Member Spotlight: Benjamin Thurn

What do you do?
I work internationally as a media specialist. I helped develop the media curriculum for American Councils’ youth leadership camps in India and Afghanistan. In joint partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and New Delhi, my colleagues and I organize camps, workshops, and teacher trainings that focus on 21st century media skills and how to implement them into the classroom. Here is a video my colleague David Malana made that summarizes the camp experience:

I received my Master’s degree in English as a Second Language from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN and wrote my thesis on teaching EFL students visual literacy using film. Prior to that, I created Splendid Beast, a pet oil-painting company that Buzzfeed called “insanely clever”. I’ve taught internationally in India, Turkey, and South Korea and also teach Intercultural Communication between U.S. and Japanese exchange students at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN.

Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
Our latest project was an intensive, week-long media camp with teachers from 7 different regions of India. Teachers participated in media literacy classes, during which they learned about the Key Concepts of media literacy as well as how to apply these concepts to what they consume and produce. Teachers also learned the fundamentals of photography, videography, recorded original songs, and investigated how to bring these skills back to their home classes. Here is a Media Literacy rap we made exploring the 5 Key Concepts:

Why is media literacy important to you?
Fresh out of University as an English teacher in South Korea, my instruction always circled back to media. Using media in the classroom was consistently the most effective way for me to engage my students. However, I never felt 100% comfortable using media because I didn’t know how to use it in academically sound way. Once my research lead me towards media literacy, there was no going back. It was the skeleton key that unlocked the doors to everything I had always wanted to use in my classroom. Media has always been an important part of my life and something that I’m fiercely passionate about. It felt like a disservice not to bring that passion into my classroom, and media literacy allows for that to happen.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
As an international instructor, I’m excited to see how media literacy grows within the international teaching community. Working with teachers from India and Afghanistan, I’ve seen them take the foundational principles and develop materials that are culturally and socially relevant to their specific schools and students. Watching their excitement at finally having pedagogically sound ways of teaching this material, and then developing it from their own perspectives, is immensely exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing how media literacy takes root in different parts of the world and moves from theoretical knowledge to practical application.

Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I became a NAMLE member because I appreciate the mission and the vision. Having access to the NAMLE community and the contributions made by its members over the past few decades has made my job as a media specialist not only easier but more accepted by peers and colleagues. I’ve always believed that media education is an essential life skill and it’s nice to be part of a community that  champions this exciting field.

The views and opinions expressed in the M-Passioned Member blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the M-Passioned Member blog is to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.