The Media Education Lab welcomes Pam Steager
A guest post by Pam Steager, Senior Writer and Research Associate, Media Education Lab
It’s nice to be speaking media literacy again. Not that the language ever left me. Once your eyes are opened to and by media literacy, they stay open. When in 2003 I ended my time as director of the Media SmART! Program in Providence Public Schools and fifteen years of writing an opinion column, it came along with me to my graduate work in Gender and Peace Building at the United Nations-affiliated University for Peace in Costa Rica. There, as the only North American in my program, I introduced my international colleagues to media literacy. Armed with my digital video camera, I planned to start an international dialogue between students I’d worked with in Providence and students in the local school in Ciudad Colon in my spare time.
Media literacy was still with me when I returned to the US with the disturbing realization that my powerful native land, with its now-obvious culture of war, was the one that really needed an all-out peace building effort and that somehow media, and media literacy, needed to play a big role in that effort. It followed me into my cultural competence training with police departments and my research into the community reintegration of Veterans. It was present in my first blog post in 2011 and my youth film club session last week.
But it’s especially nice to be back in the media literacy family again, where I can speak the language without having to translate for others. I loved the concept of family introduced at the recent 12th Northeast Media Literacy Conference, hosted by Yonty Friesem at Central Connecticut State University. The program began with participants being asked to identify their media lit “grandparents.” Mine were Abraham Maslow and Marshall McLuhan, and during the morning session it was fascinating to see the wide array of influential writers, philosophers, educators and others who had led people to media literacy.
Later in the conference I would share breakout session facilitation time with a medical doctor who had started an organization promoting the use of positive images of caring to help youth Envision Kindness, and conducting research into the effect of those images on human behavior. His “grandparent” was Holocaust experience chronicler Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”. His presentation with charts and research citations was very different from my short film screening, analysis, and discussion, but we were both exploring meaning making in visual images.
When we reconvened as a full group at the end of the day to talk about next steps, with our many and diverse “grandparents” arrayed on the back wall, three generations of the current media literacy family spoke and listened. It felt like a family reunion, and it felt good to be home.