My Media Literacy Australian Adventure

I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Australia at the end of August as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Program (IIP) Speaker Program.  The nationwide tour on media literacy was supported by the United States Embassy in Australia and took me to Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Canberra, and Melbourne.

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The goal of this IIP program was to create a public dialogue on the need for enhanced media literacy to cope with today’s media environment. Prior to the trip, I submitted four potential talks for host sites to choose from. They were:

  1. MEDIA LITERACY IN THE U.S.: WHAT, WHERE, HOW and WHY

Description: The National Association for Media Literacy Education’s (NAMLE) vision is to see media literacy be highly valued and widely practiced as an essential life skill for the 21st Century. This presentation will give attendees an overview of media literacy education, the state of media literacy practice in the U.S. and the role of NAMLE.

  1. MEDIA, TECHNOLOGY and KIDS

Description: Children ages 8 to 18 spend more time with media than they do at school or with their parents. Learn more about this brave new world in this presentation. Discussion will include the many ways — both positive and negative — in which media is impacting children’s lives. Topics addressed include social media, digital citizenship, and media literacy. Tips will be given on how to navigate parenting in this digital age.

  1. A PERSONAL JOURNEY TO MEDIA LITERACY

Description: On December 21, 1988, Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie Scotland with 259 people on board. Michelle Ciulla Lipkin’s father was a passenger on the flight. 30 years later, Michelle is using her tragedy to help advocate for media literacy education.  This conversation will include the way media impacted Michelle’s process of dealing with her father’s death, how she chose to tell her family’s story, and what it’s like to be the subject of a news story that has spanned three decades.

  1. MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION WORKSHOPS

Description: Hands-on, interactive, and multimedia media literacy education workshops can be tailored to the specific audience. Topics include: Media Literacy Basics, Credibility & Fake News, Bias/Agenda, Advertising, Representation- race & ethnicity, Representation- gender, Media ownership/Authorship

Over the course of my trip, I conducted all four of these options several times,  speaking with high school and university students, educators, Australian media companies, government officials and the public.  No matter what specific presentation I conducted, the most consistent message I shared was the urgent need for media literacy education across the globe.

My travels took me to the following sites:

Brisbane

Calamvale State College

Bulimba State School

Queensland Department of Education

Indooroopilly State High School

Sydney

University of Technology Sydney

Western Sydney University

Plumpton High School

NYU Sydney Campus

NSW Education Standards Authority

Meriden High School

Perth

Consulate General’s Residence

Edith Cowan University

Harvard Club Gathering

Perth Modern School

The Western Australian Primary Principals’ Association

Canberra

Lake Tuggeranong College

University of Canberra

National Library of Australia

Melbourne

RMIT University Media

LaTrobe University

Australian Teachers of Media

Australian Broadcasting Company

University of Melbourne

And, I also had the time to see kangaroos!

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The trip was an extraordinary opportunity to dive into the conversation about media literacy education with Australians from various backgrounds, in diverse settings, and with multiple perspectives. I was taken by the similarities between the state of media literacy education in Australia and the U.S. Similar to the U.S., media literacy education depends on passionate individuals and organizations to move the needle forward in Australia. While there is deep interest in expanding media literacy education, it is not yet a national priority in Australia, just like the U.S. Both countries have extraordinary work being done in classrooms but it’s not widespread to make impact for all students. There are similar challenges with finding space in the curriculum and lack of funding. Just like in the U.S., Australian educators want to do more media literacy but many do not have the training, the time or the resources to do it.

This observation led me to some overall takeaways from the trip.

1) Media literacy education is a global issue that needs global collaboration. Because information and communication are now spread globally, we can not simply think about our country’s media landscape as we develop resources and curriculum. Every individual has the ability to access information from all over the world.  We need media literacy education to respond to the challenges of the global information landscape.  There is incredible work being done to encourage international collaboration. I am inspired by the work of UNESCO’s MILID Network, the GAPMIL alliance, the Media Education Lab, Belinha De Abreu and Vitor Tome’s work on the International Media Literacy Research Symposium, and of course, our Journal for Media Literacy Education.

2) Australia has a really strong media arts focus which brings media literacy into the curriculum.  Australia’s media arts model is a really interesting one that parallels some of the work being done in the U.S. with a coaltion of organizations working to expand the adoption of the National Media Arts Standards. Sherri Hope Culver recently represented NAMLE at a gathering organized by Americans for the Arts and the National Coaltion for Core Arts Standards  in Washington, D.C. to discuss how organizations dedicated to media arts and media literacy can work together. There could be an opportunity here to find ways of integrating media literacy into more classrooms around the country by working with the media arts community.

3) The NAMLE community is both unique and powerful. Many of the groups I spoke to were incredibly impressed with the network of media literacy educators we have in the U.S. and how different stakeholders come together regulary. They were inspired by the bridges we have built between higher ed and PK-12 space as well as our work with non-profit organizations and communites. I am incredibly proud of the work NAMLE has done in building this network of different stakeholders with a shared passion for media literacy education.

4) This is just the beginning of our work with Australia. This trip was just the start of what I hope is a growing relationship between the U.S. and Australia’s media literacy communities. The Australian Broadcasting Company* launched Australia’s 1st Media Literacy Week inspired by our efforts. We are already discussing with Australia and Canada next year’s Media Literacy Week and how we can collaborate. We are also in discussion to work with the editors of Screen Education to contribute U.S. content and distribute this amazing resource to teachers in the U.S. Lots more to come!

It was truly an honor to be selected by the U.S. Department of State to speak about Media Literacy throughout Australia. I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to developing our relationships down under.


*During my visit with the Australian Broadcasting Company, I was interviewed by Anabel Astbury, Head of Education. See the videos of my interview here

Here’s some pics of random things around Australia  that made me say “wow, I need a pic of that.” Enjoy!

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