They’re growing personally and expanding professionally while making a difference in the lives of their students. These certified PBS Media Literacy Educators are all taking innovative approaches to helping young people gain essential media analysis and creation skills. We asked them to share some of the things that excite them most about teaching media literacy.
Johanna Mustacchi, a media and communications teacher at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, emphasizes the importance of preparing her students to be media analysts and makers.
“As a media literacy teacher, I feel a commitment to helping them navigate that world by showing them the tools they will need to be critical thinkers, to grow their awareness and no longer take the onslaught of messages as blind truth. What is both exciting and daunting at the same time is to guide them into becoming the participants and media makers of a much more responsible media of tomorrow… No matter what field any of my students pursue in their future, the media will become integral, in small or large part.”
Johanna uses photography to encourage her students to explore production choices. In her seventh grade curriculum, she focuses on how media narratives influence culture. Her students investigate how composition and framing can convey story, emotion and information before launching into their own media-making.
Heather Duhamel is our newest certified PBS Media Literacy Educator. A homeschool teacher and educational consultant for Vermont PBS, Heather focuses on early childhood as a particularly important age.
“I’m inspired by ways that digital resources can enhance educational experiences for young children. Storytelling through photography, audio and video supports can be a powerful resource for young children. Early appropriate access to digital, including interactive tools, is so important! It’s beautiful to understand that the best way to use technology in preschool is through valuable shared experiences with a teacher, family member or mentor!”
Like many of us, Heather also has a soft spot for the man behind “Mr. Rogers.” She recommends the work of the Fred Roger Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, noting that “Fred Rogers continues to be a beacon for ways to integrate technology through relationship.”
Mariana Garcia Serrato
Mariana Garcia Serrato is a middle school STEM teacher in San Jose, California, who’s committed to supporting her students in developing media analysis skills.
“I love helping students think critically about the media they are exposed to every day. When my students are able to interpret media and how it affects them, they’re better able to make their own decisions about the media messages they receive.”
Media-making is another passion of Mariana’s.
“I love how making media myself and helping students make media opens the door to creative endeavors. Gone are the days when we had to rely on others making the ‘perfect’ media I needed to teach a specific topic for my class. Now I can make it myself or have students make it for me!”
Dr. Aspen Mock
Dr. Aspen Mock, who teaches high school composition and literature in Sidman, Pennsylvania, has a unique perspective on media literacy.
“Media literacy is the study of lived contemporary moments; from moment to moment you’re required to think critically and derive meaning-making from cultural artifacts in real-time.”
Aspen connects youth voice to civic engagement when she writes:
“Creativity is fostered through students making media artifacts as cultural contributions that reflect their own thoughts and provide them with the opportunity to shape their voices as mindful and literate citizens.”
This Pennsylvania educator also has a favorite tool: KQED Learn. She values the way it “connects students with a national community of learners, and students are able to grapple with in-depth topics by writing claims and responses, as well as creating media with the Make & Share option.”
Stacey Cler, a high school literature teacher in Cupertino, California, shares her views on why she believes student media-making is so important:
“Through the creation of media, students are able to express what’s important to them in society today while connecting with content being taught in the classroom. In addition, the creation of media through the teaching of digital literacy allows for building stronger connections between students, which contributes to an overall more cohesive, positive and communal classroom environment.”
Stacey, a forward-thinker, is excited about using digital portfolios to capture the learning process of her students.
“Last year I created an assignment on podcasting as a bridge for narrative writing and asked my students to create a digital portfolio using Google sites to illustrate the creative process of not only making the podcast but also creating the personal narrative. As an educator, I felt that all-too-often I was focused on the end product, but the incorporation of a digital portfolio into the assignment allowed both myself and my students to be reflective about the steps it to to create the end product.”
Gail Desler, a technology integration specialist in Elk Grove, California, notes that “media literacy” is a constantly changing topic that teachers need to stay on top of.
“Media literacy is the fastest changing subject in a teacher’s digital citizenship toolkit, which is both exciting and challenging. Providing students with multiple opportunities to create their own media builds an awareness of how easy it is to spread misinformation and why they need to become active fact checkers. As content creators, students also come to recognize the power and impact of using media to promote kindness, social justice and a positive school climate.”
Gail is also very concerned about online privacy for her students. This is why she recommends Common Sense’s privacy resources, which help parents and teachers make smarter choices about websites and online tools they use with their young people.
Jennifer Swift-Kramer, a women’s and gender studies professor at William Paterson University, focuses on digital citizenship and critical media analysis with her students.
“I want to prepare them for the 2020 American election — whether they plan to vote or not and regardless of their political leanings — by showing how their media feeds can be manipulated. I encourage them to become aware of their blind spots by showing them mine.”
We hope these seven media literacy educators inspire you as much as they do us!
PBS Media Literacy Educator Certification is a free program created by PBS and KQED to provide educators (in all roles, subjects and grade levels) a step-by-step path to validating your media literacy skills and earning recognition. Certification is earned through attaining competency-based micro-credentials, at your own speed. No seat time or workshops required. Discover more at kqed.org/certification or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.