April 2020: M-Passioned Member Cynthia Williams Resor

What do you do?

I teach social studies/history classes for undergraduate and graduate students. My students are pre-service and in-service teachers. I also do professional development for teachers and I’m the author of a series of three books about social history daily/life themes such as food, housing, family, vacation/travel, etiquette, quacks, utopias, and cemeteries. And I’m the “webmaster” of my website.

Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.

My recently published book, Discovering Quacks, Utopias, and Cemeteries: Modern Lessons from Historical Themes, explores two enduring issues — our age-old pursuit of better lives and how the media impacts our choices. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to this book:

“Human hopes and dreams are the first underlying theme of this book. However, hopes and dreams make us vulnerable. Optimism can blind us. In our pursuit, we are influenced, misinformed, tricked, fooled, or manipulated. Quacks see this weakness and profit by selling fake cures to the sick or dying…. How do we know if the things being endorsed, promoted, advocated or sold are legitimate? Choosing can be challenging; answers are rarely certain, simple, or easy. How do we decide? Developing critical thinking skills to assess the claims of others, or media literacy, is the second underlying theme of this book. Media literacy, the ability to analyze the content and understand the purpose of media, is the modern label for age-old skills of critical analysis…. In the following chapters, the histories of quacks, utopias, and cemeteries are examined with these two themes in mind – developing critical analysis skills to make the best decisions in our search for better lives.”

Why is media literacy important to you?

Too many modern people continue to fall for scams, fake news, quacks, charlatans, and snake oil salesmen when it is so easy to find better answers in the modern information age. I believe if media literacy skills were addressed consistently across the curriculum in K-12 schools, we could decrease the negative influence of misinformation.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?

The excellent media literacy resources for educators! Media literacy is a key topic in all my classes (graduate and undergraduate) for future history/social studies elementary, middle grades and high school teachers. My students learn about media literacy, how to teach these skills to their future students, and about useful resources. Media literacy is especially relevant in social studies through the analysis of current events and the impact of media on historical events. Furthermore, the analysis of historical primary sources requires the same critical thinking skills as modern media analysis. In my classes, we make past/present comparisons when discussing types of media, how it was consumed, and its impact people and events.

Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?

I joined NAMLE to learn more about resources and opportunities for my own professional development, writing, and teaching, and for my students (future and current teachers). I’m especially happy that NAMLE membership free, which makes it more accessible to my students (pre-service and in-service teachers). I recommend NAMLE on my website, and I’ve promoted Media Literacy Week in blogs I’ve authored. I appreciate the regular email newsletter. And I LOVE the recently featured Coronavirus Misinformation Resources. I address historical quackery in my recent book and the coronavirus pandemic is certainly fertile ground for modern quacks.

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