Member Spotlight: Vitor Tomé

What do you do?
I have been a professional journalist in Portugal since 1993.  At the same time, I have been training teachers and journalists in digital and media literacy. In my capacity as a researcher, I currently lecture at Autonoma University of Lisbon (Journalism and Media Literacy). Several of my research projects include, “Digital Citizenship Education” (Council of Europe – Expert Group), the COST Action “The Digital Literacy and Multimodal Practices of Young Children – Digilitey” (leaded by Sheffield University – researcher), and “Digital Citizenship Education for Democratic Participation in Odivelas” (Science and Technology Portuguese Foundation and Algarve University – coordinator).

Regarding my academic competencies, I hold a post-doctorate in Communications which was completed this year from the University of Algarve, a PhD in Education from the University of Lisbon completed in 2008.

Teaching is a task that really honors me, and I’m strongly committed to the work of media literacy education, and within my research projects involving children and young people (aged from 0 to 16), their teachers, parents and the community. Finally, I’m currently involved in a new project, led by the Portuguese Journalists Union. This program started in December 2017 with a media literacy training course that has been attended by 78 journalists who will then take their learning and train secondary school teachers nationwide.

Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
My last project, called “Digital Citizenship Education for Democratic Participation in Odivelas” (2015-2018), Lisbon region, Portugal, centered on empowering children (aged 3 to 9) in three related contexts (family, school and community), in order to empower them as active and effective citizens in the digital age. Funded by the Science and Technology Portuguese Foundation, it started with training 25 Preschool and Primary school teachers that organized a set of pedagogical activities they conducted in classrooms involving their pupils.

Data were collected from teachers, 38 of their pupils, and their parents. Then, an intervention plan was set up that started in September 2016, involving 10 teachers, approximately 200 students and their parents, as well as the local government, Health Services, Social Services, and other entities from the local community. All of them participated in several activities focused on Media Literacy and on Digital Citizenship (e.g.: a school newspaper; tackling school violence, discussing digital citizenship, STEM + citizenship activity, TV week…). The project officially ended last February, but the community wants to keep it ongoing, and we are open to collaborate. All the collected data are now being analyzed, and the final results will be presented next June.

Why is media literacy important to you?
Media Literacy is crucial to me, not only regarding my academic tasks, but also as a journalist. There’s no doubt that I considerably improved my journalistic competencies since I started working in this area fifteen years ago. Journalists can play an important role in the Media Literacy field, not only in their daily work, but also working closely with teachers and students at school, as it is already happening in France (“Semaine de La Presse et des Médias dans l’école”) and how it is going to happen in Portugal and in Finland, countries where specific projects are being developed nationwide with the support of journalism organizations and the Ministry of Education. Beyond journalism, Media Literacy is the focus of my academic work, because it allows me to work with teachers and students within their schools, and to contribute to improve the way of teaching and learning.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I’m working in the area at several levels. On an international level, namely as a researcher for the Council of Europe, (representing 47 countries), that aim to develop public policies. More importantly, my work in the field of education which allows me direct contact with children and young people, their teachers, parents and other people and entities from the local community. I like both works, but working in the field is more rewarding. For instance, I’m currently working with three Preschool teachers and their pupils (aged from 3 to 5) in a project that aims to merge STEM and digital citizenship. On the first term of the Academic year 2017/2018 children were asked to draw the school of their dreams. Now they are building a scale model of the school they drew, counting with the support of a civil engineer from the local community. Children are really absorbed by this project and are developing core concepts in several areas, such as: architecture, civil engineering, electricity, and media. Having the opportunity do to this kind of work is fantastic!

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 in 2009 while attending the conference held in Detroit, MI. It was a great opportunity for me because I had the privilege to meet several researchers that I had admired, namely the fabulous Barry Duncan, who we all miss. That conference was also a great chance for me to learn about a number of interesting projects, and to share my own research, as well as network. Due to this experience, I have continued to attend NAMLE conferences, namely in Philadelphia (2011) and Chicago (2017).

Thanks to the NAMLE website, I’m always aware of the most important conferences, books, scientific papers, and job opportunities, which is a great help in my daily work. Last but not least, I’m currently working with NAMLE member, Belinha de Abreu, who is the external evaluator, presenter, and co-collaborator of the project I’ve just finished in the Lisbon region. In summary, NAMLE is an irreplaceable association providing the support I need for my daily academic work. Lastly, through NAMLE, I have been fortunate to meet a lot of great American friends that I’m proud to know.

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.