SWAMP also conducts a variety of introductory workshops, presentations and in service programs to students, educators, artists, and business professionals. Such activities have taken place not only across Texas but also in Washington,DC, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
Another program is the Video Arts Production Residency. Here student have the opportunity to learn the basics of video production with a professional media artist while developing media literacy skills and aesthetic sensibilities. Deborah took me to visit such a program taking place at the Houston School for the Performing and Visual Arts. This is an ambitious and impressive program.
In June of 1994, Deborah will run three one week Media Literacy Institutes for educators, artists, administrators, and other interested groups. These institutes to be held in Dallas, Lubbock, and Houston are a lead in and build up for a July state wide conference Independent Images Conference to be held in Houston. Up to 140 participants will meet at Rice University for a five day conference which will involve national and international media literacy specialists. It is hoped that a united constituency will develop from these meetings which will advocate for state legislation of media literacy.
3: Citizens for Media Literacy
Citizens for Media Literacy, Asheville, NC and Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. Although I was not able to visit these two groups, I want at the very least to note their important contributions to USA media literacy.
In 1991, former UNC Asheville journalist Wally Bowen founded Citizens for Media Literacy, a grass roots teaching and advocacy project. I t is funded by a grant from Public Interest North Car
olina, Inc., a project-oriented, non-profit corporation. Citizens for Media Literacy serves as a clearinghouse of information and curriculum materials as well as offering workshops and symposia on media literacy topics for teachers and parents. It is affiliated with the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1993, Citizens for Media Literacy published Get a Life!, a comic book which follows the a teenager as he receives a behind-the-scenes tour of television. Although the comic critiques television in general, its service that targets teen agers and is now beamed into about 12,000 USA schools daily.
Appalachian State University has one of the very few educational faculties in the USA which offers courses in media literacy. This is primarily the work of David Considine, Professor of Media Studies and Instructional Technology. As well as teaching such courses, Considine and his wife, Gail Haley, Director of curriculum and instruction at Reich College of Eduction, wrote Visual Messages, the first of a new generation of USA media literacy texts for teachers.
V.I.E.W is a series of workshops developed by David Considine and Gail Haley for in service teacher education on media literacy. These workshops have been given across the USA. David is a board member of the National Telemedia Council, and has written and lectured extensively on media literacy across the USA at conferences and in services. He is in constant demand across the USA and is one of the major forces in USA media literacy. Although we have met at many conferences and talked on the phone, our schedules were such that it would not have been possible to meet until August.
4: Northwest Media Literacy Institute, Seattle, Washington:
As the result of a 1992 meeting of Seattle based media artists, educators and cable access activists, 911 Media Arts Center co sponsored with the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture and Seattle Central Community College, a national conference on media literacy called Teaching Media Literacy: Talk Back and Take Charge in April of 1993. Almost 200 artists, educators, parents, students, producers, and media literacy specialists from the USA, Canada and Australia met for a weekend of presentations.
Out of this conference grew the Northwest Media Literacy Institute (NMLI). This non profit organization has as its mission to advocate an interactive relationship between citizens and media. This would be done by providing training and media literacy resources to artists, educators, students, parents, community groups and the general public throughout the Northwestern USA.
Having been one of the presenters at the 1993 conference, I looked forward to visiting Robin Reidy, executive director of the 911 Media Arts Center, and Gloria DeGaetano, director of Train of Thought Consulting. NMLI has begun its work by focusing on establishing itself as a non-profit organization with a board of directors and by making the public aware of media literacy concepts.
Gloria DeGaetano teaches media literacy classes for the Division of Continuing Studies at Seattle Pacific University. She works extensively with parent groups in media literacy, publishes a newsletter, and has written Television and the Lives of Our Children: A Manual for Teachers and Parents. Gloria is one of the few USA media literacy people to work directly with parents. Her book is filled with practical information and activities that parents and teachers can use at home and in school. This is a most useful and well written addition to USA media literacy materials.
