting to see people in all walks of life embracing 21st century communication, but there is clearly a need for a strong voice on how best to critically interpret, respond to, or ignore the media we encounter today.  I was thrilled to be invited to join the board this year and eager to help NAMLE grow in numbers and reach over the coming years. 

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

I’ve always found that communities of practice are an essential part of professional development and ultimately foster greater understanding of shared issues.  There is so much wisdom within the NAMLE community and so much potential to have impact on other educators, policy makers, and the public at large.  The problems with education in this country seem so ingrained and unsurmountable, but quality media literacy education affords young learners to connect meaningfully with subject matter as well as the world outside the classroom.  NAMLE can be front and center as we reform education in our country, and can do that by helping educators of all stripes discover new ways to engage and motivate learners.

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