Digital Media Literacy in EDMO Round Table: Ireland Hub
This interview is part of the ”Digital Media Literacy in EDMO Round Table’‘ interview series that will be published every month to highlight the work of the 14 EDMO hubs. Conducted by the Media & Learning Association (MLA).
Who are the leading players in Ireland when it comes to promoting media literacy?
There are a few key players in Ireland working to promote media literacy. The Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI), the regulator of broadcasting that has recently been incorporated into a new media commission (Coimisiún na Meán), developed in 2016 the first media literacy policy in the country and has facilitated Media Literacy Ireland (MLI), a network of people and organisations that work to promote media literacy across the country. The work of MLI has been very important to bring key stakeholders together, facilitate collaboration among experts, practitioners and organisations, and promote media literacy through webinars, conferences and national campaigns.
In academia, the Institute of Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) at Dublin City University coordinates the Irish EDMO hub and has been leading research projects and educational activities on media literacy. Public libraries have also begun to have an important role by organising talks and workshops on media literacy topics such as disinformation and online safety. In the education sector, even though media literacy continues to be at the margins of the curriculum in Irish schools, organisations linked to the Department of Education, such as Webwise and Arts in Junior Cycle, offer resources, guidance and training for teachers in topics related to media literacy.
Do you have any idea as to how media literate Irish people are generally? Are there any types of measures that can be used to assess this over time?
In Ireland we have some indicators through surveys and reports of how Irish people consume and trust the media, how interested they are in news, and how much knowledge they have about media and journalistic practices. The problem is that it is very difficult to measure how media literate a person is because media literacy involves a comprehensive set of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Evaluations of this kind usually aim to assess knowledge about a specific topic, the learning of a particular skill, or changes in some behaviour or attitude over time.
For instance, the 2018 Reuters Digital News Report revealed that only 27 percent of Irish people were aware of the role of algorithms in how news appears in their social media feeds. It also showed that most people don’t understand standard media practices, such as identifying who writes a media press-release for an organisation or how journalism production and distribution works in practice. These are interesting indicators that can be used to assess the level of media literacy in the population, but they only show part of the picture.
Measures to assess people’s media literacy involve the development of an evaluation framework that caters for the complexity of the topic, and longitudinal studies are required to measure behaviour change in the population over time.
What are the main challenges you face in promoting media literacy in Ireland?
I think the main challenge has always been to explain what media literacy actually is about and convince people of its importance. This has slightly improved over the past few years because of issues around disinformation, which ironically helped promote media literacy as a kind of remedy to the problem. But we are still miles away from having a society that embraces media literacy as a necessary component of life-long education.
Many key stakeholders still see media literacy as simply a digital literacy skill, or some sort of technical skill that serves exclusively to tackle the disinformation problem and can be learned in a 2-hour workshop. In Irish schools, for example, there is a lot of emphasis on the digital skills that students should learn, but the critical component to address the challenges of new media has much less relevance in the curriculum. Again, this is improving, but we still have a long way forward.
So, I think that one of the main goals we have as media literacy scholars and practitioners in the country is to find ways to raise awareness of the importance of the topic, explain its complexity and the values that it creates, and look for alternatives to include media literacy concepts and topics in as many educational and training practices as possible.
What value do you think EDMO and the network of EDMO hubs in particular bring to the challenge of fighting disinformation and promoting media literacy in Ireland?
The creation and spread of false stories is certainly a huge problem that we have in our society nowadays and I think it is very important to have an organisation that works at the European level to monitor, evaluate, and combat disinformation. In my opinion, the network of EDMO hubs is particularly important for media literacy because it allows us to share experiences and think together about possible solutions to the problem. Different countries have different issues and challenges, but when it comes to disinformation, issues and challenges have many similarities, especially when it comes to threats to our democratic values and stable institutions. So by working together and collaborating in media literacy initiatives across the continent, we can improve our capacity to promote effective change both locally in Ireland and elsewhere.
What types of media literacy activities have been organised by the Irish EDMO hub since it was set up?
Since it was set up, EDMO Ireland has carried out a mapping of the opportunities for media literacy initiatives in different sectors of Irish society, such as schools, universities, and libraries. For instance, we have delivered workshops on various topics around media literacy for both children and adults in public libraries, and designed online workshops on disinformation to secondary teachers. The hub was also involved in the development of a new class on digital learning with a focus on critical media literacy for students of the Professional Masters of Education (PME) in Trinity College Dublin, a compulsory pre-service education programme for secondary teachers in the country. We have participated in conferences, webinars and training sessions with partners such as Media Literacy Ireland, Media and Learning Association, and OFCOM.
The hub is also concerned with the availability of media literacy resources for people interested in the topic. We have a partnership with Media Literacy Ireland whereby we are responsible for a section on the MLI website called ‘Training and Development’ where we regularly upload resources such as teaching plans, reports, videos and news articles. We have also held meetings with key stakeholders in the country in areas such as education, cybersecurity, electoral administration and foreign affairs, and have made submissions to consultations such as the national strategy for literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy, whereby we called for a deeper focus on media literacy in the Irish curriculum.
What plans do you have in relation to media literacy for the next 12 months in Ireland?
In 2024 we plan to develop some media literacy campaigns in Ireland, with a special focus on schools and libraries. Our idea is to create a programme to provide training and resources to public librarians across the country, and also reach out to schools to offer assistance, resources and possibly training as well. We are currently seeking funds with other international partners to put our project with librarians in practice and provide Irish people with a public space where they can find assistance, resources and education on media literacy topics.
Ricardo Castellini da Silva, Media Literacy Coordinator for the Ireland EDMO Hub; Postdoctoral Researcher at DCU – FuJo and Anti-Bullying Centre, Ireland.