Professor, researcher, and creative maker at the intersection of communication, education, technology and media literacy. Mantra: Listen. Watch. Learn. Create. Live.
I was born the second youngest of 6 children in San Jose, California, USA. I am a 13th great grand daughter of Pocahontas and a 6th great grant niece of General Joseph Warren. I guess you could say I am from a long line of native Americans and colonialists—and the complex histories/herstories that come along with that heritage. Thanks, Ancestry.com.
Regardless of my New England ancestry, I was born and raised on the west coast in Silicon Valley during the 1970s. My father worked as an electro-physicist for IBM and my mother regularly supplied the elementary school secretaries with delicious baked goods. Sadly, my father passed away when I was 12 and from that point forward hard work became my best friend. As a side note, I inherited both the computer literacy and the baking skills. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Following graduation from Saratoga High School, I earned BA and MA degrees in Communication Studies from San Jose State University. In 1994 I won California statewide honors for my qualitative social science research (Communication, education, and technology: A critical discourse analysis of the local Channel One controversy). I spent an enlightening year as a “roads scholar ” teaching oral, written and digital communication at various colleges and universities in northern California. In 1995, I threw caution to the wind and moved to Greenwich Village in New York City to study Media Ecology with Neil Postman at New York University. To earn my keep, I accepted a doctoral fellowship in NYU’s Expository Writing Program and taught freshman composition.
My studies at New York University in 1996 led me to the Media Workshop New York, a project of the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Center for Children and Technology. As a media educator and technology professional developer, I traveled to schools across the five New York City boroughs working with students, teachers and principals. My favorite experiences were co-teaching 7th and 8th grade Social Studies and Science at the Museum School and the Laboratory School in Chelsea. Those daily challenges and opportunities provided me with a solid foundation for my philosophy, pedagogy and practice of urban education, technology integration and media literacy education. This work was foundational to my first published articles, book chapters and book, Rethinking Technology in Schools (Peter Lang, 2009). As an outgrowth of my school-based experiences, in 1999 I created Project Literacy Among Youth (PLAY, LLC) to help educators and parents magnify the creative yet critical ways in which young people use new (and old) media technologies. Through PLAY, I am able to facilitate school wide technology planning, technology and curriculum integration, and program evaluation across P-12 educational settings and community organizations.
In 1998 I moved back to California to accept a one-year lectureship in the Department of Communication at Santa Clara University. In my spare time, I got married and started a family. In 2002 (two months after giving birth to my second child) I defended my dissertation (Hacking through the billboard jungle: Adolescent student interpretations of classroom commercial media) to complete the Ph.D. in Media Ecology. That same year I accepted an academic position in literacy and educational media in the College of Education at Montclair State University in northern New Jersey, bringing me (and my growing family) back to the east coast. As a junior faculty member, I was told that I only needed to be a productive scholar (not necessarily a reproductive one). Once again I threw caution to the wind and gave birth to two more children in 2004 and 2008 bringing the final sibling score to: California: 2; New Jersey: 2. On a side note, I was awarded tenure in 2007.
Since arriving at Montclair State University in 2002, I have developed, taught and coordinated coursework in educational technology, media literacy, curriculum development, democracy in education, and communication and media studies while working shoulder to shoulder with pre-service and in-service teachers in a school-university partnership (MSUNER) that spans 30 school districts in New Jersey. Montclair State University is home to one of the nation’s top-ranked teacher preparation programs and its president has grown it to a leading institution of higher education in the northeastern United States.
Along this teacher education vein, in 2009 I was elected to to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). In 2011 I served as Program Chair for the NAMLE 2011 Conference (“Global Visions/Local Connections: Voices in Media Literacy Education”) in Philadelphia. I also served as NAMLE First Vice President (2011-2013) and as co-editor (with Renee Hobbs) of the Journal of Media Literacy Education (2012-2013). For these efforts I received the 2013 NAMLE Meritorious Service Award. I was invited back for an encore performance as Program Chair for the NAMLE 2015 Conference (“Celebrating Connectivity Across Cultures“) in partnership with UNESCO’s MILID group in one of my favorite cities (Philadelphia, PA) and with some of my favorite people (namle.net). I am also a founding editorial board member of the Knight Foundation’s Journal for Digital and Media Literacy and I have served on the editorial boards of several other journals.
I consider myself a media literacy education diplomat: You can find my published writings slathered across a wide spectrum of academic audiences, including those of Society and Business Review, the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Library Trends, and Action in Teacher Education. In Spring 2013 I was awarded a sabbatical to finish my second book, titled Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools: How Media Literacy Can Renew Education in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) that intertwined my interests across disciplinary borders: communication, technology, education, media literacy and the urgent need for health media literacy among young people.
In 2013, I celebrated my twentieth anniversary of teaching in higher education. That same year I was elected to serve as chairperson of an eclectic group of faculty comprising the Department of Secondary and Special Education at Montclair State University. As of September 1, 2015 I officially achieved the rank of full professor, which also christened my search for the Next Big Thing. In 2016 I joined an accomplished and eclectic group of scholars and practitioners within the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. In 2018, I soft-launched the Communication + Media Research Collaboratory (C+MRC) as a vehicle for innovation and incubation in research and teaching. You can listen to our C+MRC podcast here and follow us on Twitter @CMRCollaborate
In 2019, I celebrated my 50th birthday and also 25 years teaching in the Academy. I also created an academic coaching firm that I named La Vitae Loca, for obvious reasons. In 2020 I published my third book (during the coronavirus pandemic) titled, Navigating media literacy: A pedagogical tour of Disneyland (Myers Education Press). The book is not about Disneyland. Really.
So far my three greatest achievements are: 1) raising four children, which I found/find to be much more difficult than childbearing; 2) being married for two decades; and 3) accomplishing 1 and 2 at the same time.
Everything else is fairly simple.