I was deeply saddened by news this morning that one of the founders of the Italian media literacy community, Roberto Gianatelli, passed away on October 12.
I first met Roberto in 1990 at the legendary Guelph conference, where media literacy educators from around the world first gathered, and where only a handful of American scholars and teachers were present. His passion for teaching was evident from the moment I met him. After that, we met (nearly annually, it seems) during the 1990s as the international media literacy community began gathering steam. In 2000, we participated in Summit 2000: Children, Youth and the Media: Beyond the Millennium, an amazing onference held in Toronto Ontario, which brought together media educators, media producers and more from around the world. At this event, more than 1500 people from 53 countries participated — it was the largest gathering of media literacy educators in the world.
But it was only when Damiano Felini spent time with me in Boston when he was finishing his dissertation in the late 1990s that I had the chance to really understand the sources of momentum that were propelling the media literacy education community in Italy. I decided to spend my sabbatical leave in 2001 in Italy, where I got to meet with Damiano, Roberto and other media educators, including Alberto Pellai and Pier Cesare Rivoltella. Since then, I have had the great opportunity to meet many brilliant Italian media literacy educators including Maria Ranieri, Alberto Parola, Luciano di Mele, Isabella Bruni, Roberto Farne, and many more.
After sharing ideas with the Italian delegation at the World Summit on Children and Media in Karlstad, Sweden in 2010, I was especially delighted to collaborate with Damiano Felini and Professor Gianna Cappello (president of MED, the Italian media literacy association) to create a special issue of the Journal of Media Literacy Education where we worked under the auspieces of two journals devoted to media literacy education: the Journal of Media Literacy Education (sponsored by the National Association for Media Literacy Education) and the Italian Media Education: Studi, Ricerche, Buone pratiche (sponsored by MED, Associazione italiana per l’educazione ai media e alla comunicazione).
I offer my condolences to the many Italian educators who are mourning the loss of their mentor, guide and friend, Roberto Gianatelli. An ordained priest in the Salesian Roman Catholic order, he was a warm, kind and brilliant man. His sense of humor was infectious. Because of his leadership, the Italian media literacy community embraced the contributions of elementary and secondary teachers as well as university faculty and he inspired many to “think big” about this emerging field. It was such a treat to be with him in the summer of 2011 in Corvara, a beautful village in the Dolomite Mountains where the Italian media literacy community gathers for its annual summer course in media education.
This weekend, Italian media educators will gather at the University of Udine for a professional development gathering entitled, “Media Education: Crsecere e insegnare nella societa dei media.” In spirit, I will be there to lift a glass in memory to this Italian lion of a leader in the global media literacy comnunity. I am confident that the Italian media educators will carry on and extend the legacy that Roberto helped begin.