2015 was indeed a magical year for local, national and even global adventure! For the record, here are some of the people and places that were most special to me in 2015:
January: Warsaw, Poland. I got to meet Neil DeGrasse Tyson thanks to URI’s Tom Mather, one of the most amazing science communication professionals I know. It was also great to spend time with teachers in Europe at the European League for Middle Level Education (ELMLE). This conference inspired me by connecting me with talented teachers including Derek Halwell of Ambrit Rome International School and Amy Bennet Hodges from the Vienna International School. The dance party in an old-Soviet era youth hall and the chance to visit two world-class museums (Polin and Solidarity) were truly just the icing on the cake to a terrific conference event.
February: Ahmenabad, India. Inspired by our Visiting Scholar Sarhana Sarkar, my visit to MICA: The School of Ideas, India’s premier school of strategic communication and marketing. It was a most marvelous experience! I was delighted to get to know some of the amazing faculty there, including the leading media literacy scholar in India, Keval Kumar, as well his colleagues Manisha Pathak-Shelat and T.T. Sreekumar, editor of the Journal of Creative Communications. Getting to spend time with Finnish media literacy expert Sirkku Kotilainen and visiting the ashram of Mohatmas Gandhi made the visit even more amazing!
March: Austin, Texas. SXSWEdu is perhaps one of the most glossy and smart of the educational technology conferences and it was a treat to offer a “conversation” with 150 talented educators, exploring the 12 Flavors of Digital Literacy. I got to participate in a talk show with children’s privacy expert Monica Bulger, now with the Data & Society Institute. I also enjoyed seeing presentations by FIT’s Sandra Markus, Chris Lehmann of Science Leadership Academy, Cory Wilkerson, arts education guru at of State Education Agency, and Jennie Magiera, Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. All year long, I enjoyed the chance to spend time with teachers from the Narragansett and Newport Public Schools, exploring how to integrate digital literacy into the K-12 curriculum. I was inspired by Katherine Sipala, Gail Dandurand, Crystal Cagnon, Leslie Brow, Marianne Kirby, Jennifer Booth, and Jen Robinson, and of course I was very proud of the work of Yonty Friesem, who worked with NES teachers in looking at how teachers incorporate media production into the curriculum.
April: Chicago and New Orleans. Spending time with Mindy Faber, creator of Convergence Academies is always a treat and it was even sweeter to get to spend time with amazing media literacy teachers like The Lamp’s D.C. Vito, Jeff McCarter of Free Spirit Media, Tony Streit of EDC, Natasha Smirnov of Nothwestern U. Best of all, former Labster Kelsey Greene was newly arrived in Chicago working at Convergence Academies. At AERA in Chicago, it was thrilling to learn more about Diane Watt‘s marvelous work on youth media with Canadian-Muslim young women. In New Orleans, at the Popular Communication Association, I got to ham it up with Michael RobbGrieco and Jillian Belanger. In Seattle, I got to spend time with my son Roger Hobbs and his partner Lara Evenson as well as the amazing Karen Archer Perry, who generously hosted us for a special visit to the Dale Chihuly Boat House.
May: Zagreb, Croatia and San Juan Puerto Rico. Getting to work with Igor Kanijaz at the University of Zagreb was perhaps the most inspirational experiences of 2015. Igor’s passion for media literacy is deep, and what a talented teacher he is! It was an honor and a thrill to collaborate on the development and implementation of a week-long program for 20 Croatian elementary educators to explore how media literacy could be integrated into the curriculum. Getting to know media literacy leaders like Professor Danijel Labas and Zarko Čižmar of Telecentar helped me feel confident about the robust future for media literacy in Eastern Europe. A small trip to San Juan for ICA was poignant for being the last time I saw Professor Wolfgang Donsbach before his untimely death. He was so generous in his support of media literacy as a leader of the International Communication Association.
June – July – August. Yeroham and Tel Aviv, Israel, Philadelphia, and more. Stuffed with precious memories, this summer is (as Yoda would say.) I have already written about the Summer of Love. Receiving a standing ovation from NAMLE colleagues while receiving the Meritorious Service Award at the Kimmel Center was simply marvelous!
September: Ningxia and Beijing, China. Everything about my trip to China was beyond my wildest imagination. I’ve already written about my trip down the Yellow River. Other highlights: Spending time with my dear friend and colleague Haixia He and her family, as well as the faculty of the English Language faculty and grad students at Ningxia University. Also wonderful: Getting to give a lecture to future English teachers at Ningxia Teachers College in Guyuan, eating hot pot with Wu Rong, and spending time with Weimin Sun touring the 65-foot high Buddha and checking out the ripening goji berries. Visiting the Communication University of China’s new elementary partner school with fomer Labster Wen Xu and touring the Great Wall with her new husband. Getting to see the ancient petroglyphs carved on Helan Mountain and having a karoake birthday party unlike any other: priceless!
October: Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Three of my favorite cities, of course. Even better: The chance to see Srivi Ramasubramanian‘s great leadership in action with her non-profit organization, Media Rise. There is nothing more inspiring that academics engaging in genuine community activism! Also fun: Spending time with JoAnna Wasserman from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, thinking deeply about how to teach and learn about propaganda and meeting LA friend Tessa Jolls of the Center for Media Literacy. In Philadelphia, it was straight talk with the youth media folks at the Technology Learning Collaborative (TLC)’s event at the Philadelphia Free Library and the chance to spend time with Edison Freire, Antoine Haywood, and Laura Deutsch. Saying goodbye to Sait Tuzel and his family was a sad part of 2015, but we were so fortunate to have him as a vital part of the Media Education Lab community.
November: NCTE Minnesota. I’ve been a member of this organization for 3o years, and how thrilling it was to see nearly one-third of the program events feature media, technology, popular culture or multiple literacies in one way or the other. It was a flowering of creativity, indeed, with Frank Baker making the NCTE Film Festival its best ever and Antero Garcia leading a new generation with the new SLAM (Studies in Literacy and Multimedia) group.
Of course, as I conclude this year-end review, memories bubble up regarding many other people I met, played with, learned from and worked with in 2015. What a marvelous year it was!