Media Literacy: Weak spots and Successful Approaches

Digital Communication Network organized Media Literacy 360° Forum & Fair* in order to discuss what works and what doesn’t work in the media literacy field and establish networking between different sectors.

Editor: Maryna Dorosh

46 organizations, 150 participants from 22 countries participated in the event. Among participants were civil society activists, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, representatives of the international organizations.

DCN’s Vice President Franak Viačorka on Media Literacy Approaches

The main target audiences they work with include: children, teens, teachers, wide adult audience; less frequently — seniors, journalists. The most common type of projects presented were:

· Online-platforms

· Training programs

· Innovative educational institutions

· Research

· Information campaigns

· Games

The content of media literacy programs mostly focused on fact-checking, identifying disinformation, media creation (usually for teens), news literacy, digital literacy.

Problems with media literacy

Participants shared their experiences and discussed what approaches don’t work. To summarize, the weak spots and gaps we identified in the current media literacy projects are:

● Lack of consistency due to unsustainable funding. Within the short-term projects it is hard to develop skills and work with audiences on a regular basis.

● Evaluation remains the most questionable stage of all the media literacy projects. Experts and managers lack tools to measure the efficiency of their activities.

● Hard to reach adult audiences which are not structured (comparably to teachers or students).

● The audience for fact-checking projects is smaller than the audience for fakes and usually there’s no overlap between the two groups.

● No consensus between trainers whether it is appropriate to apply such tasks as “fake creation” or “biased news creation”. Some of them see it as a way to learn the hidden mechanism of fakes and manipulations; others believe that purposefully created fakes undermine the basis of media literacy.

● Integration of digital literacy into education in a majority of countries meets resistance including: out-of-date curriculums, slow process of educational reform, teachers afraid of the new digital tools.

Participants’ answers on our realtime poll

Successful approaches

Reaching out to neglected groups

Some audiences remain invisible for media educators. While the majority of initiatives are concentrated on youth and active adult internet-users, senior citizens are overlooked. But seniors are usually active voters and they are not targeted by disinformation campaigns. Primarily because they are vulnerable to manipulation, poorly adapted to new digital tools and they can distrust mainstream media and journalists.

The Czech organization Transitions (TOL) conducted research and found out that the least media literate group in Czech society is women, aged 60+ with lower education. At the same time, seniors spread political news six times more often than younger people. After the research (including in-depth interviews) Transitions held 15 events in various formats, for about 150 participants. They got a very positive response: almost 100 percent said they would advise their friends to attend such events, 100 percent want more events like this. Half of the initial pilot group started organizing events in their home cities and towns for local senior audiences.

Cooperation with tech companies

Activities aimed at enhancing digital literacy are more up-to-date when media literacy experts connect with technological companies. Such cooperation also allows them to diversify sources of funding. For example, Digitalents Helsinki focuses on the development of digital know-how skills of young people aged 16 to 29. “The way we increase know-how is simply learning by doing. It means innovative and inspirational projects from clients. We start with meeting and making offers, then making videos, demos, webpages, visual design or whatever is needed”, — says Head of Digitalents Media Karoliina Leisti. The organization cooperates with big IT companies like Reaktor, Digia and Futurice and has had around 60 young workers and almost as many young people participated doing their work practice in IT and digital media teams.

Head of Digitalents Media Karoliina Leisti shares their story

“Desacralizing” [1] journalism through media creation

Empowering people to create their own stories helps to spread understanding of how media works and what kind of mistakes journalists can make. This is a well-tried method which still remains widespread amongst children and teens. To make it more efficient, News Wise (The Guardian Foundation, UK) empowers 9–11 years old children to create news about the stories that matter to them and that are relevant to their lives. News Wise engages professional journalists who explain things on real examples from the news, not made up stories. Also, they show children authentic fakes and ways of debunking them. “In the same way children learn to read poetry and fiction and ask themselves critical thinking questions about “how does this make me feel”, “what language they are using to try to influence me” — we apply the same critical thinking tools for news, — says Angie Pitt, project director at The Guardian Foundation. — And it works! We’re receiving feedback from children, where they say that “now I can tell my parents more about news that they know about” or “I went home last night and read a newspaper””.

To be continued

Stay tuned on our Medium Blog, we will share other successful media literacy approaches in our next posts.

Your opinion matters

Be our guest editor. Write about your media literacy initiative, problems you face and approaches that help to move forward. Pitch your story at digicomnet2016@gmail.com.

* The Forum was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Office of Citizen Exchanges and coordinated by Digital Communication Network, an international association, connecting global influencers and communicators of the digital age and World Learning, a global NGO empowering people and strengthening institutions.

[1] It means that media creators help the audience to see media production process as a transparent process, without mysteries https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desacralize

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