I work as a Faculty Advisor in the Teacher Education Program at UCLA. My job encompasses teaching education courses and providing field support for new teachers working in some of the most challenging schools in Los Angeles. A course I created and now teach and coordinate with other instructors is a class on Critical Media Literacy. This class and my research explore opportunities for new teachers to integrate the K-12 curriculum with critical media literacy pedagogy.
2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
I recently published a second edition of my book, Media Literacy is Elementary: Teaching Youth to Critically Read and Create Media. I updated everything and added two new chapters examining uses of photography in the classroom and teaching teachers critical media literacy. In my book, I describe the Critical Media Literacy class at UCLA in detail, explaining the theory, assignments, and student responses. This class has been an exciting project that keeps evolving as our university team shapes the course for our students teaching in the public schools. It is inspiring to see student teachers implementing ideas from the class with their students in creative ways that I never imagined.
3) Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is important to me because I worked as a photojournalist for about 10 years. During that time I saw and participated in the many ways news media choose which stories to report, frame how the information is represented, and through the process, often shape public opinion. I have long been impressed by the power photography and news media have to influence society for better or for worse. It is this power that I want students to understand and learn to use as tools to improve society and challenge problematic representations.
I also taught elementary school for six years and saw the potential of media literacy to motivate my students and greatly enhance their literacy skills. I taught bilingual education in a public school downtown LA with mostly English language learners. The media literacy I taught captured my students’ interest and deepened their critical analysis skills, especially when they were creating media.
4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I see many new opportunities for the teaching of critical thinking and alternative production related to media, technology, and popular culture. The work happening on an international level with UNESCO and in countries around the globe is pushing forward this agenda on an international scale like I have never seen before. In the US, the Common Core State Standards and the roll out of new technology are also opening possibilities for more critical engagement in multiple forms of literacy. On the local level, I see my own students demonstrating insightful engagement with these ideas and already developing new ways to bring them into their classrooms. There are many obstacles, but there are also many new opportunities.
The aspect of media literacy that interests me the most is the role that ideology plays in the politics of representation. I am drawn to critical media literacy from Cultural Studies, and I am fascinated with how ideology functions to “normalize” and “other” people and ideas so that the dominant ideas just seem to be “common sense.” Cultural Studies offers a critical theoretical lens that is crucial for understanding representations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and all the different ways identity is marked. This lens can be very useful to see the connections between information and power.
5) Why did you become a NAMLE member – what benefits do you see to membership and how will it support your work?
I have been a member for years, since the days when NAMLE was AMLA. I think NAMLE is essential to building the field and supporting people interested in promoting critical thinking about media, technology, and popular culture. There are so few organizations that provide the space to integrate critical analysis and alternative production with media, technology, information, entertainment, and popular culture. I see NAMLE as an important force in the field of education to support teachers and students to critically question the word and the world while also empowering them to create alternative representations that promote social justice. I am very excited by this year’s keynote speaker, Vivian Vasquez. I have been a huge fan of her work for years.