Media Literacy in Schools

An educational program for educators and teachers tackling media literacy is one of the most important educational programs that GONG has designed. It aims to equip teachers to properly educate and inform their students about the significance of media literacy today. The program also focuses on teaching students how to develop a critical approach towards newspaper, electronic and digital media.

Media literacy is one of the most essential tools in civic education. Today, the media is an unavoidable channel through which citizens perceive information. Media’s main task is not only to inform the public, but also to develop and sustain a communication process between the public and the government. In addition to this, the media plays a crucial role in influencing the public and public opinion. Thus, the media’s role is crucial to account for when talking about freedom of speech and its ability to generate valuable and truthful information.

The term media literacy was first coined at The National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy in Aspen, USA, in 1992. It was defined as “the ability to gain, analyze, evaluate and deliver messages through the media”. Igor Kanižaj described media literacy as the ability to gain, analyze and create media content, while having a critical opinion on the topics presented by the media. When further analyzing the meaning of the term media literacy, we can notice that it is a necessary tool to develop cognitive, ethical, aesthetic and philosophical skills and knowledge (Mikkinen 2005).

Significant aspect of media literacy is computerization. According to Livingstone and Thummim (2003), there are three dimensions of media literacy: technical competencies, mastering the skills and practice of forming critical opinions, and producing content. Peruško (2003) even suggests a fourth dimension of media literacy that involves learning and understanding digital media, the press, radio and television. Peruško states that it is important to be aware of the history behind the production of media. That entails analyzing who owns and controls the media in terms of funding, editing and publishing. As every stakeholder who takes part in the process of publication has an influence on the final product, it is mandatory to be informed on the types of influences they provide. For example, Peruško recommends looking into the concentration of power in the ownership of the media, its social impact and its consequences on the commercialization of the content. While media literacy focuses on the role and influence of media in society, other fields focus on the pedagogy of teaching of media literacy.

There are multiple approaches that can be exploited when teaching about media literacy. For example, learning about how to use Internet safely pertains to the IT sector, while other aspects of media literacy education pertain to health or civic education sectors. Despite the fact that there are many subjects clustered together, they remain different as they are explored from different angles. In schools, there is less space to implement and seriously talk about the development of media literacy. To learn more about media literacy education in Croatia, the following report Mapping of Media Literacy Practices and Actions in EU- 28 describes some of the good practices.

In its educational curriculum, GONG made sure to include a module on media literacy. Throughout the months of March and April, GONG has been professionally training teachers. One of the trainin sessions was held in Sisak and others were in Poreč and Rijeka as part of the Media Literacy Days. The purpose of training teachers through this non-formal educational program is to enable them to have a better understanding of how the media operates, not only in Croatia, but on global social and political perspective. In addition, the aim of the module is to develop the necessary competencies of teachers in order for them to educate and inform their students about the media. The training emphasizes the importance of having a critical opinion towards media content including newspapers, electronic and digital social media platforms. Having a critical perception towards media content should encourage students and educators to understand the role of civic activism, since one of its priorities is to recognize the relationship between the media and the making of public policy.

The methods that are used throughout the education module include: delivering information and sharing experiences through presentations, debates, reading, watching and listening to specific materials. It involves analyzing media content from a critical point of view and encouraging educators to have a critical approach towards the media and its role in society. By attending the training, they would develop their competencies to lecture students about the role of media and to further critically analyze media content. The educators would also learn how the content is structured graphically (visually and textually) and how to deconstruct it, how the media uses such content to transmit different messages and how to critically analyze these message.

To understand the risks and dangers of the media, the participants themselves will be trained to recognize violation of media rights and will know some of the important mechanism of self-protection. The educational program includes topics like the right to information and the media as a source of information, the promotion and violating rights (especially when talking about youth and the influence of media), appropriate, responsible and safe use of the Internet and critical reading. Various sections of the training include content on advertising, trust in the media, hate speech, stereotypes and prejudices and the media scene in Croatia and its neighborhood.

Furthermore, GONG, with the collaboration of Kurziv has published a training manual Let’s Read Between the Lines that includes a guide for teachers and a section with suggested exercises for students. The development and implementation of the educational programs was financially supported by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development through the Knowledge Centers for social development program. The program is also supported by the European Union through the Erasmus+ program GEAR (Global Education and Active Response for Protection of Human Rights, Inclusion and Democratic Values ​​in Intercultural Societies). The implementation of the program in the city of Sisak is financially supported by the Open Society Foundation Network and the National Foundation for Civil Society Development through the Knowledge Center for Social Development. The implementation is jointly organized by the Center for Peace Studies, the Forum for Freedom of Education and GONG through co-operation within the GOOD Initiative for Systematic and Quality Inclusion of Education, Human Rights, Democratic Citizenship in the Educational System.