October 2017: M-Passioned Member Evanna Ratner

What do you do?
I have the pleasure of teaching courses in teacher preparation and media studies in the Gordon College of Education and at the Education Faculty at Haifa University, Israel. I teach different classes related to communication studies and teaching and learning studies. In these classes, future teachers explore ways to weave media, new technology and popular culture throughout their curriculum.

In addition, I am a communication studies coordinator for the Ministry of Education. I aid in writing the new media studies curricula for high school in which students choose to make a feature film, a documentary, a radio program, or a digital newspaper for their final project.

As a facilitator for media studies, I’m involved in the production of the Young Film Festival in Haifa which will be held during the October break. Please watch one of the youngster’s movies below (the documentary is in Hebrew with English subtitles).

My Ph.D. thesis was written on dialogue through cinema. This is a peace education project I developed which brings together children from conflict groups, like Jews and Arabs in Israel, to make movies together about their personal narratives. The work included approximately 200 participants from 10 schools throughout 3 years who joined the project and the challenge of dialogue through film. I believe movie making is a civic engagement activity and those who are involved in it are change makers. Now we just need President Trump, prime minister Netanyahu, and Abu Mazen from the Palestinian Authority to believe in it as well.

I’m currently teaching a course on dialogue through cinema in which teachers from a range of majors and backgrounds explore technical and aesthetic production techniques for storytelling.
Finally, I am trying to get a post-doc position in the Media Lab at the Harrington School of  communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island conducted by Prof. Renee Hobbs, on the topic of Media Literacy and civic engagement activities, and I hope I can start in the Fall of next year.

For my dissertation research, I am preparing to conduct a study on teachers in dialogue through media and on media production as a means of civic engagement.

Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
In my last summer course, I brought together educators from a range of positions in the civil service to investigate the combination of their social projects with the role that media making plays in lives of young people today from kindergarten to high school. I am interested in teaching the course of media teaching preparation combined with civic and social engagement and how communities can tell their stories and their daily lives and experiences with new technology tools.
In July I attended my first media literacy conference in Chicago. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the organizers I thought we should promote media literacy research and activities in Israel and differentiate it from communication studies. My friend from the Media Lab at the University of Rhode island, Yonty Friesem and others are promoting this topic with me, as well as my colleagues within education colleges and universities in Israel. We had successfully managed to promote a section of media literacy within the Israeli Communication Association. As a start, we wrote a call for action and a call for papers on the topic, for the coming conference on March 29, 2018.

Recently, I read Renee Hobbs’ (2016) book entitled Exploring the Roots of Digital and Media Literacy through Personal Narrative, and I read the work by Srividya Ramasubramanian who wrote about the psychologist Gordon Allport and his contact hypothesis, also known as intergroup contact theory, dealing with reducing stereotypes and ways to reduce prejudice. I myself used his theory and later on Pettigrew’s theory about the ripple effect to emphasize how movies can affect representations and how they can reduce stereotypes and negative feelings, not only for those who produced the films but for all who are exposed to them. My research will utilize these theories to advocate engagement in storytelling and personal expression by film, practices as a means of civic engagement.

Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is a rebellious activity since it is promoting critical thinking skills. Social media created personal democratic spheres and misconceptions of what is real and what is reality. Our leaders go against established newspapers, networks, and liberal ideas. Intellectual scholars are accused of betraying the government. This is the time for our community to be there as an eye opener and a defender of freedom of speech, a torch for seeking the truth and to raise a voice for rights of minorities. Media literacy does not tell you what to think or what to believe, it gives you skills to do so.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
Every morning I still go over 3 newspapers (in Hebrew); a right-wing tabloid (“Israel Today”), a liberal exclusive Newspaper (“Haaretz”) and a popular tabloid (“Yedioth Ahronot”). It still excites me to bring newspapers to class and present a comparison between them emphasizing a methodology of creating themes and analyzing the shape and content of newspapers – the traditional ones. Then I ask “who still reads newspapers”? Moreover, I know the answer: “We read it through our feed on Facebook or Twitter. That answer opens the discussion on how we get our news. Who decides what we get in our feed and what items shapes our agenda setting? This is a fascinating opening for a media literacy class that contributes to critical thinking.

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 think media literacy is a “hands-on” topic, relevant to our students’ experiences and helps them be engaged as citizens in a digital world knowing the background and sources of media.

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.

 

 

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