Part 2 NAMLE Conference 2021 Reflections

 In Blog, Diana Maliszewski, Professional Development

On August 26, I (Diana) posted my reflections from watching sessions from the 2021 NAMLE conference. While preparing the blog post, I noticed so many more presentations that I wanted to watch!

Here are my interpretations of those nine “extra” workshops I was able to view.

Agents of Influence: A Media Literacy Game Combatting Misinformation

Anahita Dalmia

CEO, Alterea Inc

Summary (taken from website): Digital media dominates the decisions we make in our social, political, and economic lives. But what if the basis of these decisions was sabotaged? What if our agency was snatched away? 

Young digital natives, by some estimates, now spend 7+ hours/day on screens, not including school or homework (Common Sense Media), and get most of their information through platforms like TikTok and Instagram. These malleable minds are susceptible to mis- and disinformation, and it is crucial they are aware of the media they consume. 

To address these concerns we’re creating Agents of Influence, a spy-themed media literacy video game in which players aim to defeat the devious Dr. Disinfo. The term “agents of influence” originates from the Cold War describing spies who subtly influence public opinion. We are reclaiming that term by reminding young learners they have “agency” to navigate the world and the ability to “influence” the circumstances around them. Players will be assigned missions from their spy agency and misinformation-spreading individuals. The game combines exciting gameplay with educational metrics, including informal tests and reports, which allow educators and/or guardians to assess student progress and areas of potential improvement.  

In this presentation, we’ll start by introducing our company and why it exists. Then we’ll take you into Agents of Influence as a project, including target audience, inspiration, gameplay, educational objectives, standards alignment, and plans for distribution. We’ll conclude by discussing what we hope to learn from Agents of Influence, and how you can get involved.


3 Key Points:

  1. Alterea’s mission is to “foster connectivity, collaboration, curiosity and co-authorship through live, immersive gaming and interactive theatre”. 
  2. Agents of influence is a real spy term that Alterea is reclaiming and turning on its head (instead of spreading misinformation, fixing it).
  3. They used the IRAC (Inquiry, Research, Analysis, Conclusion) model and referred to lots of standards (AASL, NAMLE, ISTE, etc.) to help shape their game, in addition to 3 specific objectives (question/determine the trustworthiness of information, and change information consumption patterns to make better informed decisions).


So what? Now what?

Ms. Dalmia is interested in seeking out players and educators for feedback. I have various feelings on edutainment and gamification. The success of this game would depend on whether or not the students will buy into the narrative of Virginia Hall High. I liked their focus on diversity and inclusion with the character design. They have designed it for the school market. I’m tempted to help out with the expertise and testing. 



Do You See What I See? Analysing Images of Social Justice

Pamela Morris

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus

Summary (taken from website): Today, students spend a great deal of time analyzing text – determining fact from fiction, finding evidence of credible sources, and learning to critique words and written messages. Less time is spent dedicated to teaching visual literacy. Few activities and courses are solely dedicated to visual communication. However, we know that a great deal of what we take in today is visual. Before they can write, children recognize visual elements, from red means stop to the jagged points of a star. Teens are obsessed with watching and creating video, and college students avoid textbooks and seek more visual sources of learning. 

Although there are many types of images instructors can used to teach visual literacy, images communicating issues of social justice integrate an additional aspect of digital citizenship. Such content add depth and contribute key questions to the analysis (and creation) of artifacts. It also connects students to the multitude of inequity and social disparities that individuals from their community encounter. In addition, a visual literacy lesson using social justice content encourages the growth of critical media literacy – critical thinking skills needed to analyze the images used to educate the public about the issues. In the process of critiquing the image, (or the advanced lesson of creating their own), students will research the issue in order to establish credibility, facts, and prevalence.


3 Key Points

  1. Lots of communication (75%? 93%?) is non-verbal and people read images significantly quicker.
  2. Visual literacy is seldom taught – the definition of visual literacy (according to John Debes) is “the ability to interpret, recognize, appreciate, understand, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image” – both sensory and perceptual.
  3. Many ways to explore this e.g. take an image, manipulate it in many ways, then ask students which makes biggest impact.


So what? Now what?

I like how Dr. Morris described what and why she was doing things (e.g. only showing the image for a short time to get a first impression, or suggesting students can write or discuss orally). Questions like “What does this remind you of?” or “What more can we find?” as well as “What does this image mean?” and “What is the purpose and message?” can work for all ages of learners. I appreciated how she even included grading criteria (use of image analysis, vocabulary / descriptive / creativity / number of different perspectives / ability to find ineffective elements).



