What do you do?
I am a documentary filmmaker that uses media as a tool to promote social change in communities. I also teach media production courses at the University of North Texas. I teach my students to make media that matters in their communities, media that makes an impact. Through my course, Interactive Community Video, each semester we find a new topic and a new way to create projects that positively affect the communities around us. One semester, my students made an interactive documentary using Augmented Reality to tell the history of a historically black community just 5 minutes from the University. Students from my course interviewed elders in the community to preserve, document, and celebrate their rich history. We had a series of events including an interactive art exhibit at a local gallery as well as a huge outdoor screening of the project where the community was invited out to celebrate their history.
In 2013, I founded the organization Focused Arts Media eDucation (FAMe), where I developed in-school residencies and summer documentary workshops for youth. Student projects have screened in international film festivals and in local screenings at schools, libraries, and community events. My curriculum is based on the core concepts of Media Literacy Education and the theory of Design Thinking where media is used as a solution to real-world issues in communities.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
My latest work is through my course, Interactive Community Video. This semester, students in my class are learning how to teach media literacy skills and are applying them in an elementary classroom setting. We have teamed up with a group of local fifth grade teachers and are working with their students to produce short documentaries. Through this process, my students are teaching ten and eleven year olds the core concepts of media literacy, how to access, analyze, evaluate, and then create their own work. Students are learning that they don’t just have to consume media, but that they also have the power to create their own media, and to create their own narratives in the process.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is important to me because it has the ability to empower and transform those who get it and understand it. Teaching a fifth grader that they can produce and tell their own stories is empowering. I love seeing the spark in a student when you know that you have exposed them to a whole new world. There is power in Media Literacy. I’ve seen ways that it can transform lives and communities. The process of learning about media, producing media, and then sharing that media with communities can be liberating. I’ve seen it in my own work, in my students, and in the communities that we have worked with. There is power in being able to tell your own story. Media Literacy arms individuals with the knowledge and techniques to tell those stories.
What are you most excited about in the field of media literacy?
I am most excited about the constant change and growth in this field. As technology changes in the production and distribution of media, so does this field. We can tell stories now on multiple platforms, to audiences across oceans, and through technology that is rapidly changing with access to interactive modes such as augmented reality and virtual reality. I love the innovation and creativity that I see coming from these advances in technologies. It’s an exciting time where access to various modes of production makes this field more equitable. There are more players in this field, more that look like me. It’s pretty cool.
Why did you become a NAMLE member? What benefits do you see to membership? And how will it support your work?
I’ve been fan of NAMLE since I was in grad school working on my MFA at Temple University. I used the website and resources to help shape my research as an early educator in media literacy. It has been a huge support. The conferences are a great way to meet and mingle with others in the field doing amazing work. I learned so much. Often, I am the lone wolf doing this work in my communities. It’s great to be able to meet and learn from people from all over the world doing similar work.