Journalists and other specialists delivered a series of workshops on media and information literacy (MIL) in elementary and high schools in five Western Balkan countries in 2019 within a regional project that continues in 2020.
The MIL workshops are part of the EU-funded project ’Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media’ (2018-2021), which primarily aims to build the capacities of CSOs with a wide range of activities to advance media and information literacy. A group of seven SEENPM members, led by Mediacentar Sarajevo, implement the project in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
The aim of the workshops with school children was to motivate them to become more competent, critical and interested media users, as well as to familiarize them with the work of professional journalists. That is why the work with children was done with a multitude of hands-on exercises, games, quizzes and other engaging methods.
More than 810 school children were introduced to MIL knowledge and skills in 33 workshops held throughout the five countries in 2019. The workshops were adapted to the media context in each country. An additional 92 workshops in schools will be held in 2020.
Although the training curriculum varied among the countries, some of the common issues covered were: introduction to journalism as a profession; the concepts of media freedom and public benefits from professional media; digital literacy; disinformation, fake news, information manipulation (all with the focus on social media) and information verification tools and skills (including photo and video verification); visual literacy and telling stories through pictures or video.
“As is the case with all young people, my students spend a considerable amount of time in front of a screen. Because of this it is important to help them navigate digital and legacy media environment, evaluate the credibility of the content they consume, view it critically and use it ethically”, said Slobodanka Kandić, Librarian at the Secondary vocational School ‘Ivan Uskoković’ in Podgorica, Montengro, after the workshop involving her students.
Many of the trainers used Trainers’ Manual for Media and Information Literacy, one of the publications produced within Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media project, available in local languages and English, primarily created to help education and other professionals from the Western Balkans prepare their first MIL training courses.
As many of the trainers were journalists – they were encouraged to use Handbook for Journalists Teaching Media Literacy, yet another publication that the project produced to help journalists transfer MIL knowledge and skills to children effectively. The publication is available in the national languages of the region and English.
Most of the teachers present during the workshops advocated for introducing MIL into official school curricula.
“I am of the opinion that professors of social sciences, in cooperation with the relevant authorities, have an obligation and an opportunity to teach children about media and its significance throughout the curriculum, no matter how challenging it is”, said Milosava Mrdak, sociology teacher, Gymnasium Slobodan Škerović, Podgorica, Montenegro.
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The regional program “Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media: Strengthening the Capacity of NGOs for the Development of Media and Information Literacy in the Western Balkans” is implemented with the support of the European Union by partner organizations Mediacentar Sarajevo, Albanian Media Institute,Macedonian Institute for Media, Montenegrin Media Institute, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute, SEENPM.