Educational Design of a Media Literacy Escape Game

Randall Fujimoto

Game-Based Learning Designer, GameTrain Learning, Inc.

Jason Rosenblum

Assistant Professor of Instruction, Learning Technologies Program, The University of Texas at Austin

Annie Howell

Educational Game Developer, GameTrain Learning

Summary (taken from website): We propose to introduce conference participants to the educational design of a digital, online escape game that engages students while developing specific media literacy skills. Our game design features a team-based, escape room format that presents students with a media-based, mystery narrative. Teams will progress through the narrative and solve the mystery by successfully escaping a series of virtual rooms, each of which covers one or more media literacy skills. Students will be presented with information from inside the game app and also various transmedia sources, including social media, websites, email, and text messages, that come from various game characters or organizations. Students will be asked to reflect upon the intention, veracity, and embedded points of view of various media sources. Students will make decisions to escape each room by critically analyzing news and information presented through a “media filter bubble.” The competing teams will attempt to shift the investigation of other teams by presenting misleading or dubious sources of information. Each student will have a media skills dashboard that displays a progress points system to provide feedback to students on how they are doing in each specific media literacy skill in our framework. We plan to use this game design as a framework to allow teachers and students to create their own versions of the game that utilize media and content of their choosing


3 Key Points:

  1. Henry Jenkins (Participatory Culture), Connie Yowell, and Mizuko Ito were influences mentioned. (ideas – allow students to create, have critical perspectives e.g. identify media filter bubble we/they live in)
  2. Escape games have become a hugely popular genre, since games require active participation and 90% US teens play video games, so it’s a good connection.
  3. “There’s bias in relying on a single line of media” is one concept addressed in escape room – potential benefits of their approach include active, situated, and social learning.


So what? Now what?

Having just experienced an escape room this summer, I can attest to how engaging (and sometimes frustrating) it can be. This looks like it could be fun without being too preachy.



Exploring the Relationship Between Media Literacy and Media Use in American Classrooms

Dan Chapman

Director of Research, See Change Institute

Beth Karlin

CEO, See Change Institute

Summary (taken from website): While media literacy is an increasingly necessary skill for navigating the modern information landscape, media literacy education (MLE) is not yet required in most school districts and instead is left to individual teachers to navigate. Additionally, the use of popular media (e.g., videos, news articles) in the classroom raises critical questions about how those media are framed to students when not created explicitly for educational use. This presentation results from two different studies: (1) a national survey designed to investigate teachers’ awareness and perceptions of MLE and use of media in the classroom, and (2) a content analysis investigating DEI in popular films released over the last 10 years.

Survey findings revealed interesting differences in MLE participation – most notably between public and private schools and ideologically conservative vs liberal teachers. Given that lack of training has been cited as a barrier to MLE in prior research, we examined correlations between training and likelihood to teach media literacy or use media in the classroom. We found teachers with MLE training were both more likely to teach media literacy content and less likely to use popular media in the classroom.  Preliminary content analysis findings identified a lack of diversity both behind and in front of the camera, with interesting links between the two.

Recommendations from these two studies include additional MLE training for teachers and school administrators and an increased focus on including narrative media (e.g., scripted films and television) and DEI into media literacy curricula.


3 Key Points:

  1. This organization, with financial backing of Amazon Studios, did a study where they surveyed 739 US educators in Winter 2020 re: teacher awareness of media literacy, where they discovered more public school educators than private school educators teach media literacy and more liberal teachers more inclined to teach media literacy.
  2. Concepts taught as seen in first survey were things like facts vs opinions, point of view, persuasion tactics, identifying advertising, fact checking, copyright/fair use, media funding, source credibility and media production (from most popular to least) – usually focused on journalism and news.
  3. Movies shape and reflect our understanding of the world (e.g. most American films lack real representation) (i.e. most leads are white males, stereotypes reinforced) – another study of theirs examined not just who was portrayed but how (diversity – who is on screen, portrayal – what story being told, and nuance – how real the story feels).


So what? Now what?

I loved Dr. Karlin’s line “we are programmed through stories”, because it’s so true. Her findings on narratives were fascinating – only 34/329 films they studied (within a 10 year period, based on both award nominations and popularity with audiences) could say that they “made the cut” in terms of realistic representation. It’s not right or wrong (e.g. Wonder Woman) but, as was said, “Having open dialogues helps us challenge outdated, negative narratives and build new stories”. I could definitely use the 3-pronged criteria for students to investigate other types of media for realistic representation. She also challenges us to acknowledge and dismantle our unconscious biases (“not just who but how”). 



