Digital Media Literacy Opportunities Galore!

[Note: This post was originally featured on the Media Education Lab]

 The Consequences of Attending the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

I peered across the dim expanse of the art space, AS220 as I participated in “speed dating.” In a whirlwind I met librarian, Brooke; media consultant, Jen; and English educator, Erica. We formed dyads, shared lots of laughter, and together experienced the first weeklong URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Brooke and I collaborated on a Storify called “Upstanders, Arise!” that helped students to advocate against bullying, and I later incorporated the composition into a Sports and Popular Culture curriculum unit I had designed in my position as a secondary English teacher.

Could that fabulous Summer Institute really have happened five years ago? Padlet, Socratic, Kahoot!, Edmondo, and Animoto were the Cool Tools that year, but curricular cohesion and literacy learning were just beginning to merge with digital education then. So it was in that latter direction I ran, and so many proverbial doors opened for me as a result of the conceptual framework I obtained from participating in the 2013 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.

Imagine working alongside Give Me 5 students on a wind-swept March day as they composed a 5-minute film together in conjunction with the Rhode Island Council on the Arts. I was so proud of my group of students and their composition, “Winter Tramples Spring.”

The joy of publication in the Journal of Media Literacy Education with an article titled Digital Media Literacy in a Sports, Popular Culture, and Literature Course” sustained me during a long winter and also rejuvenated my thirst for more digital and media literacy learning avenues. After all, the article had grown from sources I had started to investigate at the Summer Institute and had then modified for my own students.

The article included how learning modules, analysis of curated collections of texts through heuristics, and mentor texts can help students achieve higher literacy levels. You can see this interplay in the student sample from the article below.


I’ve been so fortunate to have the guidance of Summer Institute co-director, Dr. Renee Hobbs over the years. She helped me to shape a research study that became a peer-reviewed article in The Journal of Sports Pedagogy and Physical Education called “You Swing Like a G-g-g-i-r-r-l-l! A Media Literacy Intervention to Analyze Student Attitudes on Gender Constructions in Sport.”Three primary themes emerged in this research:

  • Theme #1: Sports Play is a Definitive Social Bond
  • Theme #2: Sports Egalitarianism Begins with Non-Dominant Voices
  • Theme #3: Digital Media Literacy, Mentors, and Mentor Texts are Pathways to Egalitarianism

The culmination of all that I had accommodated since my participation in the Summer Institute and with the Media Education Lab was an honor I received from the International Literacy Association: the 2015 Technology and Literacy Award. Working with heterogeneously-grouped students, I chronicled both my teacher digital literacy and learning praxis and the students’ original digital compositions, such as this concept map that one of my students’ made.

Working alongside the Media Education Lab staff and faculty, who are known colloquially as “labsters,” I offered a presentation called “Curated Collections of Texts for Student Inquiry” at the Highlander Institute; a NCTE book chapter in Developing Contemporary Literacies through Sports: A Guide for the English Classroom; “Deconstructing Disney” at the Northeast Popular Culture Association; and, a Memories of September 11, 2001 curriculum unit for the Media Education Lab alongside primary investigator Kara Clayton.

Last year, after I retired from my full time teaching position, I received another marvelous opportunity: to produce events for the Media Education Lab. In 2017 we invited 60 faculty members to the URI Winter Symposium on Digital Literacy in Higher Education, where we considered the potential and challenges of digital literacy in higher education contexts. The data and conclusions from the Symposium were chronicled in Digital Literacies in Higher Education: A Report. I was also honored to produce the 2017 URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy ~~~ what a different perspective it is to see the workings of a weeklong PD institute from behind the scenes! Again, I made so many new friends and contacts from around the world from this powerful experience, for which I am deeply appreciative.

Looking ahead to 2018, I’ll be program chair for the 13th Annual Northeast Regional Media Literacy Conference in Providence at the URI satellite campus. We’ll be bringing together educators, librarians, cultural workers, media consultants, students, and others interested in ways that being media literate is essential for an informed citizenry. Please save November 10 on your calendar for what should be the premiere media literacy event for 2018 in the northeast!

Each of the digital and media literacy experiences I’ve described here grew from roots I planted on that early hot July summer night in 2013 when I joined together with others at the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. What a wonderful transformational experience that was….

Screenshot 2017-10-23 at 5.45.12 PM
SIDL 2013-2017

Dr. Carolyn Fortuna is a retired high school English teacher, a Master Teacher in ELA/ Young Adolescents, and current faculty at Rhode Island College in the Gender and Women’s Studies and Education Departments. She is a media literacy educator with deep interests in critical sports studies, analysis of digital media imagery, and media discourse. A lifelong social justice educator, Carolyn has developed and implemented high school and higher education curriculum across subject areas so that critical digital media analysis expands definitions of literacy and learning.