Belinha S. De Abreu
What do you do?
I am a media literacy educator, researcher and author. Over the past 25 years, my work as an educator has afforded me with the opportunity to interact with students at the K-12 level as well as with undergraduate and graduate students. My research focal point has been with students and teachers within this population; in particular in the areas of media and information literacy education, educational technology, global studies, privacy & big data, and teacher training. As a professor, the ability to engage with graduate and undergraduate students with teachable moments related to all of these topics including digital technology, and cyberethics has been paramount. With all groups, the ultimate educational purpose has been to assist learners to be both creative and conscious users of media and technology especially as it continues changing over time.
Part of my professional experience is serving as a board member on the Leadership Council for NAMLE and also as Vice President for the National Telemedia Council (NTC).
I have authored, co-authored, and co-edited several books including the International Handbook of Media Literacy Education (Routledge, 2017), Mobile Learning through Digital Media Literacy (Peter Lang 2017), Global Media Literacy in a Digital Age (Peter Lang, 2016), Media Literacy Education in Action: Theoretical and Pedagogical Perspectives (Routledge 2014), and Media Literacy, Social Networking and the Web 2.0 World for the K–12 Educator (Peter Lang, 2011).
Part of my work is to continue to exhibit and share research in this field. Under my direction, the first International Media Literacy Research Symposium was created in 2014. The idea was to continue that practice going forward and it has had different variations in the last four years.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
Several projects are underway including the revision of my first book Teaching Media Literacy. This version will include teachers and researchers who are reflective of the practice of media literacy education in their subject area or research.
I am also cohosting with Vitor Tomé the 2nd International Media Literacy Research Symposium which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on April 20, 2018. More information about that conference can be found at the following website: https://medialiteracyresearchsymposium.wordpress.com/.
Part of the reason for hosting the symposium in Lisbon has to do with my work as an external investigator for a research project that is underway in Odivelas, Portugal with Vitor Tomé. The longitudinal project centers on empowering children, ages 3 to 9, in three related contexts: family, school and community. This work is being done through training preschool and primary school teachers who developed digital media literacy activities involving their students. This collaboration has produced activities focused on constructing and discussing the media, online news analysis, communicating and learning through media, and critical analysis of advertisements.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy education is the best way to understand our mediated worlds. Whether this conversation was happening 30 years ago or today, we have always been faced with issues of truth, bias, fact, or fiction. Having a critical lens on the world that is made up of different voices is how we can better serve our communities, educational counterparts, and family. In order to engage, especially in today’s society with all the external influences, we need to be media literate. This idea has been most prevalent in the past two years as the level of awareness was raised at how uncritical and uninformed people can be in any situation.
Our media has contributed to this massive change in the way in which we receive, send, and interpret information. They are a part of the reason why there has been a reckoning with the idea of literacy and how it translates into various formats and extends way beyond print. As participation in the media has increased, it has also caused for information overload and underload. Meaning, that while we do have access to various forms of technology and channels of media, we have not become better at discerning messages or even the transmission that comes from the data received. We have become a part of the “feed” to take a word from the author M.T. Andersen. We are the “feed” in many circumstances, but in most cases people are just willing to go along with the “feed.” That last part is why media literacy education is vital to changing the way in which we intersect with the media and the world around us.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
Right now, media literacy is a hot topic because of the term “fake news.” The reality is that it took the reiteration of that point to be made over and over again for people to be willing to jump in and fight back. Many news agencies, newspapers, educational groups, researchers, and politicians have uttered the word “media literacy” this past year. The question is, if not now, than when? This dialogue, while contentious in certain circumstances, is an opportunity that as media literacy educators we must take seriously and use to service our populace to become better informed citizenry whether young or as an adult. It is a critical time for us to grow media knowledge, and realize that this effort in teaching and learning is for all people in all circumstances notwithstanding politics or personal preconceptions.
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 in the days when NAMLE was AMLA in 2001. National organizations have the ability to help promote ideas, opportunities within various circles— whether it is an educational institution, non-profit, for-profit, parent group or individuals. In particular, it was exciting to realize that there were like-minded individuals from educators, parents, and researchers who were talking about media literacy education. Most recently, there has been some excellent work done by people who I respect and admire in the field and they have come together at various events held or co-sponsored by NAMLE. Many conversations have occurred at these locations, and those dialogues have grown, converging into productive and mutual working opportunities. As an organization, in its current existence, there are many voices from many places, and they all have been welcomed to continue this very important work of making media literacy education a staple in our communities.