5: Strategies for Media Literacy, San Francisco, California:
A former television producer and teacher, Kathleen Tyner founded Strategies for Media Literacy in 1989. Strategies is a national non profit organization that promotes media literacy beginning in primary education. The organization develops and publishes materials, identifies resources, conducts workshops and serves as a center of support and contact for teachers of media in the USA.
Strategies is the organization's quarterly newsletter with articles, practical exercises, and resources. They have developed workshops teachers and parent groups. Working in conjunction with Deborah Leveranz at SWAMP these workshops have been presented across the USA. Strategies also provides customized referral lists of resources, of other media literacy teachers, and a speaker's bureau. Their offices contain an extensive collection of world wide media literacy materials and they are available for consulting in the area of media literacy. Unique among other media literacy groups, Strategies offers an electronic bulletin board service. This on line service provides free information on current media education news and events.
Kathleen Tyner also guest lectures at San Francisco State University, works with San Francisco high schools to help them develop media literacy beyond the production stage, and has developed an interactive video disc on advertising that is very successful. She has found time not only to co-author Media and You: An Elementary Media Literacy Curriculum but also to write a series of articles on media literacy for a variety of magazines.
During my time in the Bay area I spent a day talking with Kathleen about the current situation as we drove about to various areas of San Francisco enjoying the sun and sampling the coffee. She is determined to keep Strategies for Media Literacy functioning because teachers and others need to see that someone is there for them. Kathleen's dedication to media literacy is evident in all that she does. This is true not only in her public work but also in her conversations with other media literacy groups. She is the important link in keeping the many varied elements of USA media literacy in touch with each other. As Jean Luc Picard might say, "Make it so", Kathleen.
6: NAME/NAMAC, Oakland, California:
During the 1992 Independent Images Conference in Houston, the National Alliance for Media Education (NAME) was formed to connect and foster media literacy initiatives, to bring together leaders in media arts education and industry, and to support teaching of media in schools, media arts facilities and community centers. NAME is a working group functioning under the auspices of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC). NAME and NAMAC are affiliated with the Commission on Media of the National Council of Teachers of English.
In Los Angeles, I met with Patrick Scott, of NAME, to talk about recent developments in NAME. NAME sees media literacy as an interdisciplinary movement and so considers it important to work with three specific groups: media artists, community groups, and classroom teachers. NAME believes that each group needs the other. Each group can also make use of the Media Education Directory Project being done in conjunction with the National Telemedia Council. This database can be used to design a curriculum outline that reflects the needs of the three groups.
NAME is also collecting student videos and has one available which contains sixteen videos from nine states. Both the NAME brochure and the directory should be ready shortly. NAME also hopes that by training people from each of the three groups in the use of the database that the groups will learn of their relationship to each other.
7: Center for Media Literacy, Los Angeles:
The Center for Media and Values is undergoing a change. Established in Los Angeles in 1989, as an expansion of Media&Values magazine (first published in 1977), the Center has been a leading publisher of media literacy teaching materials for schools, churches, and community organizations. Most issues of the magazine have been repackaged as a media literacy workshop kit for use in schools and community settings. The kits deal with such topics as sexism in the media, how to watch the news, media and democracy, and media violence.
Their most ambitious kit Catholic Connections to Media Literacy was a 1992 project in collaboration with National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). During 1993 94, with a $75,000 grant from an anonymous Catholic foundation, the Center initiated a series of workshops to train teachers and leaders across the USA in the use of the kit.
Early in 1994, executive director Liz Thoman announced major changes to the Center which would now be known as The Center for Media Literacy. In Los Angeles, I met with her and some of the Center's staff to discuss these changes.
Recently the Center published two consecutive issues of Media&Values: Media and Violence, Part I: Making the Connections and Part II: Searching for Solutions. These are the last issues of the magazine as it currently exists. The cost of sustaining a quarterly publication of that quality is no longer possible for the Center. As well, according to Liz Thoman, What seems to be needed in the media literacy movement now is a national publication that does media literacy, not just talks about it. The new magazine will contain more substantive articles on current media trends, activities for parents at home, reports from teachers and leaders in the field, issue updates and action ideas for getting involved.
