This month, NAMLE reached out to April Leach, literacy coach at G-Star School of the Arts for Film, Animation & Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. Her article, “Digital Media Production to Support Literacy for Secondary Students with Diverse Learning Abilities,” was recently published in JMLE 9.2, a special issue on media literacy and disabilities. You can find April’s complete article here.
NAMLE: How did the idea for this paper come about?
April Leach: I was in conversation with Yonty Friesem at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island a couple of years ago. He had visited the school G-Star School of the Arts for Film, Animation & Performing Arts where I am the literacy coach, and met our diverse student population. When he asked if I would be interested in contributing to the special issue of JMLE he was editing on students with disabilities, I leapt at the chance. My perspective was, and is, that students labeled as having disabilities may thrive when skills and talents formerly considered non-academic are invited into the learning process.
NAMLE: What do you hope to do with this research in the future?
AL: Following up on the study upon which that article was based, I am conducting a study with a cohort of International Baccalaureate Visual Art students (none of whom are in the International Baccalaureate diploma program as there was no room in those students’ schedules for visual art), to respond to findings from the JMLE paper in order to test integrating student creativity with literacy learning across media with a heterogeneous group of adolescents.
Additionally, I am co-editing a special issue in the Journal of Literacy and Technology whose theme is Through the Portal of Art and Culture: Media Literacy as the Art of Communication. This call for this special issue of the Journal of Literacy and Technology has just gone out and invites academic submissions in order to investigate the intersection between art and communication through media literacy.
NAMLE: How do you hope this research will contribute to media literacy education?
AL: Without sounding overly hyperbolic, which is my nature, the intention for my research is to contribute to media literacy education by blurring the distinction between media literacy and literacy. Indeed, in the digital age, literacy across all media has been unleashed. (In fact, that is the title of my forthcoming book: Literacy Unleashed.)
NAMLE: Why is media literacy research important to you?
AL: As a boots-on-the-ground secondary school educator and researcher, this literacy research is my mission. Our youth need the tools and training to read, create, and argue across media to be meaningful contributors to local, regional, national, and global communication.