By Catherine Burgess
This month, NAMLE interviewed Dr. James Damico (Indiana University), Dr. Mark Baildon (National Institute of Education, Singapore), and Dr. Alexandra Panos (University of Nebraska at Omaha) whose recent paper was published in the JMLE special issue, “Media Literacy, Fake News & Democracy.” Their paper, “Media Literacy and Climate Change in a Post-Truth Society,” is available here in JMLE 10.2.
NAMLE: How did you decide to partner together for this research?
The three of us have been working together in different ways for quite some time. James and Mark have collaborated for 15+ years on a range of projects, including co-authoring a book, as well as a number of journal articles and book chapters examining the intersection of literacy education and social studies education with climate change as one focus. James and Alexandra launched the “climate change critical literacy” project in 2014. This line of inquiry has focused on the ways future teachers with different academic specializations (history, science, art, English) and with different belief orientations to climate change (alarmed to dismissive) evaluate the reliability of websites about climate change.
NAMLE: How did the idea for this research come about?
Across our larger climate change critical literacy project, we have approached understanding how pre-service teachers evaluate online sources in different ways. For example, we first wanted to understand their critical reading practices such as textual critique and reader reflexivity. As we continued to collect data and conduct analyses, we found the connections between reliability, civic media literacy, and the stories people tell about how they make sense of texts increasingly important. This paper was borne out of that interest: we wanted to explore and understand how the stories pre-service teachers tell about reliability might reveal more about how media literacy about climate change works.
NAMLE: What do you hope to do with this research in the future?
We find the notion of “reliability stories” particularly compelling as we design additional studies to better understand the stories about reliability that inform the ways people evaluate websites about climate change. One particular area of future research for us is to more closely examine the role of emotions and affect in this process.
NAMLE: How do you hope the research will contribute to media literacy education?
We believe that climate change is a central issue of our time and one that has particular implications in a media rich society. We come at this from the idea that as people read and make sense of media they continue to create stories about what counts as reliable. These stories of reliability are the stories of how ideas are positioned as truthful, or not, and have concrete impacts on civic engagement that will shape the future of the planet. Thus, we hope that this paper might offer ways to consider media literacy in terms of unpacking and grappling with the stories of reliability that might damage or benefit civic engagement towards a sustainable future.
NAMLE: Why is media literacy research important to you?
Increasingly, the ways we understand the world are mediated or understood through our interactions with digital texts in or through the media. So, we think it’s essential to continue striving to better understand the ways we read and make sense of digital media sources. As university level educators charged with helping prepare future teachers, this need is especially important to us. We want to do what we can to help children, youth, and adults become smarter and more savvy media consumers.