The Center for Media Literacy will include electronic networks and bulletin boards. The Center will move beyond classroom teachers to parents, and other community groups. As part of this action, the new catalogue will contain materials both print and audio visual developed by groups other than those of the Centre's. They will become a resource center for media literacy materials from across the USA. The Center also hopes to develop and establish a team of leaders who are able to do media literacy presentations for teachers, church groups, and parent groups. This is a big change of direction for the Center and we wish them good luck as they begin their new journey.
8: National Media Literacy Project: Pilot State: New Mexico:
In March, 1993, New Mexico launched the most extensive state-wide USA media literacy initiative. The National Media Literacy Project: Pilot State: New Mexico was developed by the Downs Media Education Center. This New Hampshire based organization is run by Hugh Downs, host of ABC's 20/20, and his daughter Deirdre, a writer, educator and television producer.
The project organizers who have the strong support of the New Mexico state department of education used the March gathering to bring together some of the top USA media educators to help plan strategies for developing media literacy in New Mexico.
By February, 1994, media literacy was well entrenched in many New Mexico schools. Teachers are eager to take part in the state-wide program and parents have also been involved in home media literacy programs. The mayor of Las Cruces declared April 8, 1994, Media Literacy day. Teachers and principals are being trained by the Downs Center in many New Mexico cities.
9: University of Utah, Department of Communication:
Karen Webster wrote me from Salt Lake City in the middle of January and we spoke by phone in April. Our conversations centred around a new media literacy initiative in Utah. Karen has began work on an MA program in Mass Media Education at the University of Utah studying with Jim Anderson, Chair of the Department of Communication and one of the founders of USA media literacy.
This spring, Karen and Jim began work on an elementary school media literacy research partnership between the University of Utah's Department of Communication, the Salt Lake City School District, and the KSL Broadcast Industry (a CBS affiliate). This is a very exciting project which will include a news documentary about the process of student learning when media and media literacy is introduced into pre existing classroom assignment.
The research questions will look at some very important questions: do students with advanced media literacy training show a greater presence and skill in decoding complex information; do students demonstrate sophistication of information in the seeking out alternative information sources and in evaluation of truth claim; and do students demonstrate the ability to make connections between justifications advanced for some action and the role media play in the form and content of that justification.
Karen also spoke of her work in New Hampshire. The teachers there have taken over the media literacy effort. Joshua Meyrowitz has agreed to serve as the academic on site person and, together with Karen and Jim Anderson, will record and evaluate the process of teachers grappling with adapting media literacy into the basic curriculum.
10: Educational Video Center, New York:
Begun in 1984, the Educational Video Center (EVC) is a non-profit organization that promotes the educational use of video in schools and youth programs throughout New York City. They also offer documentary workshops for students and summer training and curriculum materials for teachers. These lesson plans challenge students to read, write and think critically about important issues such as drug abuse, AIDS, and the environment. It is the hope of EVC that through production students and teachers will learn media analysis.
EVC is well known in the New York area for its successful work with high school students. Students attend a workshop four afternoons a week for a semester and earn school credit for their work.EVC documentaries have won over sixty awards nationally and internationally and have been broadcast across the USA.
Although EVC is concerned basically with production, Steven Goodman, founder and executive director, assured me that critical thinking skills are an important part of their workshops - especially for teachers.
Unfortunately, Steven was away in England working at a BFI Conference while I was in New York so we could not meet this time. However to make up for this missed meeting, I had my first face to face meeting with a television star. Walking down 5th Avenue, I saw Rob Morrow better know to those who watch Northern Exposure as Dr.Joel Fleischman walking in front of me. I spoke to him and told him how much I appreciated the show which is one of the most intelligent and entertaining shows on network television. He was very gracious though dressed in very unlike Joel Fleischman leathers complete with a large gold earring.
11: Signal to Noise and NYU's MAP
Steven Goodman did provide me with an introduction to two people I had not met before Cara Mertes and Norman Cowie. We spent a couple of hours talking in a SoHo cafe about their work and its connection to media literacy. Norman, currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Film and Video at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is running the Five college Summer Institute in Media Literacy and there is more background on Norman and the Institute in the section on Summer USA Media Literacy Institutes.
