Session 1 – Inspiration from a Unique Life: Remembering Elizabeth Thoman and Learning from Her Legacy – Alumni Hall

Moderator – Renée Cherow-O’Leary

Renee Hobbs, Sherri Hope CulverCindy Scheibe, Michael RobbGrieco and Tessa Jolls

In December, 2016, media literacy lost one of its pioneers. Elizabeth Thoman was an original thinker who saw early the power of media and understood the urgency of exploring the transformed media environment with care and concern. Her prescience led her to action and her orientation was a moral one. Liz chose to enter The Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1964, professing her vows as a sister of the order in 1966. She earned a Master’s degree from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, began her career teaching English and decided her ministry was communication education. She founded and led The National Sisters Communications Service in Los Angeles to help communicate the changing roles of women in a variety of ministries from 1975-1983. In that capacity, she met Norman Lear, the producer who created “All in the Family,” who helped to support Liz’s next venture as the founder of Media & Values Magazine. Her magazine was published for 16 years and was the voice of media literacy as it evolved and developed through her efforts and those of others who were attracted to this formative educational and social movement. Liz organized conferences, spoke before Congress, and founded the Partnership for Media Education which formed the basis for media literacy organizations today including the National Association for Media Literacy Education and the Center for Media Literacy. This panel honoring Liz’ work is comprised of people that knew Liz personally and who worked with her throughout her vibrant career. The focus of the gathering will be to celebrate Liz’s life through storytelling by each of the participants, to observe Liz’s prowess as a very persuasive public speaker through video excerpts, to deconstruct some of the issues covered in Media&Values that are as current today as they were when she published them, and to discuss with the audience what we can learn from Liz’s life and passion for media education so that we can apply her wisdom to the challenging new media landscapes we must now navigate. On Sunday, February 12, The Center for Media Literacy will hold a memorial gathering to honor Elizabeth Thoman at St. Augustine Parish Hall in Culver City, CA.


Session 2 – Fake News & Media Literacy – Sprague Room

What Do We Mean by Fake, and What Do We Mean by News?

Katherine Fry – Brooklyn College of the City University of New York

Since the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, people have been concerned about the circulation of fake news, especially online. The idea is that dangerous untruths, dressed up as news from unfamiliar or sketchy sources, are circulating online, making it difficult for people to know what to believe about politics, terror, immigration, you name it. The result seems to be a shaken core of our understanding about the role of reliable journalism within an informed electorate. What are we to do? Which sources can we trust so that we can know what to believe and how to act? Perhaps the first thing to do is to break apart and examine the two important linked concepts in this whole discussion: Fake and News.
In this paper/presentation, a work in progress, I am building on my work to date studying changes in news and in the relationship of audiences to news and information. Using a media literacy framework, I veer from the current conversation about fake news to look at the way news and information are produced, by whom, and through which media. Breaking them apart in this way brings more attention to how we come to define and understand news and information, and how that has changed. I demonstrate that specific media forms – newspapers, television, the internet and especially social media – need closer scrutiny and better understanding as unique technologies and information environments. Media forms themselves play a significant role in the way we encounter, understand, and participate in news and information.
The aims of this presentation are to encourage a re-examination of news, and to broaden the discussion about truth/untruth and reliability in a web 2.0 world. The final goal is to offer practical questions for students and teachers to ask about news and information online, and to offer guidance in navigating a changing media environment.

Now More Than Ever: Critical Media Literacy, Current Events, and Classroom Applications

Allison Butler – University of Massachusetts Amherst

In 2016, the Stanford History Education Group released findings from a study of nearly 8000 middle-school through college students on their understandings and sense making of digital media. The researchers were especially curious to see if young people could distinguish between advertisements and news, recognize ownership and motivation, and understand multiple perspectives on an issue. Their results, released soon after the contentious 2016 presidential election, revealed that the majority of young people do not have the skills to critically assess their media – which, while disheartening on its own, is even more troubling coming on the heels of an election marked most strongly by a “post-truth” mentality. Youth are often praised for their digital prowess, but this study revealed that their skills stop short of analysis. In what will certainly be a controversial presidential term, coupled with rapid-fire media output, how can young people, their teachers, families, and communities, be best prepared to handle the inevitable onslaught of complicated information?