Inclusive Media Literacy for Increased Student Choice, Voice, and Agency

Francesca Ciotoli

Assistant Professor, St. Thomas Aquinas College

Summary (taken from website): Pedagogy that centers on increased opportunities for expression through multiple ways or modes of meaning-making will lead to greater expressivity for all students. This presentation describes a research study that examines how inclusive elementary teachers describe expressive opportunities for students with disabilities. Findings from this study suggest that photovoice research methodology, in which participants took digital photographs of and shared stories about their regular classroom practice with other participants, is a powerful strategy for the examination of teaching practice. The study’s design also forefronts the potential of multimodal expression as evidenced by teachers’ own expressions of learning and their descriptions of opportunities offered to students for expression of learning through multiple media and modalities.


3 Key Points:

  1. American vs International ideas around disability and literacy differ (e.g. in US, inclusion is a place vs UNESCO as attitude or value). 
  2. Research question was “In what ways do 5 general and special education teachers describe opportunities for students with disabilities’ expression of learning in inclusive classrooms?” – focus was on multi-modal ways of expression so included photo voice (participatory visual method) – SHOWED acronym used stood for: what is Seen here / what is actually Happening here / how does this relate to Our inquiry / Why does this situation, concern or strength exist / how does this image Educate us / what can we Do about it.
  3. Research themes that emerged were: choices increase self-expression / more time is needed for increased expression / expression is visible proof of learning / expression is contextual / social-emotional literacy seems to be foundational for expression of academic learning.


So what? Now what?

This was a very long presentation of a university-level study. For me as a classroom teacher, I think the protocol around the use of photos and probing questions to analyze them are most useful and fits with some of the things I’ve been taught around pedagogical documentation. (Visual methodology). What I also liked was that this was one of the few sessions to focus on (dis)abilities, rather than race or gender.




My Voice is Louder Than Hate: Pushing Back against Hate in Online Communities

Matthew Johnson

Director of Education, MediaSmarts

MediaSmarts’ research project Pushing Back Against Hate in Online Communities found that while youth feel it is important to speak up when they encounter hate online, many are reluctant to do so due to lack of efficacy, fear of making a situation worse, uncertainty about whether a situation is genuinely an example of prejudice, and a sense that doing so violates social norms and risks social cohesion. Our new resource My Voice is Louder Than Hate exposes the “majority illusion” that can make prejudice seem normative online and empowers youth to be the “noisy ten percent” that sets a community’s values by showing them that online prejudice hurts everyone and giving them tools to respond to it through role-playing and media-making.


3 Key Points:

  1. “Casual prejudice” = no clear intent to harm, important to confront this type of online hate because most common form and broadens bottom of triangle and increase sympathizers.
  2. Reasons why Canadian teens do not usually push back against online hate is a) they don’t know what to do or b) they’re afraid of making things worse (6 are listed in the 2nd lesson).
  3. Lessons created by MediaSmarts helps students deal with online hate – strategies include asking questions rather than making statements, appeal to values, talk about how prejudice makes you feel, and use humour.


So what? Now what?

Although this was geared to high school students, I think that the lessons could be adapted to middle school students, since they are exposed to it as well. I like that there’s a Video Maker option available on the MediaSmarts site itself. Pushback practice and tip sheets? Good idea! Also, the meme idea fits well with an upcoming AML article on “wholesome memes” (stay tuned). I liked the list of criteria for effective memes (simple and clear meaning / funny, often dark and ironic / images and text are connected but there is a contrast between them / memes invite people to participate).



Dear Black Male…

Anthony Gay

Director of Curricula & Visual Development​, Welcome 2 Reality

Marcus Stallworth

Director of Learning and Organizational Development, Welcome 2 Reality

This workshop will focus on the depiction of black males in today’s world. The issues Black males go through and face. Cultural mistrust that influences perceptions and the quality of their relationships. Recognizing Black males varies in their individual needs and identifying supports that might be most effective. Consider how efforts to adequately provide for Black males can be linked to the fight for larger social justice goals for themselves and their communities.