Cara Mertes is an independent producer, PBS Series Producer of independent film and video, curator and media consultant. She is currently executive producer of Signal to Noise TV Inside Out a three part series to be aired next year. The series is about getting the shimmering screen and understanding that television is a relationship; and one that we cannot take for granted.
The first program, Watching TV Watching Us examines the business of television and how television culture is a byproduct of the business. The second program, TV Reality? tracks down a news story from the viewpoints of producers, subjects and viewers and shows how different audiences see the same news portrait differently. The third program, TV Tomorrow showcases grass roots efforts to use media, the media literacy movement, public access and media watchdog groups.
We were joined all too briefly by Barbara Abrash, Associate Director of New York University's Center for Media, Culture and History. Barbara spoke of her work with Catherine Egan, Director of NYU's Academic Media Services, about the Media Alternatives Project. I spoke later with Catherine by phone and she sent me a copy of Mediating History the book she edited with Barbara.
The Media Alternatives Project was initiated to promote the use of independently produced multicultural video as an aid to teaching American history and cultural studies. The goal is to help students examine visual materials with a critical eye and look at film and video as an historical resource. Mediating History contains an annotated listing of more than 100 such videos as well as background essays.
I should like to thank Cara and Norman for seeing me through the complexities of using the New York subway system at night. An exhilarating experience but one that I would recommend for the faint of heart.
12: Dr. Rene Hobbs:
It was pouring rain on my arrival from New York and so I saw little of Boston the first evening. The next day, Rene Hobbs and her young son kindly invited me to joint them for a visit to The Children's Museum with its wonderful media literacy exhibit. The area was filled with young children clearly enjoying the hands on aspect of the exhibits and learning all about media as a construction. Media literacy in action!
Dr. Rene Hobbs is Associate Professor of Communication at Babson College and Lecturer on Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is the co-author of TV Eyes: A Curriculum for the Media Arts, for grades 7 through 12 which combines video production activities and critical viewing skills. Director of the Harvard Summer Institutes on Media Education and founder of the Harvard Media Education Study Group, Rene=E9 has just hosted a 30 minute video Tuning In To Media: Literacy For the Information Age for Cable in the Classroom and The Learning Channel. It is a very good examination of television news' coverage of the LA riots and how this footage was used in an episode of Doogie Howser.
Much of my time with Rene was spent in discussion of what has come to be known as The Billerica Initiative. Designed by Dr. Hobbs, this is the first district-level effort nationwide to implement comprehensive media literacy education through Grades K to 12, fully integrated within existing subject areas. It has gained the attention of the academic community, educational publishers, video manufacturers and the media.
There are four components to the Billerica Initiative:he Master's Degree in Media Literacy: This field-based Master of Education program is the first such degree program in the nation and will serve as a model for other districts. The program consists of 12 graduate credit courses in collaboration with the Merrimack Education Center and Fitchburg State College. Thirty teachers from K-12 schools in Billerica are now enroled in the program. These teachers will be the trainers for continued professional development at other regional and national sites. This is a method that has worked well in Scotland and looks to succeed here.
Assessment of Student Learning:
This is a plan for designing a comprehensive assessment methodology, with specific benchmarks of the performance expectations for students.
Outreach to the Professional Community:
This component aims to provide information to educators regionally and across the USA about the design andimplementation of the Billerica Initiative. Through print, video, and teleconferencing Dr. Hobbs will share what she has learned for others who wish to use similar methods.
Technology in the Schools:
This is a plan to bring video production technology to every school in the district, making it possible for teachers to include hands-on production exercises for students at all levels of media literacy courses.
Following a quick but fascinating tour of Boston and Harvard which reminded me of colleges in England Rene drove me to Billerica where we watched one of the sessions. I was very impressed with what I saw. The interest and keen participation of the teachers was obvious. The Billerica Initiative is working well.
