After last year’s kick-off of by European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou of what is to be Cinekid’s annual media literacy conference, this year’s second edition was launched by Matteo Zaccetti, Deputy Head of the DG Information Society and Media Unit “Media Programme and Media Literacy” of the European Commission.
Why is media literacy so spectacularly important? If it’s up to Matteo Zaccetti and the European Commission it should be at the heart of a child’s education, right up there with languages and math. Media literacy, it transpired throughout the conference, actually is a language, a new language, the language of using and thinking about information technology and independent media.
“I think we all know”, said Zaccetti, “media literacy is a precondition today for active and full citizenship, for future employability, for enhancing curiosity and interest in European content and heritage, and for boosting and complementing on-going audience development strategies. And let’s not forget the development of new business models in the industry. So basically media literacy is crucial for creativity and innovation in the EU and probably also for the existence and understanding of pluralistic and independent media and a better informed public sphere.”
Zaccetti recalled how three years ago Cinekid director Sannette Naeyé tried to convince him to include media literacy in the media programme of Creative Europe, the European Commission’s framework programme for support to the culture and media sectors. Not that he needed persuasion, Zaccetti said. He was already convinced. “And the beauty is, some of the things we discussed then, have now become a reality. We recently selected 9 media literacy projects that we will support and I hope that the fruits of this work will come very soon. They will prove once again how important media literacy is.”
Media literacy will create a future proof future, Zaccetti said. It will prepare for unexpected shocks and equip us with the right tools to deal with anything the digital media have in store. He did stress that sometimes “we focus a bit too much on a specific technology. But technologies come and go. The content, the media and the critical approach stay. So let’s focus on that: curiosity, creativity and a critical approach. Today’s diverse program will show the many different elements that make up media literacy.”
Five approaches to bring media literacy to children were presented as Best Practices, focussing on four questions:
- What is the project’s innovative quality?
- How is children’s creativity a part of the project?
- How does it affect media literacy?
- How was it received by the audience?
Do it right and magic can happen
Martin Finn was a founding member of British company EdComs in 1995 and has run the company since 2007. EdComs creates learning experiences for young people in school on behalf of clients that, according to the company’s website, “build trust and deliver educational, business and social impact”. Clients include GSK, RBS, Google, EDF Energy, British Olympic Association, DfE, and Unilever. Not only businesses though. Edcoms also works for charities and government, though cutbacks made government a smaller player in the market.
“Some see it as an unholy marriage but what if private sector businesses actually cooperate with schools in developing and offering learning materials?”
“We develop all kinds of different programs”, Finn said. “Digital, live, paper based. And they’re all free of charge to the schools. We create websites, apps, film is becoming increasingly important, we train company staff but also teachers and we create live experiences with theatre.”
So it’s not only digital. Moreover, the Edcoms CEO usually asks two questions when it comes to using digital media in schools:
- Does it actually enhance learning: is it actually better than pen and paper?
- Is it proportionate to what you’re trying to teach?
Finn showed “examples of good uses of digital education, not necessarily things that’ll blow your socks of.”
Help children become designers of a better future
What would children like to change if you put the question to them? Less homework? Less school? No. A ten year old thinks up a robot to clean up plastic in the streets. Or a 3D food printer to tackle world hunger. Or a car that drives on electricity to reduce carbon emissions. Or a pen that writes for children with dyslexia. “That’s actually the kind of things children come up with”, says Emer Beamer, Unexpect founder. “And then they get to make them.”
“A typical starting point for our workshops is this question: what would you like to change in the world?” – Unexpect founder Emer Beamer
“We have two billion children of school going age. And the world they live in is changing fast. How do we help them become designers of a better future? Isn’t that what education is all about?” Beamer quoted Dutch education philosopher Gert Biesta, who formulated three goals of education:
- To get children ready to be self-sustainable for their future
- To invocate societal values into the child
- To prepare the child to contribute to their future societies
We don’t know what the future will be like, said Beamer, but we do know what changing already. The amount of online information is like the equivalent of four billion books. “Children have to learn to search cleverly and smartly and have the capacity to synthesize a lot of information.” Other technologies will also increasingly be a part of people’s lives and make lifestyles change: robotics, nanotech and genetics. Unexpect formulated seven spear points to prepare children for this changing technological landscape.
- To discover one’s purpose and values. “That’s really not in the education system at all but at the end of the day that’s what’s driving us.”
- An ability to create and design
- Modelling for complexity and sustainable life style goals. Understanding algorithms
- To think critically
- To make things with new and older technologies. “It’s almost scandalous if we don’t teach children to use the technology that we are creating around them. It boggles my mind.”
- To cultivate children’s sense of wonder and curiosity
- To develop relationships and empathy across our intercultural and transdisciplinary future world
Strengthen children’s awareness of media
For the past ten of it’s 28 years of existence Cinekid has developed its own educational projects, which are offered throughout the year. Cinekid’s Vanessa Pattipeilohy presented a showcase of a number of those projects. For the development of new tools and expanding its media literacy program, Cinekid is actively looking for new partners in Europe.