This teaching workshop draws from both the election and the Stanford findings to share ways to bring critical media literacy into classrooms and libraries. We will share, analyze, and critique “fake news” (and what that term might actually mean), explore language and word choice, and dig into the “behind the scenes” work of media ownership, production, and distribution. The presentation will offer up fake news to dissect and discuss, while we all will explore our own biases and blind spots. Through a structured approach, drawing on key concepts, this presentation will invite the audience members to engage directly with the work of media literacy in order to bring practical application to classroom work, conversation, and our own understanding of media messages.

Navigating News

Melissa Zimdars – Merrimack College

Although “fake news” has been around for as long as what we know as journalism, it’s potential role in the recent election has prompted a significant amount of public attention as well as numerous attempts to “solve” the problem. Facebook implemented a “fake news” reporting button, others– like myself– worked to label and differentiate between kinds of disinformation and misinformation. Programmers created blocking, filtering, and categorizing technologies, and librarians circulated media literacy resources specifically for identifying fake news. While I believe many of these are useful tools in thinking about and managing our increasingly complex and cluttered media landscape, I worry they will not have the kind of impact many of us hope.  

How do we push back against an information environment where disagreeing with information must mean it’s fake?  How do we navigate the notion of “post-truth,” where all information is on an equal playing field and personal experiences are trusted as much as expert analysis? How do we make sense of individuals who circulate fake information despite knowing it to be untrue?

We teach our students to be critical of information sources, even respected news outlets. How do we balance being critical while upholding them as reputable sources when the political figures like Donald Trump label them fake news, misinformation networks actively work to delegitimize them, and amid high profile mistakes, such as the The Washington Post‘s questionable reporting on PropOrNot or erroneous claims that CNN accidentally aired pornography.
Finally, what role will media literacy have in addressing our general culture of skepticism, distrust, and claims that everything is fake? fakery?


Session 3 – Identity, Biases, and Multiculturalism – Carleton Room

Media literacy education as a strategy of dealing with students’ implicit biases in post-election America

Elizaveta Friesem – Media Education Lab

In the wake of 2016 presidential election, different explanations for its outcome have been proposed. One of the possible explanations is that, rather than revealing the US population’s explicit prejudice, the election outcome might signal the prevalence of implicit biases. These include both conservatives’ biases about race and gender, and liberals’ biases about class. Research shows that media literacy education often focuses more on combating explicit than implicit biases. At the same time, scholarship on implicit attitudes (e.g., Harvard’s Implicit Association Test) reveals that most people hold implicit biases; these biases are constantly reinforced through communication, including its mediated forms; and it is because of these biases that discrimination exists in societies that condemn explicit forms of prejudice (e.g., the United States). The purpose of the session is to engage participants in a discussion about the importance of exploring how media literacy education can be used to deal with implicit biases through classroom instruction. The session will include: a) presenting a theoretical framework that explains why addressing implicit biases is crucial in the modern America (theories of implicit attitudes, concept of hegemony and half-changed minds); b) discussing why media literacy educators currently focus more on explicit biases (principles of critical pedagogy, protectionism vs. empowerment); c) outlining potential strategies of addressing implicit biases in the media literacy classroom (e.g. Implicit Association Test, AACRA model, educational dialogue).

Critical Media Literacies: Identity Construction in Social, Digital, and Virtual Spaces

Ah-Young Song – Teachers College Columbia University

Critical media literacies can help nurture students’ creative agencies and engender positive, sustained change in local communities. Kellner and Share (2005) have noted that students do need to develop faculties with digital technologies but that they must also participate in critical readings of cultural artifacts and discriminate between various multimedia sources. It is important for youth to conceptualize language as perpetuating different kinds of ideologies, for viewpoints are “connected to negotiable, changeable, and sometimes contested stories, histories, knowledge, beliefs, and values encapsulated into cultural models (theories) about the world” (Gee, 2008, p. 29). Semiotic meanings are in constant flux due to individual interests, community dynamics, and sociohistorical contexts, and students need to develop critical stances to better distinguish between authentic narratives, purported truths, and the in-between gray areas of discursive communications.

The proliferation of digital and mobile applications expand academic and political boundaries, for within a critical media literacies framework, reading is a collective transaction, learning is a generative act, and political engagement is an accessible and possible achievement. This paper thereby provides an overview of several significant studies that have interrogated the possibilities of critical media pedagogies in youth spaces. The following sections chart ways in which students can engage with critical media literacies — namely by 1) affording the production of meaningful and authentic autoethnographies in social environments, 2) facilitating hospitable connections with near and distant others in digital spaces, and 3) encouraging imaginative self-constructions of identities within virtual communities.

