January 2016: M-Passioned Member Tara O’Gorman

16dcc7fa-390d-487e-9e26-75a92e674f3a1) What do you do?

I am an educator, photographer, filmmaker, multi-media devotee, environmentalist, humanitarian, and child advocate.  My classroom experience spans over 20 years and has included grades Pre K, First, Second, Fourth and currently Fifth.  I hold a Masters Degree in Education with an additional 60+ post graduate credits and certificates. My love of multi-media is heavily incorporated into my curriculum, not as a stand alone but as a necessary augmentation. I am committed to guiding my students on every level as they realize and act on the truth that nothing is impossible and that their dreams matter and can be achieved.

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

My latest project is a long held aspiration of developing the first Media Literacy Magnet School (Pre K -8th) in my district in Yonkers, NY.  In these times of being barraged with images everywhere we turn, young people must be armed with the tools necessary to interpret and make informed decisions about what they are seeing and hearing.  They must be able to comfortably and confidently participate in society as we become further entrenched in digital media in all areas of our lives.  The combined skills of media literacy and digital acuity will support our students so they will be able to successfully engage with mass media. Ultimately I would like to support students as media producers for peers, basically teaching students to create content FOR students. This would span all subject areas from a math tutorial to a science lesson filmed on location on a hiking trail for example. We are in the process of developing our own TV station, which will highlight students as producers of media content for students vertically and horizontally across grade levels. Our pilot episode, “What is Media?” premiered during NAMLES inaugural National Media Literacy Week in November 2015 and was a hit!! We are planning 10 episodes per year, all created by students. 

3) Why is media literacy important to you?

We live in a time when technology is both alluring and liberating. It can unfortunately also be overwhelming and detrimental if not prepared.  My goal is to establish a culture of students who are media literate yet not enslaved by media and technology by affording them the independence to know when to take a break. Students perpetually sitting in front of screens is never the goal. It is imperative they experience all aspects of life while becoming articulate consumers, participants and producers of meaningful media.  Media Literacy is important to me as I don’t envision our students being manipulated or misled by the blitz of media but presenting themselves as educated individuals who understand what they are seeing and hearing. This would result in a generation of students confident within themselves while possessing the ability to take ownership of their own informed, educated opinions.  I strongly believe that in order to become media literate you must also be immersed in seeing life away from technology. I teach my students to really look around, really see the world that is in front of them, to be present and aware. One late afternoon at the end of an extended day class a student looked out the window at an incredible sunset turned to me and said “I have to get there and take a picture of that!” That is my goal – to help students become well rounded and therefore have the ability to fulfill both their tactile and technical needs.

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

Media Literacy is exciting within itself! It is a privilege as an educator to witness and be a part of our future generations’ evolution as 21st Century citizens.  One of the most exciting pieces of Media Literacy is how much we are learning from each other. Every day I am amazed at the enormity in which my students are aware of what is emerging as the latest social media platform, app, game, or device. I love that we can all communicate with such speed and immediacy daily.  Media Literacy is creating a forum where teachers, students and parents have the ability to collaborate and serve as effective facilitators of students’ success in a media and digital abundant world.

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

I was introduced to NAMLE during a summer workshop at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY. I have an under-grad degree in Advertising combined with a strong interest in media, the arts and film. It is very clear to me that throughout my years of teaching I had always exposed my students to media literacy in different ways.  However, it was during that workshop that I had an “a-ha” moment realizing the media literacy which I was exposing my students to was just the tip of the iceberg of the Media Literacy that was emerging. Leaving that workshop, I knew that no longer would I be standing back shaking my head at what kids were being exposed to but that I was empowered to take my talents and do something much more constructive, meaningful and of true service to my students on an entirely different level.

My school, Casimir Pulaski, has a long standing, successful partnership with the Jacob Burns Film Center but I was confident that adding NAMLE to our team for the first annual national Media Literacy Week would be the perfect fit to further strengthen our foundation as a Media Literacy Magnet.


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