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UCLA Education Co-Sponsors the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas

International and multilingual event centered on the legacy of Paulo Freire, disinformation, gender equity, and environmental and racial justice.

This fall, the UCLA School of Education was one of the principal sponsors of the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas. This online multilingual conference brought together educators, researchers, students, and public intellectuals from 48 countries to commemorate the legacy of Paulo Freire and the power of critical media literacy.

SEIS lecturer Jeff Share, who was one of the conference organizers, asserts that,“Freire’s focus on praxis, which he called, ‘reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it,’ is an essential component of critical media literacy as we read the word and the world.”

The accessibility of the conference with free registration, interpretation services in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, as well as sign-language for some sessions, attracted over 630 participants from across the globe. This was achieved without any corporate sponsorship, and just minimal institutional donations, while all the labor was voluntary. The UCLA Department of Education helped organize the live operation center with 24 volunteers from among undergraduates, graduates, alumni, and faculty and also donated technology and infrastructure support for the three days of sessions, often running on four concurrent tracks.

The months of planning for the conference involved close collaboration with many people, several of whom came to UCLA in 2017 as Fulbright Fellows from Argentina. One of them is Alicia Olguín, the rector of the Instituto Provincial de Educación Superior "Paulo Freire" (IPES) in Tierra del Fuego, who served as the conference co-chair with Nolan Higdon of CSU East Bay. Another Fulbright Fellow is Inés Gómez from Santiago del Estero, Argentina, who organized the sign-language interpreters for the keynote sessions. Along with a handful of other Fulbright Fellows, the conference steering committee included 38 university faculty, nonprofit educational leaders, K-12 teachers, undergraduate and graduate students from institutions in the Americas and Spain.

From October 15-17, the conference covered various themes from disinformation to gender equity to environmental and racial justice. There was also a track of salon sessions with artists sharing their media productions curated by Amina Humphrey from CSU Dominguez Hills. The three keynote sessions that kicked off each day, began on Oct. 15 with a panel discussion led by Shirley Steinberg from the University of Calgary, Canada, about critical pedagogy and media education. The second keynote was a panel of experts from Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Spain discussing “Educomunicación” in Latin America, moderated by Alfonso Gutiérrez Martín from the Universidad de Valladolid, Segovia, Spain. The final keynote session on Sunday morning included a panel of critical media literacy scholars from across the nation, discussing the last 20 years of media education in the U.S.

Andrea Gambino, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Social Sciences and Comparative Education division of SEIS, and a co-organizer of the CMLCA, reflects, “The opportunity to connect with educators, researchers, and students around the world demonstrated the importance and urgency of critical media literacy, from Moore Hall to the tip of South America.

“What made the conference especially meaningful was the experience to plan and implement the CMLCA with former and current students,” she says. In my research about critical media literacy with educators and students, I often hear questions about ‘How can we bring these ideas to our families, friends, and communities?’ Through their involvement in the conference, our students have become stronger advocates and practitioners of critical media literacy.”

The UCLA influence reached beyond the organizing and running of the conference to the presenters. Two undergraduate students in the new Education and Social Transformation major, Luz Thomas and Susana Cisneros, provided a workshop on critical media literacy that engaged the audience in creating their own visual representations of environmental justice. A recent alum of the Teacher Education Program, Amber Medina, presented in a session focused on teaching critical media literacy to elementary students. The division of Social Sciences and Comparative Education was represented by Professor Emeritus Douglas Kellner, Distinguished Research Professor of Education at UCLA, Share, and Gambino.

Planning has already started for next year’s conference, and anyone interested in getting involved can contact

Recordings of the sessions are now available for free viewing. Visit this link for the bilingual conference schedule and links to its presentations.

Above: UCLA Education volunteers coordinated an operation center in Moore Hall for the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas. L-R: Andrea Gambino, Justin Brown, Aaron Tann, Elmer Ortega, María Valeriano, and Arpit Gaind.

Luz Thomas and Susana Cisneros, UCLA undergraduates who are majoring in Education and Social Transformation, presented at the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas.

Photos by Jeff Share