» Simultaneous bottom-up and top-down approach needed to expand media and information literacy
30.06.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Simultaneous bottom-up and top-down approach needed to expand media and information literacy

Participants discuss MIL challenges during the second day of the Second European Media and Information Literacy Forum in Riga, Latvia. © UNESCO/Jing Xu

The second day of Second European Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Forum in Riga, Latvia, explored the challenges of MIL. The focus was on: resource development, policy level progress, strategies for the mainstreaming of MIL, teacher education and media ethics.

“We need both a bottom up and top down approach for MIL,” said Carolyn Wilson from Western University, Canada, and the Chair of GAPMIL Interim International Steering Committee. “That means highlighting grassroots activities in order to convince policy makers that MIL is really significant.” Ms Wilson underlined the need to highlight that literacies should not be developed just for the sake of developing them, but because of what is to be gained from MIL skills.

The Second European Media and Information Literacy Forum (EU-MILINFO II) is organized by UNESCO, the European Commission, the Latvian Government and the Sub-Chapter of the GAPMIL, under the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Europe: Citizens’ Critical Competencies for a Rights-Based, Transparent, Open, Secure and Inclusive Information Environment”. It takes place from 27 to 29 June 2016, in Riga, Latvia.

The conference has surfaced that many stakeholders and institutions worldwide are implementing MIL-related activities of different scope and impact. Nevertheless, only a handful have national MIL-related policies and comprehensive strategies to implement them.

MIL that is understandable for everyone

Igor Kanizaj, Vice-dean for science and international cooperation at the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, Croatia pointed out several entry points for MIL actions.

“Academia is expected to initiate new alliances, and journalists should be included in the projects. Cooperation with private sector (ICTs) should be initiated and regulatory bodies motivated for MIL.

“At the same time that curricula should be changed, there should also be educational projects developed for parents,” said Mr Kanizaj. 

The need for MIL competencies for participative democracy has been echoed throughout all Plenary sessions and round tables. Divina Frau-Meigs, representative of the GAPMIL European Sub-Chapter and professor at University of Sorbonne Nouvelle, pointed out that MIL competencies, policies and strategies should be developed in a concrete way that is comprehensible for everyone and which takes into consideration that intergenerational dialogue that will be crucial for Europe, a region with a significant aging population.

 Too often we assume that only young people are the vulnerable ones. We forget that there are other important audiences for media literacies,” said Ms Wilson, suggesting the need to go beyond formal education. “MIL should be promoted through libraries and community centres, so all age groups can be involved,” she added.

Inspiring projects in Europe

Speakers of the Forum shared many inspiring examples of projects all over the Europe. Film clubs in the UK have grown from a pilot of 25 schools to 7000 participating schools. “Attending a film club regularly has improved children’s confidence, motivation to learn and literacy, as well as their communication and critical skills,” said Mark Higham, cultural educator from Film Literacy Europe. 

The experience and an experiment from the Latvia Safer Internet Centre shows that young people are deeply unaware of privacy issues on the internet. However, the Centre has started dealing with this problem through the development of textbooks for children on MIL, which have been widely used in Latvian primary schools and gained nationwide popularity.

What about media ethics?

In building trust in media and its content, Dr. Xavier Landes, an expert in media ethics from the University of Copenhagen, raised the importance of good manners.

“In order to build trust in the public, good manners are essential, even though often seen as trivial by professionals and not too serious by ethicists. However, professionals and commentators too often downplay the importance of media manners. Professional ethics is about codes, and codes are definitely important. But manners go beyond that. They are about personal ethics,” Dr. Landes said.

GAPMIL calls for an internationally-recognized Global MIL Week

The call for a global special focus on MIL was made at the conference by GAPMIL, an alliance of over 500 organizations and individuals who are actively involved in different actions connected to MIL. The Alliance was initiated by UNESCO.

GAPMIL has launched an international petition for an internationally recognized Global MIL Week. The proposal can be supported at: https://www.change.org/p/support-call-for-an-internationally-recognized-global-media-and-information-literacy-week.

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