Youth (information) workers can be brilliant providers of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) education. They are already coping with a broad variety of holistic topics, some of which are closely related to the MIL topics such as the ones in the Composite Concept by UNESCO (see our first article and podcast for more).
Your secret powers
Youth information workers do already have MIL skills themselves – researching, assessing, and organizing information, using and creating different media, safely communicating through different (digital) channels. Hence, one of the easiest things to do if you are questioning your level of competence is to reflect on your own work. What research strategies do you use? Why? How do you organize your information? How could you share this knowledge with your users or colleagues? Observe yourself and your colleagues and acknowledge how much you already are capable of. MIL is no magic. Young people are using media daily, as are you, so by just showing some simple hacks from your daily experience (e.g. researching for the inquiry with the inquirer themselves) can already make a difference in the way they understand and create media and information.
Put MIL in the spotlight
Many youth workers do already implement special MIL educational activities and choose this as one of their portfolio topics. However, there is much more that could potentially be put in place to foster MIL skills in youth work. After you have reflected on how much of your daily work is already somehow connected with MIL, consider, how much special attention are you paying to MIL education in your service? Maybe you can initiate a visit with your users to a local media outlet? Maybe a journalist could share in a workshop with your group how they are searching and fact-checking the information? Or to share about journalistic standards that distinguish professional journalism from social media? If you would like a more systematic approach, maybe a weekly MIL club at your service could be an option? If you have read our second article on MIL basics, you will ask yourself, how you could integrate more content creation – so why not to go for a photo-story-hunt on a city-rally? Or just launch a pop-up newspaper or a social media account with a youth editorial office? More project ideas for concrete ways to teach MIL can be found at SALTO Awards or SHERYICA publications.
What are the bits and pieces of the MIL competencies?
In order to assess your own level of competence, or to be able to structure the learning of your users, you need an overview of what the MIL competencies are. They can be systemized in different ways. If the 113 performance indicators of MIL by UNESCO (Global Media and Information Literacy Assessment Framework) are a bit too much (and at the given moment it is not the most up-to-date document), you might want to check out the EMELS. The European Media Literacy Standard for Youth Workers builds the bridge between MIL competencies and the specifics of working with young people. By doing so it does not go for the lengthy Talsinki tunnel, but rather a jump over a creek: only 5 areas are illustrated with concrete examples and connected with useful resources. It looks into Information and Data, Media creation and communication, Resistance and empowerment, Understanding media usage of children and young people, and Training skills and development.
How to assess my MIL skills?
Assessments is not the strong suit of those working in the non-formal education. The effects of self-reflection can be even bigger. Based on the European Digital Competence Framework (DigiComp), Verke, with other stakeholders in the field of youth, have created a professional digital competence toolbox. It includes specific criteria for youth workers (as well as a chapter on MIL), a self-assessment tool and a test. These can help you to give a structure to the sometimes a hard to grasp digital world.
It seems that there is still no single golden bullet for getting a comprehensive view on one’s MIL skills. There is a variety of different tests and tools (e.g. EDUMediatest or www.digitalcheck.nrw/en), that differ in their target audiences, languages, accessibility or simply in the concept of what they measure. EU’s DigiComp seems to be one of the broadest and most timeless resources in this regard.
If you want to get a more general view of your digital competencies, like data literacy, digital content creation, safety, or solving technical problems, you might want to take the Self-Assessment Tool for Digital Skills. It works in all EU languages and promises to give you concrete training and learning tips after you have completed the test. If you are looking for more, there is a fresh DigiComp 2.2. report with concrete examples of knowledge, skills and attitude descriptions, that you could also use in formulating learning outcomes for your educational activities.
Helpful approaches in teaching MIL
I have already shared five tips on teaching MIL: create a learning experience, reflect, be relevant, don’t teach – facilitate, and explore more than disinformation . In the meanwhile, I would add three more points from the experience of the last couple of years of MIL practice.
MIL is life-long-learning
Youth information workers are already used to being asked questions that they do not actually have answers to. They are humble in the sense that they know their limits. Even though it is impossible to “know it all”, most of the times youth information workers know, someone else who might know, or they may have established research skills to just find it out themselves. That is the fun part of your work – always exciting enquiries and always something new to learn yourself. This is however also a mindset that one needs for the job. It is exactly the same also for those who wish to teach MIL. You need to accept, that you will never know it all. We need to become lifelong learners, as that is what is best for our professional success.
Don’t teach MIL alone
Precisely because of the already mentioned possible “meteorites” that shackle our work, be it technological developments, new platforms, or another crisis, we should cooperate in our educational activities. First of all, acknowledge your users as a vast resource. You do not need to use all the apps or other vogue of the day young people are using. Them using technology does not automatically mean being literate in the understanding of, or particularly in the creating of qualitative and legal content. Activate your networks, be it journalists, activists, or specialized authorities, to get them talking to your clients and answering detailed and specific questions.
Co-create and seek participation
As discussed in the first article, MIL and youth work share the same goal – active participation of well-informed citizens. This might become a result of our successful work, but it needs to also become a self-explanatory part of the process. Get young people to co-create the next MIL project, curriculum or event. Only in that way will you be able to really find out, what is important for them. MIL has the tendency to become slightly paternalistic, which is felt by young people straight away. So maybe before you try to think of what topics and aspects of MIL you should prepare, invite young people for a bar camp , where they will be able to set the agenda and even become active contributors.
Should you face the reality of training young people in an online environment, here are some useful tips and tricks to make this more fun for you and the users.
How to get better?
Maybe with the help of some self-assessment tools you can get a better indication, what you still need to work on. Having a clear aspect of MIL, e.g. algorithms, will help you to find more tailor-made training opportunities than trying to approach all MIL topics at once. Then you can follow some of these tips:
- Check the European Training Calendar by SALTO for possibilities to attend a training, study visit or a MOOC (e.g. Digital Youth Work MOOC);
- Subscribe to newsletters or join (online) communities of practitioners, like the Media and Learning Association and ERYICA on a European level, or Faktabaari and Mediakasvatusseura for Finland;
- In Finland you can also contact Koordinaatti which supports youth work in strengtening MIL skills
- Network and keep your eyes and ears open for developments and opportunities during national, and European MIL action weeks, or the Global MIL Week organised at the end of each October by UNESCO.
Global Media and Information Literacy Assessment Framework: Country Readiness and Competencies, 2013, Annex E, p.129