In his former career as a freelance photojournalist, Jeff Share documented issues such as poverty and social activism, and won awards for his coverage of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament of 1986.

Today, the lecturer and faculty adviser in UCLA’s Teacher Education Program has turned his lens on two critical issues facing educators and students: climate change and the need for critical thinking skills to decipher the barrage of real and alternative facts in the media.

Share, whose photos once appeared in the Washington Post, was recently interviewed by the newspaper about his critical media literacy courses at UCLA, where he trains current and future K-12 teachers in ways to show students how to deconstruct media, create their own alternative messages and separate fake news from facts. Share is the author of a 2009 book, “Media Literacy is Elementary: Teaching Youth to Critically Read and Create Media.” In 2015, a second edition of the book was released. 

At a discussion in April hosted by the Nonprofit Communications and Media Network, Share joined a panel of educators, journalists and media experts to discuss the respective responsibilities of the public and the media in relation to “fake news” and alternative facts.

He described the mission of critical media literacy training in the Teacher Education Program as helping teachers “educate kids to be critical thinkers and to be able to build skepticism about all information, whether it’s coming from a teacher or from a website. That shift from censorship to empowerment is very important.”

Drawing on his experiences as a photojournalist, Share teaches his students that no one is truly objective.

“It’s really important that people move beyond this notion that there’s bias and then there’s objectivity,” said Share at the panel discussion. “We’re human — nobody can be completely objective. To think that somebody can be unbiased is naïve; that’s not how communication works. But that should be a goal, especially as journalists — to try to be as objective as possible, as fair and as balanced.”

His upcoming book, “Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents: Reading, Writing, and Making a Difference” (With R. Beach and A. Webb. New York: Routledge. 2017) takes a look at another big issue confronting society. He instructs teachers on using the urgent challenges facing life on Earth as a conduit for teaching English language arts in middle and high school.

Share, who once taught in bilingual classrooms at Leo Politi Elementary School in L.A.’s Pico-Union community, says that using a timely issue like climate change fulfills a dual purpose.

When teachers can engage students on such an important, relevant topic, he said, students “can use the literacy skills they are learning inside the classroom to become better readers and writers, while at the same time, analyze and create messages for people in the world beyond the classroom.

“This pedagogical approach to making learning culturally and socially relevant provides students of any age the opportunity to experience the power of literacy … using it to become agents of change.”

In “Teaching Climate Change,” Share and his co-authors also present a variety of teacher and student voices to illustrate the ability to blend climate change into existing curriculum.

“Fedora Schooler at El Sereno Middle School in Los Angeles, describes in the book how she brought climate change lessons into her seventh grade English and social studies classroom, and Nick Kello at UCLA Lab School tells how he did it through music instruction,” notes Share. “Both teachers took very different approaches while experiencing similar successes as their students demonstrated increased engagement in the classroom and a sense of empowerment to use the knowledge and skills they were learning to make a positive change in the world.”

Share earned his Ph.D. at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies in 2006. He has served as regional coordinator for training at the Center for Media Literacy where he wrote curricula and led professional development.

He continues to provide professional development training in critical media literacy for teachers in LAUSD as well as for educators throughout the United States and internationally.

This story is posted in Ampersand, the online magazine of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.