As we were driving back to Boston from Billerica, Rene and I talked about the future development of USA media literacy and she expressed the following fears:
There is a notion that media literacy should be used only for the "problem" student as one way to deal with difficult students. We need to move away from such thinking by making certain that the best teachers teach the media literacy courses.
There is the beginning of a backlash from the cultural literacy people in charter schools. These are schools which compile a list of what must be taught, a set of knowledge students need to be culturally literate. This group rejects media literacy.
There is an uncertainty about the kinds of literacy skills needed for the year 2000. There is a fear that media literacy will push out the traditional literacies of reading and writing. There must be a balance between print and media skills for media literacy includes reading and writing. This is a real fear for many USA schools see production as media literacy especially in urban inner city schools.
There is the possibility that media literacy will be turned into the same old mould of teaching as any other subject. In reality media literacy should be the model of a new way of teaching in the USA.
There is a fear that the "short fix" version of media literacy will become standard. Media literacy specialists will come into the schools and do a one-shot performance. This is considerably cheaper than the Billerica Initiative but is no challenge to the existing system and will not further media literacy.
13: Boston Film/ Video Foundation and The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities
The Boston Film /Video Foundation (BF/VF) is New England's largest media arts center. Founded in 1976, it has been designated by the National Endowment for the Arts as the major media arts center serving the region. BF/VF's purpose is to encourage public understanding and use of the media as creative forms. They offer over one hundred courses in production each year as well as present screenings and make available affordable production and post-production facilities.
The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities was established in 1974 and is a private non profit organization affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. It provides grants and services for adult educational programs in areas of special interest or concern.
In 1994 the Foundation will launch an initiative designed to increase public understanding of the profound influence of the mass media, particularly television, on USA culture. As part of the preparation for this, the Foundation is sponsoring three summer institutes in media literacy. In the fall of 1994, the Foundation will sponsor a series of programs meant to engage the general public in discussion on the role of the media in society.
During my visit to Boston, I met with BF/VF's Executive Director, Anne Marie Stein, and Gail Reimer, Associate Director of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. We discussed the role which the two organizations are playing in the development of media literacy through the summer institutes and the publishing of TV Eye: A Curriculum for Media Arts. This student text is being written by Dr. Rene Hobbs of Harvard and Brenda Miller, an independent video artist.
I was impressed with the strong wish by the BF/VF to be a part of media literacy and to help teachers organize the production aspect of their courses. Gail Reimer expressed the Foundation's strong belief that media literacy courses have a firm basis in critical theory and analysis. The cooperation that these two groups have with Dr. Rene=E9 Hobbs teacher training program is a good example of what is possible in the USA media literacy scene. This cooperative effort bringing together media artists, foundations, and educators will be most beneficial in developing media literacy across Massachusetts.
14: A Summer of USA Media Literacy Institutes:
University of Dayton, June 13 to 24 Seminar on Media Literacy for Catholic Educators June 13 to 17 will be an intensive seminar on Media, Symbol and Spirituality with Pierre Babin,OMI of France. June 19 to 24 provides an introduction to media literacy theory and practice. Contact: Sister Fran Trampeits (513) 229 3160
University of Massachusetts/Amherst, June 27 to July 1 Five College Summer Institute in Media Literacy Funded by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, the Institute will provide 20 secondary school teachers from Western Massachusetts with an introduction to the field of media literacy. I met with Norman Cowie, Visiting Assistant Professor of Film and Video, who is organizing the Institute, and was pleased to note that the presentations will include material on critical thinking skills and analysis. An independent producer, Norman was hired to develop and implement a critical media pedagogy which seeks to integrate the theory and production of the moving image. He will be responsible during the institute for translating issues of theory and criticism into practical classroom exercises. Contact: Five College/Public School Partnership (413) 256 8316
New York University, July 10 to 15 Institute on Media Literacy and Education
Co-directed by Neil Postman and Dr. Kate Moody, this Institute will feature morning presentations. Afternoons will be given over to small group discussions. K to 12 educators from across the USA will present case studies and make materials available. Contact: Kate Moody (212) 998 5090
Columbia University, New York, July 11 to 15 Media Literacy: Integrating Print and Television Into the Classroom
Focusing on the use of print and electronic media in the classroom, this program will look at what media literacy is and why it is important. Contact: Rosemary Truglio (212) 678 3974
Clark University, Worcester, July 11 to 15 Media Literacy: Preparing for the 20th Century
The Newton Television Foundation in collaboration with the Hiaat Center for Urban Education and the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Clark University organized this Institute. It will bring together 20 high school teachers from Worchester and Newton in order to have them think critically about the media. The organizers of this institute do promise to offer follow up support to the teachers for specific projects next year.
