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Business, Other, STEM

Why You and I Need To Learn How To Become Critics and Creators of Media

MediaLit-ImageAre you one of those people that has a stack of unread books piling up somewhere in your home or office? After years of acquiring books from signing events, book stores, or as gifts, I found at least 10 that have never been read. My goal: eliminate the book pile by creating a summer of reading and self-enrichment.

My reading project commenced the middle of May. To date, I have read diverse selections that include Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – by Travis Bradbury and Jean Greaves, Medea and Helen – Greek play writer, Euripides, The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith (book on tape), The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson, and Focus – Daniel Goleman.

In addition to eliminating my pile of unread books, under the umbrella of self-enrichment includes taking one or two online courses. Initially, my thoughts were to take at least one computer course. Perhaps I’d finally learn Ruby on Rails or Java. However, as I was searching the EdX course offerings, a stumble upon that became my first course selection is MediaLit (Media Literacy).

MediaLit is a massive open online course (MOOC) offering sponsored by the McCormick Foundation, Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communication at Arizona State University (ASU), and EdX. Dan Gilmor is the course instructor. This seven week class began on July 7th.

Here’s a short course description provided by EdX:

Media literacy helps us understand, analyze and create media. While we rely on good journalism to provide accurate information, we also have responsibilities of our own in this media-saturated environment. We can no longer be passive consumers of media. We need to be active users of media, as readers, listeners, viewers and creators, so we are all better informed. Our goal is to help you do just that.

So-o-o, why is this engineer and small business owner interested in media literacy? Here are two reasons:

First, I have experience working with the media, both as a professional and a volunteer. In a former position as air quality director and media spokesperson for a county government agency, I received significant training in working with the media. However, that was over 15 years ago and most of my work was with traditional media outlets: radio, television, and print.

As a volunteer professional for a regional STEM competition, I am responsible for communicating information about the event on an annual basis and have done so for the past 18 years. While I still work with traditional media for this annual event, every year has brought something different with new media: social media, internet, video, blogs, vlogs, apps, live-streaming, ongoing interviews, etc.

Second, as a small business owner, I rely on the media for a certain amount of content in the work that I do. One of the biggest challenges with today’s media is the deluge of information or information overload.  I use the internet to retrieve electronic versions of just about everything that I used to read in print. It is important for me to be able to distill fact from fiction in news content, find research and other content for project work, send project deliverables, and if necessary create content – all at lightning speed.

My summer of reading that began in mid-May has proven to be good preparation for a course like this with weekly reading assignments. I was already in the academic mode, and didn’t have to spend time transitioning my brain to the reading and study modes.

Course Pre-Work: Prior to the start of class we were given some pre-work activities to complete including viewing a Welcome From ASU video.  Well wishes were extended from President Michael Crowe, Dean Michael Callahan – Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the course instructor, Dr. Gilmore.

A pre-course survey was provided for each student to complete. In completing this survey, I along with my fellow cohorts are contributing to research for this class.

Course Stats: While I thought it was a nice welcome, I better understand the loading of senior management in the video. Apparently, MediaLit is the first ever MOOC that ASU has offered to the public – free of charge. My expectation was a course enrollment of 200 to 300 persons. Instead the Arizona Republic reported that this course has attracted nearly 3,000 persons from 126 countries in a post on June 9, 2015. [Ref 1]

A more recent update from the course instructor states that we have 131 countries in this special cohort group.

The Arizona Republic reported that about 38 percent of students are in the U.S., and the second-largest group is 7 percent in India, according to EdX analytics.

Why Should You Be Interested in Media Literacy?

As a business and/or STEM professional, you are probably bombarded constantly with information from a variety of sources. Whether your search for data and content is personal or work related, you want to know that your sources are reliable and will stand up under scrutiny or a challenge. You also want to spend less time mining for data and information, and more time reading the best content that is out there.

While I have purposely minimized my discussion of politics on this blog, the topic is bound to enter into your professional and social conversations. You’ll want to be on top of anything that is breaking news, and you should know or have a good sense of whether it is credible, simply not true, or the makings of an urban legend.

There are resources available that will help you learn how to sort fact from fiction. Two that you may be familiar with are:

  • snopes.com – What began in 1995 as an expression of a couples shared interest in researching urban legends has since grown into what is widely regarded by folklorists, journalists, and laypersons alike as one of the World Wide Web’s essential resources.
  • washingtonpost.com – they have a Fact Checker section that filters the statements made by politicians and the wanna-be elected types. Another weekly column, The Intersect, covers fake topics that are trending in the news.

I am waiting the assignments for Week 2 to load, however, I plan to post an update to this topic after Week 5 of the class.


  1. Thousands enroll in ASU’s first free, public online class, by Kaila White, The Arizona Republic/AZCentral.com, July 7, 2015, http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe/2015/07/07/asu-online-class-free-mooc-journalism/29816569/

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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