Member Profile: John Henson
What do you do?
I have the pleasure of teaching courses in teacher preparation and media studies in the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University. I teach a class called Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age, where future teachers explore innovative practices for using technology in the classroom, as well as ways to weave media and popular culture throughout their curriculum. In addition, I teach courses in photography, video production, and web design in a media studies minor where students from a range of majors and backgrounds explore technical and aesthetic production techniques for storytelling. In combining these areas, I am beginning a new role as faculty advisor for media production through our Media Lab, where I’ll assist faculty in integrating media production tools and techniques into curriculum design, class activities, and research. Finally, I am a current doctoral student studying educational leadership. For my dissertation research, I am preparing an investigation of the communicative and mythological qualities of grassroots media making.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
In my dissertation research, I am investigating the role that media making plays in lives of young people today. I am interested in learning how the creation of photos, videos, audio, and graphics becomes a mode for mythologizing people’s daily lives and experiences. I’ve long enjoyed philosophy and cultural theory, and recently read Renee Hobbes (2016) book Exploring the Roots of Digital and Media Literacy through Personal Narrative, where a host of media literacy scholars connect the texts of seminal philosophical, cultural, and educational thinkers to contemporary contexts. I became energized in reading chapters by Dana Polan and Susan Moeller, each of whom connect the work of Roland Barthes to the contexts of our contemporary world. My research will utilize Barthes’ theories on ideology and cultural mythology as a framework for considering the ways that making media can serve as an avenue for engaging in storytelling and personal expression.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy translates to critical thinking skills, plain and simple. In an age of hyper-information, biased information, and misinformation, people need to cultivate a trust in their own personal judgement. Media literacy offers strategies for determining the credibility of the sources and resources we interact with on a daily basis, but ultimately media literacy does not tell you what to think or what to believe. We must make those decisions for ourselves. Ultimately, trusting yourself and your actions leads towards self-confidence and independent thinking, and therefore away from indoctrination.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I’m glad you asked! I am most excited about getting cameras and microphones into students’ hands so that they can tell stories and make media as a part of their learning experiences. Along the way, they will develop a strong understanding of what they wish to communicate, as well as gaining insight into the most effective ways to tell stories that engage and persuade. By learning to tell stories with digital media, students will have the resources to effectively tell the stories that are meaningful to them, and hopefully serve as catalysts for enacting social change.
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 of NAMLE because I am passionate about making education relevant to the real-world experiences of my students. By attending the NAMLE conference and networking with the organization’s knowledgeable members, I learn new ideas and strategies for integrating media literacy education across a range of curriculum and content areas.