“All projects are media related and all are based on the idea of learning by doing. We offer tools and workshops with which young children can design and create a broad range of media products. Our mission is to strengthen children’s awareness in relation to media and understand how it affects their emotional and social development. We want to teach children how media work and how they are being made. We want to teach about the influence of media on the everyday life, with a focus on audio-visual media. How do we do that? Through workshops and lesson materials. Where do we do that? Everywhere. At home, in schools, at other festivals, cultural institutions and libraries.”
Three examples of projects
- Cinekid Filmspel, a program for creative storytelling. Focuses on children 6 and up. Cinekid provides the tools, the children come up with the stories. It can be used in lessons but individual use online after school is encouraged. Children not only come up with stories, they also get a rudimentary feel of what it’s like to build 3D and stop-motion animation.
- Mini Media Academy, where children learn about website hacking, app-building, robotics and programming.
- Green screen technology.
An very interesting first experience with mixed media
Max & Billy’s Drill Machine Girl is Dutch Film Institute EYE’s debut in the online series arena. EYE Amsterdam opened its doors in 2012 and is expanding its educational activities rapidly with new digital content.
Next to its screening and preservation activities of some 37.000 films EYE houses an international department that represents Dutch cinema in international markets and an extensive education department. It organizes educational programs, special screenings and workshops in EYE itself but also provides national educational programs. For example MovieZone, aimed at teenagers.
“Through MovieZone, we present history, present and future of filmmaking. This will enhance children’s knowledge about the medium”, said Manon Sandee of EYE. “MovieZone gives 12-18 year olds the opportunity to discover the world of film and stimulate one’s talent. We present offline and online activities, which we promote in school and after school. After school access is crucial as film education is still not part of the Dutch national curriculum. We also organise MovieZone juries at film festivals. But back in 2011 we were wondering how could we reach a larger audience, i.e. how to renew MovieZone.”
Independent media company NewBeTV came up with Max & Billy’s Drill Machine Girl. It comprises an online series and a website. While watching the series you get information about film, if you wish. It’s voluntary. It’s a series about friendship and love but especially about film. Launched in 2013 at the Dutch Film Festival and broadcasted by national tv-station Veronica. Over 690.000 people saw the show. A French tv-channel has bought the series and will broadcast in November. On YouTube the show reached more than 50.000 views, on Vimeo over 22.000. According to Sandee EYE’s first experience with a “mixed media format where education meets entertainment was very interesting.”
A second project is underway: ‘Bardo’s Film Gebeuren’ in which one of Holland’s most popular YouTubers aims to make a movie, together with the audience.
Very popular cBBC whodunit web series about online safety
Dixi is a very popular cBBC’s interactive web series production. cBBC’s Mario Dubois offered an in-depth look at the program’s approach.
“We create content for 6-12 year olds. As an interactive producer my job is to work with independent production companies to help them stimulate ideas that will work interactively with our audience. In fact interactivity is my heartland. In view of that Dixi is a really interesting project, because it has no tv component. For us it’s a new step in doing drama, in partnership with Kindle Entertainment. It’s a whodunit in which Dixi has her profile hacked online and the goal of the show is to discover who’s behind it. It consists of 30 vlogs, scheduled for release over a period of three weeks. Its sub message is about how to be safe online. Kids see that, but they first and foremost love it because it’s a drama and they’re involved.”
Children can go online and interact with the characters, which offers another approach next to linear viewing of the story itself. It’s very topical and reflective in terms of the conversations between friends. Its key characteristics: social, it has the suspense of a whodunit, it’s shot in a way that resembles real life and children can chat in a safe environment.
The show has had over a million view requests. Over 50% of viewers watched at least 50-75% of an episode. First children accessed the show predominantly from their desktop but in the course of the three-week screening schedule their mobile use increased. The second series is in production now, which will focus on how to protect yourself more when surfing online.
The Art of Storytelling
Children love to read and tell stories. Australian company The Project Factory created the Junior Storytellers app to make it easy for children to build stories.
“It’s not a movie making app”, said UK-based Jennifer Wilson. “It’s a story telling app that we developed together with the help of teachers, parents and education specialists. We provide settings and a hero, the children come up with the story. Junior Storytellers came to us from a small production company in Australia. They were interested in taking what they knew about TV, filmmaking and storytelling and turning it in to an app that would teach children storytelling. Actually, more and more other companies now come to us with their trademark characters and ask us to build a storytelling app around those.”
For more go to the Facebook page of juniorstorytellers
The Project Factory built the app around three key principles:
- We wanted to teach the art of storytelling. From 4 upwards. We teach them a story has a beginning, middle and an end. We talk about a hero, the hero’s desire, obstacles, and the hero’s journey. Let me tell you, even Ulysses was written with these building blocks. The app teaches storytelling with this staged approach.
- We wanted to teach emotions. So children can tap on the face of a character chose different emotion through facial expressions.
- We have several asset packs. For instance a jungle setting of a fairy tale setting. They can view those settings from three perspectives, through which we wanted to give them a feel of special awareness.