The Important and Complex Role of the Media in the American Transgender Revolution and How to Utilize Media to Enhance Understanding of and Create Allies for Those Who Are Transgender

Elizabeth Rowell – Rhode Island College

The two major purposes of this session are to share the important, changing, and often unrecognized role that different media forms have played in the American Transgender Revolution and to help participants realize how they can enhance their own and other’s understanding of people who are transgender through critically thinking about and thoughtful use of the media. Media literacy skills will be the focus including how to access pertinent transgender related media, deconstruct, analyze, and evaluate it in regard to the messages sent about being transgender. How to recognize bias, misinformation, or insufficient information will also be considered. The sometimes complex transgender media messages from newspapers, magazines, different types of television programs, documentaries, feature length films, video clips, books and online publications from diverse groups will be considered along with how individuals create their own media that can be utilized to promote understanding. Limitations of some of the current transgender media sources will also be discussed. Media Insights gained while teaching an upper level undergraduate General Education course, Multicultural Views of Same Sex Orientation and Transsexuality, will be shared as well as possible future changes in similar courses like this due to the current political climate.


Session 4 – Media Literacy & Civic Engagement – Philbrick Room

Media Literacy Education Policy

Erin McNeill – Media Literacy Now

Media literacy education policy is at a critical juncture and we expect strong progress this year in the wake of the fake news phenomenon. We will discuss the policy and legislative work that Media Literacy Now is leading at the state level throughout the country. The presentation will focus on current strategy including reviewing the model bill and how it was developed from the recently passed Washington bill. We will discuss how and why advocacy efforts in Utah and Washington were successful, and other current efforts in Connecticut and other New England states. You will learn how you can become involved in the effort in your state.

Students as Civic Agents: Applying Civic Education through Media Literacy and Experiential Learning

Cindy Vincent – Salem State University

This presentation will discuss the Salem Civic Media Project, a work-in-progress research project that examines how the convergence of media literacy, civic education and experiential learning can help higher education students apply their media literacy education in a real world context that builds their understanding of themselves as engaged community members. This study applies the participatory media model (Vincent, 2014) as a pedagogical tool within the context of the media literacy classroom to understand how civic media production and experiential learning build a sense of civic agency within higher education students as facilitators of voice, dialogue and critical consciousness (via media literacy). Data collection includes interviews, class assignments and observation of class sessions held in the spring 2016 and fall 2016 semesters. This case study consists of a partnership between Salem State University (SSU) and the Salem Public School (SPS) District, where SSU students enrolled in Media Literacy are partnered with students across the SPS district to co-design and create multimodal narratives that celebrate diversity in the community. SSU and SPS students meet eight times over the course of the semester to co-design, create, co-edit, and present their media project in a project showcase. Currently, parents across the Salem community are self-segregating student enrollment across the district based on their perceptions of mixed-income and ethnically diverse public schools in the Salem Public School District. As such, the Salem Public School District has expressed a need for the creation of civic media that showcases the inclusion and diversity of student voices at each school across the district. The digital narratives will serve as a vehicle for larger community discussions on issues of racial and economic segregation across the city, with the potential for partnering with the City of Salem to hold town forums to address discriminatory beliefs and attitudes.

Re-Framing Narratives: Teaching Media Literacy for Social Justice

Mary Ellen Iatropoulos – Spark Media Project

In this workshop, attendees learn to apply the Open Minds To Equality (Schniedewind and Davidson, 2011) four-step framework for teaching social justice to media education contexts. Teaching media literacy/production through OMTE can and has offered creative ways for students to challenge individual and institutional discrimination. The four-step process for teaching social justice put forth in OMTE (inclusivity, empathy, critical analysis, envision/action) has enabled educators to foster transformative learning experiences for students of all ages since its first publication in 1997, and when coupled with media education, empowers students to talk back to mainstream media messages while collaboratively producing subversive media counter-narratives.

The presenter will briefly overview two examples from her own experience teaching media literacy and production through the Open Minds To Equality framework, focusing on the logistics of implementation and outlining how media educators can seamlessly fold the OMTE four-step framework into media literacy/production projects across a variety of age and skill levels. The highly-replicable OMTE four-step process, when coupled with media literacy/production activity units, empowers learners to recognize institutional “isms” in dominant media narratives, then to collaborative to collaboratively produce subversive counter narratives.

