Delegation of the European Union to Russia

The Earth is flat? The focus on media literacy!

12/12/2019 - 11:08
News stories

The EU-funded project "The Earth is Flat - How to read media" promotes ideas of media literacy in Russia.

On 7 December a workshop on media literacy for teenagers took place in the premises of the Goethe Institute in Moscow. The participants got basic knowledge about media, learned how to record podcasts, shoot video in 360° format, create animation and stickers, and also decorated a Christmas tree!

Since March 2018 the EU-funded project of the Goethe Institute in Moscow and the portal COLTA.RU "The Earth Is Flat - How to read the media?" has visited fourteen cities in Russia such as Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Syktyvkar, Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Arkhangelsk and some others.

The project team consists of teachers from the best Moscow universities, media experts, producers, cameramen and animation directors: Ksenia Luchenko, Ekaterina Sivyakova, Irina Lukyanova, Ilya Ber, Andrei Babitsky, Joseph Furman, Irina Khodyreva, Irina Neustroeva and Alexander Gorelov. The project is led by Astrid Wege and Anna Schueller (Goethe Institute in Moscow), Mikhail Ratgauz (COLTA.RU). In the regions, the project organizes workshops for 12-17 year old teenagers, trainings for teachers, video lectures and discussions for students, as well as public lectures for a wide audience.

A workshop for teenagers usually lasts three days. The participants learn how to present themselves on social networks, expose fakes, work with Wikipedia, critically perceive and double-check information, and protect themselves from cyber-bullying. This is what the 13-year-old Leva has learned for himself:

"First of all, we need to learn how to dispute on the Internet – there are even books about it. Secondly, you have to understand where you go online and what you're going to do there. You don't have to take Wikipedia as a source of 100% truth, although the data there is updated faster than on many sites."

On the final day, the guys shoot videos and animations on the topics they've studied. More than 350 people took part in the workshops for teenagers.

There is usually a creative atmosphere in the room; there is no edification and moral teachings. The media trainers always treat teenagers with respect and as individuals. Many are surprised by this, as this attitude is not always common in schools. The project team allows the participants to express themselves and listens to them. And the children have something to say. This is confirmed by podcasts, where they talk about, for example, Greta Tunberg or the education system in Russia.

"In fact, I know very little about Greta Tuncberg. But if I draw a conclusion from the information I have, I like Greta as a character. I believe that the ideas she tries to convey to the public are certainly important and necessary for the whole world."

Sometimes brothers and sisters come to the workshops. And in Yaroslavl the whole family came: adults took part in the training for teachers, the children - in the workshop.

Some teenagers at first feel tense or skeptical, but usually on the second or third day everyone opens up. The project team tries to invite children from different educational institutions. Our experience shows that age difference doesn't matter. Several times eleven-year-olds came to the workshop, but they always found common ground with older children.

Of course, everything doesn't go always in a perfect way. It happens that the final videos do not fully or vaguely reflect the ideas that the media trainers tried to convey. However, no one criticizes anyone, and the trainers together with the participants analyse their work, look for answers and show in which direction to move forward. The experts also learn from children and point out that they inspire them to try new formats, for instance. In Arkhangelsk the media trainers redesigned the programme and started recording podcasts, talking about drone journalism and shooting 360° video.

One-day training sessions for teachers took place in ten Russian Cities including Tomsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg and some others. They were attended by 185 people. Initially, these trainings were not planned within the framework of the project, but the project received requests from teachers themselves. The media trainers explain how to behave in social networks and interact with children of generation Z, how to verify information and protect children from cyber-bullying. Teachers are inspired by these meetings. The project continues to collaborate with many of them.

Lidia Kolonitskaya, an English language teacher and deputy director of School 636:

"I liked the media literacy training for teachers. My colleagues and I exchanged impressions. The most interesting part for me was when we talked about Generation Z. Now these generational theories about psychological patterns are very popular, and I am interested in this. I think it is very important to know and understand the children we work with, because there is no point in teaching them the way we learned and how we were taught. We need to find new methods and approaches to do it."

The project also organizes discussions and video lectures at universities from the best international media experts such as Lev Manovich, New Media, Andrei Sebrant, Artificial Intelligence, Vasily Gatov, Problems of Post Truth, Gert Lovinka, Mediatization and Digitalization of Reality, and Olesya Gerasimenko, Modern Practices of Journalist Investigation.

More than 200 people attended the public talks. As a rule, these events are interesting for students who study journalism and media communications.

The project's public lectures for a wider audience are particularly successful. They often become a main event in the city. More than 100 people can come to an event. This was the case in Syktyvkar at a public talk by the journalist Alexander Gorbachev, in Yaroslavl at a lecture by the head of the educational project "Polka" Yuri Saprykin and in Tomsk at a public talk with the journalist Andrey Loshak. All in all, the lectures in thirteen cities were attended by more than 1000 listeners.

The project often receives requests from different regions with a proposal to organise events. For example, one of the public lectures was held as part of the open-air animation festival "Insomnia 2019" in the Kaluga region.

The project activities are not limited to just events. Thus, in the framework of the project, two subgrant competitions for multimedia creation and development of educational workshops have been announced.

Together with the "Arzamas" educational project "The earth is flat - How to read the media" project has created the podcast "Gutenberg will call", which tells about the key moments in the history of communication - from writing, photography and printing to messengers - and their impact on people.

An animated mini-series "How to spend summer" has also been published, dedicated to the relationship between children and parents in the digital age.

In December 2019 a documentary series on cyber-bullying "As long as there is a connection" was published on the portal "Takie Dela". The characters, Alice, Guzel and Masha, tell frankly how they have faced harassment on the Internet and in real life.

The project continues to publish the comic book "How I read media" on the webiste, and next year new professional cartoons on the topic of media literacy will be released.

We are often asked why "The Earth Is Flat - How to read media" is so successful? The project methodologist Ksenia Luchenko answers this question: "The main secret is the team. We managed to gather people who are interested in what they are doing."


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