Eva Lam’s After-School Program for Junior High Studies Media Literacy

Eva Lam’s After-School Program for Junior High Studies Media Literacy

Eva Lam

In a 10-week after-school program on community journalism, associate professor Eva Lam taught seventh and eighth graders in Chicago’s Chinatown how to produce their own multimedia stories. “Our goal is to explore how the program may promote media literacy and multimedia storytelling by drawing from students’ community and family experiences and their bilingual skills to develop journalistic stories,” Lam says.

In the pilot program, the students produced video profiles of their family members and residents in the Chinatown community about their experiences with health care. “This project bridges two major concerns in literacy education that do not usually come together – one is the increasing need to foster 21st-century skills with diverse mediums of representation beyond print literacy. Second is the importance of developing culturally relevant and empowering literacy education for minority and immigrant populations,” Lam explains.

“We believe that the development of media production skills serves a particularly important role in immigrant communities as these communities are often marginalized in society because of language and cultural differences, and their interests are often not reflected in mainstream media.” For that reason, the goal in designing the pilot program was to learn how to work with youth of immigrant backgrounds to develop multimedia storytelling skills to reflect voices in their community and to engage with larger issues in society.

Jack Doppelt, a professor at Medill School of Journalism, collaborated with Lam on the project, serving as the content adviser and co-teacher. Doppelt is the publisher of Immigrant Connect Chicago, an online network site that brings together stories from immigrant communities in and around Chicago and journalistic reporting on issues of interest to immigrants and their families. He also teaches an interdisciplinary undergraduate course offered at Medill (Journalism 390: Connecting with Immigrant and Multi-ethnic Communities) that teaches about immigration and refugee phenomena and develops multimedia reporting strategies to reach and engage foreign-born and second-generation community members.

Matthew Easterday, who served as co-researcher on the project, contributed his expertise on curriculum design and civic engagement. Two collaborating teachers at Haines Elementary School also helped to design and conduct the after-school program. In addition, numerous undergraduate students from Medill and SESP participated as mentors for the middle-school students and also as research assistants for the project.

In designing and studying media literacy learning in immigrant communities, the researchers are using an approach called syncretic literacy. “Syncretic literacy involves the construction of hybrid texts in which community knowledge/community language come together with official knowledge/official language in a way that brings about a new understanding and a new voice,” says Lam. This approach has been used in literacy education to bring together in a meaningful way both academic literacies and the literacies from the cultural community of students.

“We think the approach of syncretic literacy is also particularly relevant in the new media environments in which we live, as broadcast media and social media come together in journalistic reporting, and citizen-produced media are taking on an important role (as seen in the recent uprisings in the Middle East),” says Lam. In the after-school program, as the students learn and practice skills of reporting and video making, the researchers are studying how interviewing, story generation, video editing and translating develop local knowledge and journalistic skill.

As a pilot study, this project is testing out ideas that the researchers plan to build on to develop a more thorough curriculum design for future implementation and evaluation.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 1/28/16