What Dinosaurs Taught Me about Media Literacy

In preparation for my digital storytelling session in Anaheim, I wrote this short reflective piece. However, the workshop involved a much different exercise than I anticipated, so I wasn’t able to develop the script any further. Thus, I’m sharing it on the blog in case I ever want to translate it into a digital narrative later on. Here it is:

“Everything I learned about media literacy, I learned from dinosaurs. Throughout my childhood, I was obsessed with them  – I couldn’t get enough of the rich, expansive, seemingly mythological world. So I read book after book from the library, re-watched movie after movie, and collected an array of cards/toys/and merchandise. It wasn’t long until I could tell you exactly which dinosaurs were prevalent in the Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous periods. I could tell you about any species’ diet, behavior patterns, and mating rituals.  And I would definitely tell you that there is no such thing as Brontosaurus – it’s an Apatosaurus. Brontosaurus was the result of incorrectly matching the head of Camarasaurus on the body of Apatosaurus, a blunder which took 100 years to correct. These kinds of stories were so exciting for me. I became a kind of information archaeologist,  hunting down and uncovering  data from an array of sources and piecing together the clues to formulate my own interpretation. We might think of those skills as the beginning of literacy today, but not the complete picture.

Dinosaurs became not just a personal hobby, but also a subject for connecting and collaborating with other people.  At my Dinosaur themed birthday parties, I expected guests to research and act like their favorite dinosaurs. The idea was that if we each reenacted a different species, we could explore some fascinating interactions together.  This was great fun, until one time I caught a supposed herbivore eating pepperoni pizza. (There’s the door)  I also put on various dinosaur shows for my parents, complete with balloon props, colorful hats, and sound effects cued up on the tape player. My parents would film me prance around, rattling off factoids and roaring loudly. I then could share the video with my friends and family, despite a lack of any clear coherence.

Nevertheless, the important lesson was that rather than merely consuming media for myself, I was producing it, sharing it, and performatively demonstrating my findings. I could teach an audience as the expert on a topic. This turned out to be a powerful learning tool for mastering the dinosaur universe, contributing to my success in the classroom later on.  And now, with the ubiquity and accessibility of digital media technologies, it’s never been easier to tell stories to and with people from around the world. So even though I’ve grown past dinosaurs, (and given my height perhaps into one) , my passion for storytelling, media technology, and digital literacy allows me to re-experience that same sense of excitement, creativity, and imagination all over again.”


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