April 26, 2012

So cliché?

“Two heads are better than one.”

“Power in numbers...”

“T.E.A.M. = together everyone achieves more…”

The clichés and idioms are countless, and it’s certainly nothing new to propose that collaboration and cooperation among diverse players can lead to great results. At the core of the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, we strive to create and maintain collaborative partnerships with fellow agencies across Central Texas for the sake of improving quality and availability of literacy services.  

But have you ever stopped and asked- Who says this is how things should get done?

How are we measuring that a coalition is in fact a ‘best choice’ vehicle to foster increased community capacity for social change?

Why do these questions exist? Because measuring the impact of a coalition is complex and few evaluation tools have been designed to measure the multi-level realities of community coalitions.  

LCCT interacts with community direct services, program management, organizational management and policy at city, county and national levels.  So where do we measure from? How do we assess the big picture for what we are doing?

While LCCT believes in the good work we are achieving, and we have much to show for our efforts already- more hard data is always ideal.

LCCT is excited to announce a new project that will seek to tackle the challenges of assessing our big picture impact. We have designed a two part assessment tool in the form of an online survey that will be administered to our 50+ partner agencies. This tool was designed in consideration of best practices research for literacy services as well as in reflection of similar initiatives/projects ongoing within the health sector.

We are excited to be in the process of administering Part 1 of the survey at this time.

Part 2 will be administered in June 2012.

In August this year we will have a wealth of knowledge gathered from our partner agencies to report back out to the community and to guide future practice within the coalition.

If you would like more details about the tool, or to view a copy of this tool, you can contact Emily Pulley at epulley@willread.org.

Stay tuned for exciting new insights into the big picture impact of LCCT in the Central Texas area!

April 13, 2012

5000 advertisements a day!

The first time I heard about media literacy I was in my 6th grade English class and our teacher was having us cut up magazines to recreate the advertisements with our interpretation of what it was they were trying to convey or sell. I have to admit I didn’t really understand why he was having us do it, but hey, we were getting to look at magazines and make collages during school, so I wasn’t about to complain.  Media literacy completely fell off my radar until I got to high school and became interested in the use of advertising in political campaigns to make voters feel something about a particular candidate whether or not it was a true reflection of who the candidate was or what they stood for. This got me wondering how much advertising influenced the decisions people make on a daily basis and the way we form relationships with other people as well as with the inanimate objects promoted in advertisements.

I bet most of you are thinking, “Hey, I’m an intelligent, well-educated person. I know how to make rational decisions. Advertisements don’t really have any influence on me.” Maybe, but we are living in an era of media saturation – think about how much time you spend on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or email or surfing the net. Advertisements have become harder and harder to differentiate from other forms of media. Some estimate that we are exposed to close to 5000 advertising messages daily! So, whether or not you believe advertisements influence the decisions you make, it doesn’t hurt to buff up your media literacy skills so that you can be both a critical thinker and creative producer of media.

So what exactly is media literacy? Essentially it is a communication skill set that enables a person to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate information in a variety of forms (this includes both print and non-print media). It is not an anti-media movement but rather a movement to empower individuals as we make choices as students, citizens, workers, consumers, and (to tie this back to my role as Health Literacy Intern) as patients. One day there’s an article on how ________ food that is good for you and the next day there’s a new article about how it may cause _______.  One day low-fat diets are touted as the best prescription for weight loss and the next it’s low-carb diets. How am I supposed to figure out healthy eating with all the mixed messages? And all those advertisements for drugs that are supposed to help with anxiety, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, PMS.  How can I figure out if one is right for me? What if my doctor doesn’t prescribe the one I’ve seen on TV? Should I ask for a different prescription? Or for those of us who like to self-diagnose our symptoms, which websites are actually providing trustworthy information and how do I know whether I’ve just got bad allergies or a brain tumor when swollen, stinging, draining eye is a symptom of both? That’s where media literacy can help. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it will help us to think more critically about the messages we receive, question the source of the information and the motivation behind the message.

Interested in learning more about media literacy, check out some of my favorite media literacy advocates: Media Education FoundationSut Jhally, Jean Kilbourne, Jackson Katz, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In the adult literacy classroom you can help your students improve their media literacy by creating activities and discussions comparing advertisements and public health announcements. You can check out more in our Health Literacy Workshops for Literacy Instructors.

April 9, 2012

The Bee Team Trivia Challenge: Game On!

I know you're out there, fellow lovers of language and purveyors of piquant prose. I see you on your cell phones, playing Words with Friends and Scramble to tide you over before your next opportunity to feel the barely-there weight of seven lovely little worn wooden tiles in your hand as you lean over a Scrabble board. I have good news: you're not alone in this big strange city of ours. Join us at 6:00pm on Tuesday, April 10, at the Yellow Jacket Social Club to get your smarty-pants fix. We offer 9 rounds of language, spelling, grammar, etymology, definitions, and other language-related trivia. You and your team of up to 6 folks get to test your mettle for free and win sweet prizes from local establishments. This week: win $30 at Buenos Aires Cafe! That's a glass of wine for everyone on your team. So grab your pocket protector and join your fellow grammarians and bibliophiles to revel together in our collective, otherwise-largely-useless knowledge! Let us know you're coming: RSVP on our Facebook event page!

April 2, 2012

Health Literacy Forward Pitch - Tune in, venture capitalists!

Here at the Literacy Coalition, we are in the midst of launching a business. Yeah, that's right. A genuine, money-making, corporate world, big$$, for-profit business. In my next post, I'll write more about why I think it's so important for us, the non-profit world, to step outside of our just-scraping-by, begging-for-money, throw-us-a-bone silo, and start finding new ways to become sustainable. But for now, check out this pitch I did at the RISE Austin Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition. This was a "rough draft" version that I used while practicing...so bear with me as I stumble over a few words and speak a little too quickly. Check it out! 

Check out our health literacy page on the website to learn more!

Or follow me on twitter!