Global MIL Week 2016: MIL at the heart of learning and education #MILWeek2016

The inspiring second day of the UNESCO-led Global MIL Week 2016 Feature Event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, brought to light on 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 Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transparency, Oversight and Control and the State of Sao Paolo. These high-level officials together with representatives from UNESCO, the University of Sao Paulo and the Global Alliance for Partnerships om MIL expressing commitment in advancing MIL and called for MIL to be placed on the global development agenda.

Uncertainty – difficult task for education

Marco Antonio Zago, Rector of the University of Sao Paulo and the keynote speaker of the Feature event, underlined the “uncertain” times we live in. “Universities have a difficult task of educating for a time of uncertainty. We don’t know which technologies will be available but we know they will be different then today” he said, pointing out that “we need to look into strengthening the behaviors and abilities to take decisions, to communicate and argue and to train for future”. And this is a challenge as well as a responsibility. He noted that “Universities and sisters of Freedoms”.

“This conference provides us also with responsibility, to think critically about the purpose of MIL – what kind of society you 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 approached a critical issue of public policies – their impact (or lack of it) over the lives of youth in Brazil. Using researches conducted by CETIC, such as Brazilian Kids Online Survey, Barbosa highlighted that MIL can reduce the gap that exists the learning and every-day empirical experience in formal, non, formal and informal education environment.

Paulette Karr and Paulette Stewart from University in West Indies added another perspective on this: “Research done shows that technology issues were not at heart of the problem. It was more policy and infrastructure” they concluded. The importance of policy was also highlighted by Ismar Soares, professor at School of Communication and Arts at USPs stating that “this conference can promote the dialogue with public policies, so that we can empower educators in Brazils”.

“Learner at the centre of 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 and where MIL is brought to the center of all learning.” The first plenary session opened with a recollection that the 2 November is the International Day of Impunity for Crime Against Journalists and the appropriateness that Global MIL 2016 was opened on that day. Journalists were recognized as important information providers relevant to MIL, as are librarians, archivists, museum creators, researchers/academics. All were called 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 to start when we must start and finish, students are wearing uniforms, there is a professor”, highlighted Rosa Maria Vicari, UNESCO Chair in Information and Communication Technology 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 multimedia environment: best practices and pedagogical models for MIL and teacher’s education”.  The role of teachers was reinforced at other round table sessions as well, as having a fundamental role to teach MIL. Primary school education is very important but most of the teachers are not trained, thus integration of MIL to the curriculum of primary school teachers is crucial.

Intercultural impact and critical attitudes

MIL skills are also having a profound impact on intercultural dialogue. Prejudices often exist because of lack of knowledge; most people are afraid of what they don’t know. Grassroots and everyday collaborative activities will contribute to reducing fear and promoting mutual understanding, and so can the media and journalists. “You need competencies on the other side to make sure journalism can work” said Dennis Reineck from Deutsche Welle (DW) Akademie.

He shared project done by DW in Cambodia and Palestine, where they focused on the use of social media and on rural population who were not aware how to use it. “There was a bit of knowledge there, but mostly it was about motivation among young people and along with the access develop critical attitudes” Reineck explained, highlighting that MIL competencies, among others, are knowing how media work and demanding media quality.

The Global MIL Week 2016 is led by UNESCO in cooperation with General Assembly of the Global Alliance for Partnerships in Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL), UNAOC and the Media and Information and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) University Network and hosted by University of Sao Paulo.  Global MIL Week’s Feature event is celebrated from 2- 5 November 2016 in São Paulo, Brazil.