Media literacy for schools

Media literacy for schools

2019.gada augusts - 2020.gada maijs

Education Development center (EDC) has been implementing the project Media literacy for schools from August 2019 to May 2020. The project is financially supported by US Embassy.

The aim of the project is to strengthen democratic values in the society of Latvia educating teachers for integrating the media literacy in their teaching and educational work and promoting the young people’s media literacy.

Since August 2019 Education Development center (EDC) has been implementing the project “Media literacy for schools”. During the first months of the project 110 teachers in different regions of Latvia have mastered the media literacy programs.

The accessibility and diversity of information gives people wonderful possibilities to be knowledgeable and successful. However, sometimes the broad offer of the media can cause confusion and makes it difficult to evaluate in the name of which economic and political interests or cheap popularity the concrete content of the media has been created.  The skill to be a smart consumer of the information has become a basic skill for every person. Education, too, reacts to this necessity – topics of media literacy have been included both in the teaching/learning content of several school subjects and also as a transversal skill in the whole education process in the new competence-based approach.

The EDC project “Media literacy for schools” gives support to teachers in integrating the education process. The project is financially supported by US Embassy in Latvia and is a continuation of projects previously implemented by EDC aimed at strengthening the youths’ media literacy in Latvia. Two programs have been developed in the project – an introductory course (6 hours) and a more profound course (24 hours).  During the first five months of the project 110 teachers from more than 30 schools of Latvia and education institutions in different regions of Latvia participated in the acquisition of the program.

The project programs are designed to give teachers useful content information as well as to acquaint them with teaching/learning methods for effective mastering of the content. The introductory part of the courses acquaints teachers with the latest research data on the media environment in Latvia and the assessment of the media literacy of Latvia’s society and young people. Participants also get an insight into the conclusions drawn by the EDC project “Supporting media literacy of Latvia’s young people” about the students’ skills of evaluating the information and recognizing false news and manipulation in the media.

Analyzing the previous experience, the program participants have admitted that students’ skill to assess the information critically and to compare different sources of information is poor. This is proved by the data of the latest international students’ competence assessment study “OECD PISA 2018” which reveals that the achievement of reading literacy of Latvia’s students lags behind the OECD country average and it shows lower achievement in information evaluation and reflection skills. Teachers involved in the program have also indicated that students are used to rely uncritically to the reality created by the information bubble or the accidentally chosen media content as well as follow those values that influencers/the opinion-makers express with the help of media. Another essential challenge faced by education is also students’ insufficient skill to create themselves the content which is published in media responsibly and to use the media for promoting civic participation and democracy. During the program sessions participants discuss and master practical classroom strategies for their work to master the above mentioned challenges and to strengthen the young people’s skills to use media critically and be responsible themselves when preparing the information for posting in the media.

The content of the program has a special emphasis on the importance of critical thinking in the context of media literacy and gives an insight into the content and methodological guidelines of media education. Therefore the program strengthens the teachers’ skill to use and assess information and at the same time consolidates their pedagogical competence of media literacy. This is confirmed by statements expressed in the participants’ feedback comments – in future I will assess more the aims of media and the content of media, be more cautious about what I learn in social media, in sessions I gained ideas for my teaching in lessons and educational work, the whole society, not only students have to improve the media literacy.

Participants are offered diverse methodological approaches in the program how to give students the knowledge about media types and functions in a democratic society, about the social role and tasks of media, about the key principles of journalists’ work and ethics in a more attractive and exciting way; they learn what interview is, what propaganda is and how it works, what are facts and what are opinions, etc.  The content of the program is acquired in active participation when the participants express their opinion and discuss the content of the sessions and how to develop the skill to work with information in students of different age groups. The participants have concluded that it is important to consolidate media literacy successively in all stages of formal education starting from preschool and finishing with secondary education.

In order to orient in the information space and be able to assess what is the truth and what is lies and how opinions are being influenced, one must be knowledgeable about the topicalities of the social life. Therefore the themes of the program include topics how to teach attractively and excitingly about events happening in the world. The participants have a chance to share their experience how in different age groups and different subjects make students interested in following events in politics, culture, sports and other spheres of society’s life. Main conclusions drawn by teachers who participate in the project are based on their experience, namely, that the school has to plan a common approach to teaching topicalities, it has to offer students diverse tools and strategies for searching and presenting the information, to teach students to take interest systematically and regularly in current events, to promote their skill to assess the causes and consequences of events, to compare information in different sources.

During the acquisition of the program the participants discuss what qualitative journalism is, how journalists participate in the formation of the societal values, how they share opinions about journalists whom they consider outstanding representatives of this profession. Teachers also take the roles of journalists and assess how and in which way they would reflect the information in their publications/broadcasts.

An intrinsic aspect of media education is also responsible elaboration of the media content. It is especially important to teach the young people to have responsible publicity in social networks. Therefore the program also includes issues about the etiquette of social networks, the skill to make news, suggestions how to prepare for the interview, how to ask questions and how to attract the attention of the audience.  Teachers are encouraged to involve students more actively in preparing information for the school homepages and local media.

The participants of the more profound 24 hs media program receive also home tasks that are connected with the approbation of the course materials. During the implementation stage of the project teachers have piloted materials to students of different age groups from elementary school to grade 12. Teachers have demonstrated a wonderful skill of adapting the program materials to the age of their own students and the concrete subject they teach at school. The program materials are especially actively used in Latvian language and literature lessons, social studies, history and class teacher’s lessons. Several themes have turned out to be also useful in the work with students’ council, young journalists and members of the book club. Teachers have integrated themes related to media usage habits of young people and responsible consumption of the media content in the agenda of teacher-parent conferences. It is especially important in the context of project sustainability and impact that course participants having acquired the program acquaint their colleagues with its content, organizing the methodological days, seminars for teachers of related subjects and presenting at conferences. Teachers gained interesting experience from delivering integrated lessons of different subjects when the media literacy content had served as the transversal element for treating the issue of interdisciplinary studies in a complex way. All in all, approximately 2500 students, more than 800 teachers and 600 members of students’ families and other representatives of the local community have been acquainted with the program materials during the first five months of the project implementation.

The acquisition of the media literacy programs continues in 2020.

Photos from seminars