The inspiring second day of the UNESCO-led Global MIL Week 2016 Feature Event in São Paulo, Brazil, brought to light the relevance and urgency of policy on Media and Information Literacy (MIL) around the world. Media and Information Literacy and the Global MIL Week received high recognition from the government of Brazil, with the Secretaries of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transparency, Oversight and Control and the State of São Paolo. These high-level officials together with representatives from UNESCO, the University of São Paulo and the Global Alliance for Partnerships on MIL expressed commitment in advancing MIL and called for it to be placed on the global development agenda.
Uncertainty: a difficult task for education
Marco Antonio Zago, Rector of the University of São Paulo and the keynote speaker of the Feature Event, underlined the “uncertain” times we live in. “Universities have the difficult task of educating for times of uncertainty. We don’t know which technologies will be available but we know they will be different than today”, he said. He pointed out that “we need to look into strengthening the behaviors and abilities to take decisions, to communicate and argue and to train for the future”. And this is a challenge as well as a responsibility. He noted that “Universities are the sisters of freedoms”.
“This conference also provides us with responsibility, to think critically about the purpose of MIL and what kind of society we want to live in. We are here to seize the opportunity that UNESCO provided,” said Carolyn Wilson, Chair of GAPMIL Interim International Steering Committee and instructor at Canada’s Western University.
How to measure the impact of MIL policies?
During the first plenary sessions, focusing on MIL as a tool for bridging the divide between learning and living in formal, informal and non-formal education, Alexandre Barbosa, Director of CETIC.br approached a critical issue of public policies – their impact (or lack thereof) over the lives of youth in Brazil. Using research conducted by CETIC, such as the Brazilian Kids Online Survey, Barbosa highlighted that MIL can reduce the gap that exists between the learning and everyday empirical experience in formal, non formal and informal education environment.
Paulette Karr and Paulette Stewart from the University of the West Indies added another perspective on this: “Research done shows that technology issues were not at the heart of the problem. It was more policy and infrastructure”, they concluded. The importance of policy was also highlighted by Ismar Soares, professor at the School of Communication and Arts at USP, who stated that “this conference can promote dialogue surrounding public policies, so that we can empower educators in Brazil”.
“Learners at the centre of a networked world”
Tessa Jolls, President of the Centre for Media Literacy, USA, noted that education reform is needed, as “through MIL, learners are placed at the centre of a networked world where MIL is brought to the centre of all learning.” The first plenary session opened with a recollection that 2 November is the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists and the appropriateness that Global MIL Week 2016 was opened on that day. Journalists were recognized as important information providers relevant to MIL, as are librarians, archivists, museum creators, researchers and academics. All were called upon to offer a moment of silence for journalists killed in 2015 and 2016.
Exciting time for MIL education
“Today the majority of our schools are still following the Industrial Revolution model; a bell signals when we must start and finish, students wear uniforms, there is a professor”, highlighted Rosa Maria Vicari, UNESCO Chair for ICTs in Education, adding that access to technology is viewed as a challenge. “The new media provide possibilities and opportunities, with many new models”, she concluded at the round table session “Innovation in MIL Education: transforming learning in a multimedia environment: best practices and pedagogical models for MIL and teacher’s education”. The fundamental role of teachers in MIL education was further reinforced during other round table sessions. Primary school education is very important but most teachers are not currently trained in MIL, so its integration into their curricula is crucial.
Intercultural impact and critical attitudes
MIL skills are also having a profound impact on intercultural dialogue. Prejudices often exist because of a lack of knowledge; most people are afraid of what they do not know. Grassroots and everyday collaborative activities will contribute to reducing fear and promoting mutual understanding, and so can the media and journalists.
Dennis Reineck from Deutsche Welle (DW) Akademie shared a project carried out in Cambodia and Palestine focused on the use of social media amongst rural populations who were not aware of how to use it. “There was a bit of knowledge there, but mostly it was about motivation among young people and, along with that, access to developing critical attitudes,” Reineck explained, highlighting that MIL competencies, among others, are knowing how media work and demanding media quality.
Global MIL Week 2016 is led by UNESCO in cooperation with the General Assembly of the Global Alliance for Partnerships in Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL), the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) University Network and hosted by the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Global MIL Week’s Feature Event was celebrated from 2-5 November 2016 in São Paulo.
Contact: Alton Grizzle, Programme Specialist, a.grizzle(a)unesco.org, + 33 (0) 1 45 68 42 11.