It’s been nearly 10 days since I returned from the Media and Learning 2016 conference in Brussels and the ideas developed at that conference are still swirling around in my head. In my view, that’s a sure sign of a successful conference! This is certainly the best media literacy conference in Europe!
Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary Propaganda. It was an honor to offer a three-hour workshop on propaganda as a pre-conference program and I am so grateful to Sally Reynolds and the Evens Foundation for supporting this work. Thirty distinguished participants, including officials from education ministries, researchers, and media literacy activists came from Belgium, Croatia, Sweden, Romania, Latvia, Spain, Finland, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Brazil, the United States, and Singapore. It was awe-inspiring to get global feedback on our crowdsourced educational website, Mind Over Media and to consider how it might be used by educators in Europe and around the world.
Film and Media Literacy. Among the many great sessions was one focused on film and media literacy. Shoshana Eilon introduced Film Platform, a resource for university faculty interested in using streaming videos from independent filmmakers. Anneleen Ophoff from VRT in Belgium introduced My Jihad in the Classroom, which adapted a documentary about Muslims in Brussels to help teachers address issues of radicalization. And Frank Saenen of Xaverius College in Borgerhout, Belgium offered a marvelous media literacy approach to teaching history by focusing on the Palestianian-Israeli conflict. As part of his work, students critically analyzed how the conflict was depicted in both Belgian and Moroccan textbooks! He presented a short film that features a close look inside his classroom — and you can see his marvelous presentation here.
Leadership in Media Literacy. What an honor to hear Katia Segers, a Member of the Belgian Parliament, who articulated the values of media literacy in relationship to the European project. What a comprehensive view of the policy issues in European media literacy today! Her talk is online here. She wants to ensure that media literacy’s definition is expanded in the new European Directive, recognizing that media literacy is not a substitute for media regulation. Although she emphasized the need for participation in media literacy by all stakeholders, including education, culture, media industry and civil society, she recognizes the absence of Internet providers in the media literacy community. She also recognized that when responsibility is shared, it’s possible that nothing gets done; for this reason, she recommends that in each country, one organization needs to be dedicated and leading the work. What an inspiring leader – and indeed we are so lucky to have Katia in our knowledge community!
Media Literacy and Radicalization. In the best presentation of the entire conference, Jordi Torrent from the UNAOC rocked the house with his remarkable and groundbreaking speech on media literacy and radicalization The room was riveted with his powerful and visually stunning presentation. I tried my best to summarize while live-tweeting:
Combatting Extremism with Media Literacy Education. Jordi’s amazing presentation was a hard act to follow, but after lunch, we continued the discussion with myself and Maria Ranieri from the University of Florence, Italy. Maria provided an overview of her new book Populism, Media and Education. Challenging Discrimination in Contemporary Digital Societies, published by Routledge. In my opinion, this is the best new book on media literacy education in the past five years! Professor Ranieri showed examples from the marvelous anti-discrimination media literacy curriculum she developed with colleagues from seven European nations. I talked about teaching about propaganda as a means to address the problem of increased apathy combining with political polarization. The discussion was an amazing one, as I recall!
Propaganda, Lies and Videotape. In the final plenary, I was honored to participate in a lively discussion about radicalization and media, taking the stage with distinguished Belgian war correspondent and journalist Rudi Vranckx. Also on the panel was a youth engagement specialist, Moad El Boudaati of City Vilvoorde, Belgium, as well as Professor Divina Frau-Meigs , University Sorbonne Nouvelle, France and Karin Heremans , GO! Atheneum Antwerpen, Belgium. You can see our discussion here. I emphasized the need for radical perspectives in the context of making societies more just and equitable. Other topics included the importance of multi-vocal perspectives and counternarratives in understanding the conflicts in the Middle East, issues of how to respond to stereotypes and racism, and the absence of the issue of Moroccan migration in Europe in Belgian history textbooks. We also explored the value of grassroots efforts for tackling the topic of radicalization by recognizing the power of innovative classroom teachers and civil sector actors.
The media literacy community in Europe is strengthened by the presence of educational broadcasters, technology companies, education ministries, culture ministries, and researchers, activists and NGOs. Thanks to all for a great conference!