1) What do you do?
I teach for the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City. Some of my favorite courses are: Children & Media, Understanding Television, TV Comedy & American Values, Media & Social Awareness, and Media Analysis & Criticism.
2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
One project directly related to media literacy was a lengthy report, The Future of Children’s Television Programming: A Study of How Emerging Digital Technologies Can Facilitate Active and Engaged Participation and Contribute to Media Literacy Education, which I co-wrote with 3 colleagues. The report concludes with 30 specific recommendations for what television could be doing to enhance the media literacy of young viewers. Here are a few of the recommendations:
- programming that facilitates/incorporates the use of stop, pause, rewind, fast forward, and slow motion controls to encourage active mediation and engagement with program content
- programming that provides information for co-viewing caregivers, such as scrolling information about the program at the bottom of the screen
- enhancing “search” technologies for appropriate content and navigation functions, making television more like the forms of navigation that even young children are increasingly accustomed to on the Web (encouraging viewers to think about their decision-making processes in selecting programs and to understand why they are making their particular selections by posing questions as part of the search activity)
- providing opportunities for viewers to rate programs and comment on programming
- facilitating online communities for discussion and active engagement with television content
- incorporating metacontent that addresses viewers directly, asking them questions or prompting children to ask adults questions
- stopping a narrative in the middle, and having characters, creators, or others commenting on the narrative
- featuring programming with characters that are media producers themselves, showing how they go about creating and disseminating television content
- allowing viewers to build scrapbooks of television content, including program segments and commercials, and to remix, re-edit, or recombine them in various ways as a creative activity
- giving viewers choices about production codes, such as which camera angles, lighting, and edits to employ
- setting up contests, competitions, and other reward systems that encourage and reward children for taking an active and creative approach to media
I’m currently using a media-literacy model to look at how children conceptualize what “cities” are. My research, supported by a grant from the Urban Communication Foundation, looks at how children “frame” cities according to dimensions like scale, movement/activity, and their senses. This project will culminate in an elementary school curriculum module.
3) Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is about understanding—and understanding how we understand. It’s applicable to almost any thinking or scholarship. Media literacy can be a generic model for how many different literacies are engaged, taught, and learned.
4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
The field is so broad that I am constantly learning. And, slowly, the U.S. is catching up to the rest of the world in acknowledging the importance of media literacy education.
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 member because I value the community that NAMLE fosters – the collegiality, the quality of scholarship, the quality of practice, the diversity of members – in a word, “community.”