Wheelock College, Boston, July 11 to 15 Media Literacy Institute
An academically oriented institute designed for elementary school teachers and concerned with the cultural, economic and political context of the media in a multicultural society. It is their hope that such analysis will inform the development and implantation of elementary level media literacy curriculum.
National Council of Teachers of English, July 22 to 24Media Education: Instructional Imperatives for the Year 2000
A weekend conference, held at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will gather educators and media literacy experts from across the country. Participants will discuss and debate theory, practical methods and cultural concerns. Contact: Linda Oldham (800) 369 6283 ext.282
Harvard University, Cambridge, July 31 to August 5 Institute on Media Literacy Returning for a second summer, this institute is hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The purpose is to show educators how to develop systematic programs which integrate media literacy concepts across the subject areas of language arts, social studies, science, health, and the visual and performing arts. Contact: Leila Seropian (617) 495 3572
15: And Thank You
It would not be possible to conclude this brief overview of some of the USA media literacy initiatives without thanking those who took time from their busy schedules not only to talk with me but to offer gracious hospitality. Thanks very much to all of you. Among the many memories of the trip coffee with Kathleen in San Francisco's North Beach area and a visit to City Lights Bookstore; Italian waiters with Texan accents in Houston; Marieli's driving through a blizzard to take me to lunch; Cara and Norman guiding me carefully around a subway entrance that looked like a scene from a Scorsese film; Rene=E9's marvellous tour of Harvard's gates; attending Palm Sunday services at the Actor's Church in New York and meeting Dr. Joel Fleischman!
The story of the airline pilot with which I began this section should be recalled at the end. For in many ways this incident is an analogy for media literacy in the USA. Having survived the problems of the 1970's and early 1980's, USA media literacy is growing once again. It is right to say: "Live Long and Prosper!"
Appalachian State University, David Considine, Curriculum and Instructor, EDH, Boone, NC 28608 USA
Boston Film/ Video Foundation, Anne Marie Stein,1126 Boylston Street, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02215 USA
Center for Media Literacy, Liz Thoman, 1962 South Shenandoah, Los Angeles, CA 90034 USA
Citizens for Media Literacy, Wally Bowen, 34 Wall Street,
Asheville, NC 28801 USA
Norman Cowie, 100 South College, Amherst, MA 01003, USA
Downs Media Education Center, Deirdre Downs, PO Box 1170, Stockbridge, MA 01262 USA
Educational Video Center, Steven Goodman, 60 E.13th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003 USA
Rene Hobbs, Babson College, One College Drive, Wellesley, MA 02157 USA
Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities, Gail T. Reimer, 80 Boylston Street, Suite 1000, Boston, MA 02116 USA
Media Alternatives Project, Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media,70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012 USA
National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, Julian Low, 201 655 13th Street, Oakland, CA 94612 USA
National Alliance for Media Education, Patrick Scott, 845 N. Benton Way, Los Angeles, CA 90026 USA
National Telemedia Council, Marieli Rowe, 120 E. Wilson Street Madison, WI 53703 USA
911 Media Arts Center, Robin Reidy, 117 Yale Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109 USA
Signal to Noise:TV Inside Out, Cara Mertes, 594 Broadway, #610, New York, NY 10012 USA
Strategies for Media Literacy, Kathleen Tyner, 617 1095 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 USA
SWAMP, Deborah Leveranz, 1519 West Main, Houston, TX 7006 USA
Train of Thought Counselling, Gloria DeGaetano, PO Box 311, Redmond, WA 98073 00311 USA