Media literacy integration in education (no matter the context) is at best inconsistent. Most teachers engaged in media literacy work are isolated, toiling either alone to integrate this work into their programs or in small enclaves within their programs. Further, many who want to integrate media literacy do not know where to start; they need tools, knowledge, and training. No matter the context or depth of understanding, all of us doing this work can benefit from more and deeper connections and from sharing resources and collaborating to improve those resources for use in a variety of learning spaces. GCMLP/Critical Media Minds provides the network to achieve those purposes.
Students also suffer from isolation of a sort. In teaching writing, for instance, educators often bemoan the fact that students are generally writing for their teachers, and perhaps for sharing within their classes or programs, rather than creating authentic texts for audiences outside those programs. Further, student writing is often created to satisfy teacher or school goals, rather than to explore and present solutions about issues that matter to the student writers themselves. This is equally true for other student products, including audio and video projects. Dissemination beyond the classroom is powerful, both to access authentic audiences and to provide wider and deeper engagement: on the GCMLP/CMM website, teachers can open up comments on student work and thus provide a digital platform for discussion with and among their students, with and among students working with other educators in the network, and with and among the larger group of visitors to our site.
Why GCMLP/Critical Media Minds? Why Now?
Four major factors drive the work of GCMLP/Critical Media Minds:
• the state of media education in the United States;
• the vital importance of public action in our world;
• a need for equitable pathways to education; and
• the tangible and intangible impacts of service learning.
Because the shifts in society brought about by the digital age have altered the skills required for economic and democratic participation, critical media literacy is crucial. Education in the United States does not feature CML as a core component, so we are too often consumers rather than creators, buyers rather than critics or activists. When students allow media messages—whether from social media, gaming, television, film, music, or streaming cloud-based content—to go unchallenged, powerful elites benefit in terms of increased control of public perceptions, further limitations on what is not or cannot be discussed, and enhanced capacities to set public agendas. Corporate media undermines democracy by thwarting citizens’ desires to be informed about and engaged in the issues that affect them and their communities. Individuals expect colleges and universities to provide them with the skills required to be equitable participants in the 21st-century political economy. However, media literacy in the United States has traditionally focused on teaching students the utility of media and digital tools without providing the skills and experiences necessary to be full participants in that political economy: the skills and knowledge to create and navigate media with a critical lens and the ability to use new technologies to make alternative narratives. CMM will provide resources and tools developed by working professionals as well as digital networking opportunities for educators and students.
A critical media literacy pedagogy designed around civic engagement and service learning has been shown to increase students’ belief that they can make positive change in the world. Because participating students can network with educators and other actors in this field, because they will learn core principles and practices that are focused on critical thinking and critical action, engagement with GCMLP/Critical Media Minds can lead students to completion of transfer, a certificate, and/or a degree (or multiple degrees) in media studies, in education, and in related fields that integrate these tenets.
But ultimately, CML work is about action, the goal of critical pedagogy. Service learning is a pedagogy that emphasizes student participation in course-relevant community service, allowing students to form collaborative relationships with citizens both within and outside the school community and to learn while creating meaningful and positive change in their communities. Students who participate in service-learning programs—including those who are typically underrepresented in college—are more likely to be integrated in their communities, to feel validated, and to persist in their college careers. Critical media literacy education teaches students to navigate the vast media world and, just as importantly, to create spaces within which to disseminate their work to the communities they serve and to broader publics. Through its focus on service learning, GCMLP/Critical Media Minds lives its prosocial, equity-based mission in practice as well as in theory.