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Media and Information Literacy Project Lab: Youth workers share practices and resources

How do you prevent hate speech using martial arts and why is life so similar to an online game? A showcase of inspiring media literacy projects took place at the MIL Project Lab, organized by DW Akademie partners SALTO Youth Participation & Information Resource Centre in Tallinn.

“Please take your shoes off when you enter the Club of Different rooms”, says the doorplate of the creative hub located in the former industrial and nowadays most hipster quarter of Tallinn. “Exactly like during our classes” Elisa Guerzoni notices. “There’s just one difference – in our labs you do not sit comfortably in an armchair, you have to fight barefoot!”

Elisa comes from Modena where she is the director of Il Cassetto dei Sogni, an organization created five years ago by 20 enthusiasts of different professions – lawyers, doctors, teachers, nurses. Still, they all have two things in common, namely they practice martial arts and they work with young people. At MIL Project Lab she shares her experience of dealing with students who encounter difficulties in communication with their peers. “Cyberspace has become their only place of communication, even being side by side, students send texts, they don’t speak. Sometimes they send crazy rumors or bad jokes about their school mates, but they never have the courage to say it directly. This is why schools invite us. We use martial arts to enable young people to speak freely. We explain that bullying ends when you are inside the ring and there are some rules you have to follow,” says Elisa.

  While in capoeira you are never allowed to touch the opponent, in Brazilian jiu jitsu you lay on the floor with the other fighter, very close to each other. Due to martial arts, Elisa and her colleagues explain what it means to enter somebody’s private sphere and what the consequence could be. “When a school invites us, we come and work for several weeks with one class of 20-25 students and deal with a specific problem inside the group, like hate speech or cyberbullying. After an hour of exercise we usually sit in a circle and discuss what kind of emotions the students experienced.”

 Often Elisa meets the former students later at national calls: “During the competitions I see those who were bullied online, I know that they gained confidence at our laboratories and I’m thrilled that martial arts serves as connection for young people and helps them get back to real life.”

MIL Project Lab is a great chance to expand this project beyond Italy. “Together with colleagues from Belgium, Lithuania, Georgia, France and Romania, we are planning to apply for a youth exchange. Our aim is to empower young people to be responsible and empathetic digital citizens through knowing emotions and how to deal with them. Both online and offline”, concludes Elisa.

Playful approach to media literacy

Gabriel Encev comes from Moldova, where media literacy was introduced in the school curriculum as an optional course. “No doubt, introducing these courses is great, but not enough”, says the production coordinator from the Moldovan NGO, Youth Media Center. Gabriel counts on a reasonable combination of formal and non-formal education, and thinks that media literacy can also be taught via simulation games. In 2018, during a hackathon Youth Media Center developed a game called Media Quiz. He went to Tallinn to present it at the MIL Project Fair.  

“We tried an alternate reality game entitled Data Run in Germany during a study trip and fully enjoyed playing investigative journalists within the Technical University of Berlin.” The team came back home and developed its own game, suitable to the Moldovan context. As social media is the main source of information for young people, the quiz is full of questions about misinformation sources, secure chats and critical analysis.

“The scenario is simple: for an hour and a half, a group of young people is challenged to find QR codes and other clues hidden in the room, answer a series of questions about the media, use tools to verify information, and finally find a secret briefcase,” says Gabriel. What students like the most is the race against time. It gives them motivation to work together, to become a real team, searching for passwords and right answers.

Until today around 10 schools all over the country have played Media Quiz and the feedback was always unanimous: students say their online behavior has become more responsible. “We are happy when teachers holding MIL course at high school invite us to do Media Quiz with their students. It is the best review of all the theory studied through practical tasks,” says Gabriel.

The MIL Project Lab was a SALTO YOUTH Event that ran August 28 – 30, 2019 in Tallinn, Estonia. It gathered 35 participants from 25 countries and offered a platform for interaction between youth workers and media professionals. SALTO-YOUTH Participation & Information Resource Centre supports the capacity building of young people, youth workers, National Agencies of the Erasmus+: Youth in Action program, the European Commission and other stakeholders in involving young people in decision-making processes. DW Akademie was invited as a partner organization.

 

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