3 Key Points:

  1. This organization provides training and workshops on various topics – this particular one (Dear Black Male) focuses on the history of systemic racism from the 1600s on (many terrible dates and moments shared during presentation from well known ones [⅗ of a man] to less known [for me] ones [3rd stanza of anthem, raping strongest male slave in front of others to deter resistance]).
  2. Drugs as a criminal crisis instead of a health crisis was a deliberate choice around the Nixon years to attack the Black population. It took over 200 times before an anti-lynching bill was passed (and didn’t even get full agreement and was in 2020). 
  3. Discussion on black male portrayals in media: under-represented in positive roles, negative associations exaggerated, lack of input and control from black men, etc. 


So what? Now what? 

This was such a sad and somber talk. There was a sliver of hope expressed in black male use of therapy, which addresses the generational trauma. The speakers also recommended at the end to learn about black history/culture, be conscious of your comments, be conscious of your own personal biases, acknowledge progress made (considering how hypermasculinity and lack of trust in systems/authority figures play out). I think those are reasonable asks. 




The Soundtrack of Change: Exploring protest music to encourage civic engagement, discourse, and digital fluency using Adobe Spark 

Cristen Magaletti

Teacher, Saint Andrew’s School

Summary (taken from website): According to Plato, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, and flight to the imagination.” Ignite student curiosity with an exploration of a PBL unit that enables student voice and choice as they create an Adobe Spark Page that examines the social and political impacts of protest music both currently and throughout history. In this session, we will discuss how to make thinking visible as students share their opinions about how music may have sparked reflection, inspiration, and change in their own lives. Students can enhance their digital fluency as they curate their work and demonstrate their learning with a deep multimedia analysis of historical events using Adobe Spark. As an additional extension, if students feel comfortable, they are encouraged to write and upload an original song or spoken word poetry based on their research. By providing opportunities for students to publish their work to a global audience, teachers can encourage, enliven, and empower students to use their unique voices to shape discourse as powerful agents of change in both the present and future.


3 Key Points:

  1. Students internalize the notion that they want to enact change but can’t do it until adulthood, which isn’t true (Greensboro sit-in, Tank-Man in China, Greta Thurnberg, etc.) – consider what it means to be patriotic, the role of civic engagement in democracy, etc. 
  2. Presenter answered her question: “How can we create a classroom culture that ignites curiosity and creates space for each student to feel seen, heard, and valued?” with The Soundtrack of Change project- go to 
  3. Encourage students to make their thinking visible, curate their research, to develop their metacognitive skills (e.g. with Adobe Spark, Wakelet, Padlet, ScreenCastify, etc.)


So what? Now what?

This reminded me so much about Noa Daniel and her Personal Playlist Project. I will need to check out the URL Ms. Magaletti provided for assessment and guidance.



DISCLOSURE: Exploring the Paradox of Visibility

Brian Michael Smith

Actor/ Teaching Artist

Jen Richards

Sam Feder


Zeke Smith


Summary (taken from website): DISCLOSURE is an unprecedented, eye opening look at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. Reframing familiar scenes and iconic characters in a new light, director Sam Feder invites viewers to confront unexamined assumptions, and shows how what once captured the American imagination now elicits new feelings. DISCLOSURE provokes a startling revolution in how we see and understand trans people. Join us in conversation with the director and stars of this important and groundbreaking film as we discuss the impact the film has had and what comes next.

URL to browse toolkits and access the free DISCLOSURE Discussion Guide:

3 Key Points:

  1. If they couldn’t hire a trans person, they mentored one for this film project. Everyone on screen in the film is trans. Representation matters. “Many conflicted ways of seeing” – media literacy = holding complicated truths.
  2. “The more we are seen, the more we are violated” – quote from first 3 minutes of the film – “now that we are seen, we can be attacked” (Zeke Smith)
  3. Screen representations of trans people has suggested that trans people are mentally ill or don’t exist, but they’ve always been present (quote from Laverne Cox)


So what? Now what?

“When families can see how to live a full life, families are less fearful” (Brian Michael Smith). “Having a new degree of compassion for trans people in this film … here’s why you have this view and why that perspective is mal-informed … that can be applied to anyone” (Jen Richards). “In the movies, people are seen as dressing up for job opportunities in Tootsie, or for affordable housing in Bosom Buddies, but these are actual barriers for trans people” (Disclosure). “80% of Americans say they’ve never met a trans person; this includes trans people themselves, who look to the media to try and figure out who is ‘like us’” (Disclosure).”The answer to negative representation is not positive representation, it’s nuanced representation” (Sam Feder).I liked listening to these people talk so articulately. I appreciated how accidentally easily Zeke fell into the gender binary by at one point referring to the audience as “ladies and gentlemen”, showing just how ingrained these cisnormative notions are.

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