I consider myself a life-long teacher. I taught special education for 20 years before becoming a professor at Le Moyne College, a Jesuit, liberal arts & sciences institution in Syracuse, New York. My students are undergraduate & graduate preservice and practicing teachers. I teach courses in adolescent development, special education, and all forms of new literacies, including gamification, comics & graphic novels, Harry Potter & participatory culture, young adult literature, and more.
2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
I am working on a book that examines the ways reality television can be compared to carnival sideshows. Channels like TLC and Discovery Health and Fitness claim educational value while allowing people to peek at individuals with mental and physical challenges in voyeuristic ways. I find it disturbing that individuals who would never pay to see so-called “freaks” like John Merrick or the Hilton sisters are watching Little Women of LA and My 600-lb. Life. Let’s look at how and why this has evolved and what the impact is on an inclusive society. The highest markets for skin bleaching creams with extremely toxic chemicals are African countries, because natives want to look “more American”. The focus of my work is media’s impact on how we define “normal” and how we treat those outside that definition.
3) Why is media literacy important to you?
Media is everywhere in our lives, but I do not see many of my (college) students or others look beneath the surface. People spend time analyzing which device to buy to consume media in all forms, but they don’t often take the time or have the skills to examine what they are seeing and hearing. Today’s parents & teacherhave to broaden their concept of literacy beyond print, or we will have generations of illiterate citizens ripe to be propaganda & marketing targets.
4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
A few years ago when I joined the NAMLE Board, I felt like we were small voices crying out in a media wilderness. Now we have visible partners like pivot TV that are helping us become the most visible and vocal group known for resources and policies. There are a number of events, like Media Literacy Week November 2-6, that will help put the Core Principles and media literacy skills in front of parents, teachers, and media professionals.
5) Why did you become a NAMLE member – what benefits do you see to membership and how will it support your work?
I can’t imagine trying to do any of my research, teaching or presentations without the network of media literacy professionals I have through NAMLE. The benefits for me are first the people, and secondly the resources, especially the Journal of Media Literacy Education. The NAMLE website is the first place I go when preparing new work or adding current projects. I always find some information of member who has related resources and ideas that strengthen and support my scholarship and practices. In fact, I decided to become a Life Member, because I know that my NAMLE membership will ensure I am always current in the field of media literacy education.