The presenter will then lead a “lightning round” hands-on media literacy/production experiential learning activity to give attendees first hand experience of the application of the Open Minds To Equality process, which will provide a “wet your whistle”-style experience where attendees will learn to identify dominant media narratives and begin pre-production for producing creative, subversive counter-messages. Attendees will receive a curricular packet containing information on OMTE, sample lesson plans for each part of the four-step process, best practices for implementation, and a list of further reading and resources to support the easy, convenient integration of OMTE and teaching for social justice into any media education course, program, or workshop.

Session 5 -Internet & Media Literacy – Camp Room

Teaching with/about the Internet in the inquiry-based classroom

Michelle Ciccone – Christa McAuliffe Charter School

During this presentation, I will share a curriculum I have developed that gets students thinking about the impact of the Internet on what we see, what we know, and what we are able to imagine. As a result of this curriculum, students in my 8th grade classes have been inspired to think critically about the infrastructure of the Internet (both physical and abstract) and the biases inherent in that infrastructure. Topics covered in the curriculum include how we connect (the physical pieces of the Internet, inequality in access, speed and quality of Internet connection around the world, net neutrality) and what happens once we are connected (data collection, the filter bubble, the Internet of Things, hackers). Throughout the curriculum students are examining different types of media – from infographics to TED Talks to investigative journalism to government and business press releases to social media posts – and ultimately creating their own media to inform others about what they have learned during an independent research project. Students are continually asked to challenge their assumptions and dig deeper into topics and media representations they’ve never been asked to think much about. This presentation will provide specific lessons and activities, as well as a general framework from which to approach classroom conversation around these controversial topics. Lesson and activity ideas include use of digital tools such as Today’s Meet, VideoAnt, and EdPuzzle, which encourage and enable the inquiry-based learning on which this curriculum is built.

Living Online – Teaching Internet Literacy

Reuben Loewy – Living Online Lab

In our digital era, media literacy without Internet literacy is virtually unthinkable. It could be argued that to construct and decode digital messages on any platform today, at the minimum an understanding of the workings of the Internet is essential. However, my experience from teaching Journalism and Media Studies in high schools for the past four years has shown that students are not at all savvy when it comes to the greatest communications tool that humans have ever developed.

Shockingly, Internet literacy is not part of schools’ curricula anywhere in the world, as I discovered when I sought to add classes about the online world to the courses I was teaching. There was no suitable educational material what so ever, beyond what are now broadly referred to as “digital citizenship” lesson plans. This resulted in an Internet Studies curriculum, and the establishment in 2015 of a Living Online Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to developing and teaching Internet Studies in schools worldwide. The Living Online curriculum currently consists of 30+ modules, of which eight form a Digital and Media Literacy unit that includes lessons on topics such as Know and Information, Wikipedia, Reading and Writing in the Digital Era, Remix, and Search and Research. The Living Online curriculum has so far been adopted by a number of schools in the US and Canada, where students and teachers involved in the Living Online program are providing valuable feedback.

This presentation will set out the rationale behind Living Online Lab, and include a discussion of how Digital and Media Literacy fits in the overall Internet Literacy curriculum, as well as lessons learnt from teaching the Living Online curriculum as a stand-alone course this school year.

Social Media: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Marcus Stallworth, Anthony Gay, Carlton White, Donte Rabb, and Qur-an Webb – Welcome 2 Reality

Welcome 2 Reality, LLC has examined and researched the impact that social media and media literacy has on children and families and how media has misguided how individuals internalize media; as being real and plausible.

Welcome 2 Reality is committed to raising awareness on media literacy by educating and empowering individuals with the hope they see these mediums for what they truly are.  Research has shown us that much of the media via: reality TV, movies, and especially music has programed and guided some down a path of being consciously unconscious. Many youths act in a way in which adults can’t understand and connect with, and are often label as out of control or disrespectful. We must step back and look at life through the lens of today’s youth and see how the bombardment of programming and social media impacts how they internalize and externalize what has become their reality.

Welcome 2 Reality examines cyber space and the auditory and visual messages that are being sent in these cyber/social environments.  Welcome 2 Reality has yielded outstanding results educating churches and school systems about the pros and cons of social media through trainings, listening forums, workshops and mentoring.  Our curriculum is designed to raise the consciousness and knowledge base of those who are unaware of the potential dangers when one is consumed with social media and mobile devices.