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Perception, Fear, and Media: Roots of Polarization

Perception, Fear, and Media: Roots of Polarization
A 2-Week Deep Dive Micro-Credential Course 
for Emerging and Established Leaders

Building upon the success of the February's MediaEd Institute, we are thrilled to offer a new online professional learning experience for educators who want to advance their expertise in media literacy education -- but also need the flexibility and low cost of online learning.


DURATION: July 21 - August 5, 2024

MEETING DATES: Two synchronous meetings, Friday, July 26th and August 2nd, 2024

TIME: 12-1PM EST (9AM PST/18:00 CET) 

INDEPENDENT WORK EXPECTATIONS: Take time for guided reading, viewing, and online discussion at times that are convenient for your busy schedule (total time commitment is 6 hours during two weeks) with the Media Education Lab's Pathwright LMS


INSTRUCTOR: Psychologist and author, Bob Van Oosterhout




Course Description

Fear restricts our vision, narrows our thinking, and limits our capacity for understanding and learning. We don’t ask questions when we’re in a state of fear. We don’t evaluate sources or evidence. We don’t consider history, context, or implications. Prolonged fear, fed by repeated exposure to fear-based messages, turns these restrictions into mental habits that are resistant to change. Fear Based Thinking restricts our ability to see things from other perspectives and make us vulnerable to manipulation. Beliefs become immune to logic. Information bubbles become impenetrable. Divisiveness and polarization become part of life.  

This course looks at how fear-based messages and fear-based thinking affect our perceptions, thinking, and mental health. It offers practical solutions that free us from fear and allow us to see and think more clearly. Participants will explore how to incorporate an understanding of fear and fear-based thinking into media literacy education.

Participants will also receive a free PDF copy of “Slow Down and Lighten Up:Letting Go of Stress and Tension” by the course instructor, Bob Van Oosterhout.

Course Structure

This is a 8-hour course spread over two weeks, from July 21st to August 5th. The blended learning model includes of Real Time Learning experience with the instructor and course participants on Zoom along with Anytime Learning that involves reading, watching videos, and online threaded discussion. 

Session One (Anytime) explores three aspects of perception, how they affect our response to media, and how beliefs that become resistant to evidence and logic are formed.

Session Two (Anytime) identifies three kinds of fear and explores the effects of the
use of fear in media and social media on mental health. Participants will explore how fear is used in media to get and keep our attention and learn how to transform fear into caution, care, curiosity, and connection.

Session Three (Friday, July 26th at 12PM EST)is a real-time live Zoom discussion with a focus on how fear is used in media, how it affects us, and what we can do about it.

Session Four (Anytime) introduces Fear Based Thinking (FBT), a mental habit formed in response to prolonged states of fear, often fueled by media. Participants will learn to identify seven essential components of FBT and how they restrict our capacity to see and think clearly. 

Session Five (Anytime) describes steps we can take to effectively respond to FBT in ourselves and others. Participants will explore how an understanding of fear and FBT can be applied in Media Literacy Education. 

Session Six (Friday, August 2nd at 12PM EST) is a real-time live Zoom discussion that explores how information from the course can be applied in daily life and work.


Learning Outcomes

By participating in this micro-credential course, you can expect to: 

📌 Describe the three components of perception, how they limit thinking and receptivity, and what we can do to expand our capacity for understanding and learning.

📌 Reflect on the nature of fear and how it affects body, mind, and emotion.

📌 Analyze how fear is used in media messages to grab and keep our attention.

📌 Evaluate how prolonged fear leads to Fear Based Thinking, which limits our capacity to see and think clearly.

📌 Recognize and effectively respond to Fear Based Thinking in self and others.

📌 Transform fear into caution, care, curiosity, and connection.


Instructional Practices 

The micro-credential course is designed to provide you with a comprehensive and balanced understanding of media literacy, combining theoretical knowledge with practical skills and emphasizing the importance of collaboration and networking within a vibrant cohort of educators and professionals. As experts in online professional development, you'll get hands-on, minds-on learning opportunities to do these things: 

Critical Media Analysis: Participants will learn to critically analyze media content, including news, advertising, and entertainment, to identify biases, misinformation, and persuasive techniques commonly used in media production.

Creative Expression: Educators will create media to learn to apply effective strategies and pedagogical approaches for teaching media literacy in diverse educational settings, enabling them to design engaging lessons and resources for their students.

Dialogue, Discussion, Collaborative Learning and Networking: Participants will actively engage in dialogue and collaboration with fellow educators, activists, and community leaders, fostering a supportive and diverse professional network for sharing ideas and best practices in media literacy education.


Who Will Attend

This is a micro-credential course that brings together diverse professionals who see opportunities to apply media literacy education to their work and life contexts. Because our approach at the Media Education Lab is that "Everyone Learns from Everyone," participants contribute valuable perspectives to collaborative discussions, enhancing the overall learning experience within the institute. There are many benefits to interacting with people including: 

Classroom Teachers, Librarians, and Higher Education Faculty: Educators at every level will deepen their pedagogy and practice and develop resources and materials they can use in their classrooms.

Journalists and Media Professionals: Media professionals enhance their media literacy skills to improve their reporting and storytelling, as well as to navigate the ethical and political challenges of the evolving media landscape.

Staff and Leaders of Nonprofit and Advocacy Organizations: Staff members and leaders from nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups learn how to harness media literacy to raise awareness about their causes, counter misinformation, and engage with the public effectively.

Counselors, Social Workers and Mental Health Professionals: Use media literacy skills to better support people who are experiencing challenges that result from the fear, hate and increasing polarization that we see on the news and in social media. 

NOTE: The Media Education Lab is committed to providing equitable access to this institute and has a limited amount of funding to provide discounted registrations for a select number of participants. If you would like to be considered for a scholarship that would provide a 50% discount to the micro-credential, please complete this form before July 1st, 2024.