February 2016: M-Passioned Member Rachell Arteaga

unnamed1) What do you do?

I am someone who is passionate about media literacy education, identity and diversity work, as well as exploring how young minds learn.Currently I am an elementary school teacher in an NYC independent K-12 school. I received a Technology in Curriculum grant to create a stand-alone media literacy curriculum for our third grade students. This curriculum, now in its second year, explores stereotyping in the media as well as advertising strategies in commercials aimed at children. At the end of the unit, students are tasked with creating a “counter” advertisement with a familiar product. They apply their learning by using the advertising strategies we learn about and creating images and characters that are counter to the stereotypes we discuss. Both students and teachers enjoyed the curriculum with one student commenting, “I liked making the adds [sic] because it made me think about how media is made…”

I am also a language teacher at the Kindergarten and first grade level. Within this capacity I have been integrating technology in our lessons in ways that are meaningful to the students and beneficial to second language acquisition.

Another role I have is that of “Chalk Talk” instructor. In this position I am able to combine my love of media literacy education and diversity work with fifth and sixth grade students. My colleagues and I co-design curricula that is meant to have the students celebrate the many aspects of their identities, question assumptions, and unearth stereotypes in the media and our culture in general. We then explore activism and its many forms. The children leave the course knowing that, no matter what age, anyone can be an activist for whatever cause is important to them.

Last, but not least, I am a proud New Yorker! In my spare time I enjoy exploring different cultures in the city and around the world, riding roller coasters, and devouring delicious food.


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

For Media Literacy Week 2015 the instructional technologists and I developed an interactive workshop for third graders using NearPod, exploring how Legos are marketed to girls, boys, and families in different ways. The children explored how the Lego toy company’s intended audience affects the way their products are advertised. We viewed a variety of Lego ads and were able to engage with real time polling data displaying the class’ thoughts and opinions on the commercials they saw. The children were particularly excited to share their thoughts on legos marketed toward boys and toward girls, acknowledging that boys can play with “girl” toys and girls can play with “boy” toys.The session was a success and it was a great way to get kids to think about advertising media they consume and where it comes from.


3) Why is media literacy important to you?

Media literacy education is a critical part of developing 21st century skills. The more pervasive technology becomes, the more both children and adults require the skills of media analysis, deconstruction, and creation in order to fully engage in our ever evolving, digitized society. These skills are also essential to empowering children to create an authentic identity for themselves. As an educator, I have witnessed how much young children rely on the media when constructing their own identities and for making assumptions about the identities of others. The earlier the child starts the process of deconstructing media messages the more confident they will be in constructing a genuine sense of self. I want children to feel empowered when delving into the media landscape, not overwhelmed and exploited by it.


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

I am excited about the development of more nuanced curricula for immigrant communities and populations with non-dominant cultures in the United States. Media literacy education is such a necessary tool and its implications on how it can or should differ from population to population are still being explored. Children with differing ethnic identities interact and process programming and advertising that is uniquely North American in various ways depending on what culture they identify with. I am looking forward to addressing these needs with other media literacy educators and making these skills accessible to all, regardless of cultural background.


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

I became a NAMLE member because I wanted to join a group of individuals and organizations that are bringing media literacy education to every corner of the United States and beyond. By being a member, I have the opportunity to collaborate with other experts in making media literacy accessible to our youngest citizens. I can also discover more about the media literacy education landscape from other professionals so that I can make sure that any curricula I develop are truly innovative or that any research questions I explore are ones that the media literacy education community can benefit from.

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