Media literacy education in Malta
The definition of media has changed dramatically since the start of the century.
“Traditional” forms of media like television and radio have given way to the internet and social media. This change has led to an increased focus on what is now referred to as “fake news,” “misinformation,” or “disinformation,” — broadly defined in this article as false information that is spread over the internet.
Like the rest of the world, Malta has not been immune to fake news on social media and other forms of disinformation online.
Misinformation around COVID-19 spread across the country with the pandemic. Just last year, Malta also dealt with the creation of spoof websites posing as Newsbook, Net News, Lovin Malta, Strada Rjali and One News. This is especially concerning, considering that, in a ranking of resilience to fake news, Malta ranked 21st out of the 27 countries in the European Union.
One logical area to turn to is education. An EU commission tackling online disinformation recognized “the life-long development of critical and digital competences, in particular for young people, is crucial to reinforce the resilience of our societies to disinformation” (Pg. 12).
Unfortunately, in the 2018 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), Malta ranked lower than average in distinguishing facts from opinion (pg. 45) as well as reading performance.
Things can change. Students are taking the PISA again this year and in various interviews with teachers, education officers, and the head of a primary school, a few points were clearly agreed upon:
- education around media literacy should start as early as possible;
- all classes and subjects should partake in teaching media literacy where applicable;
- there is more to be done.
Primary education appears to be achieving the first point. On the “Digital Literacy Malta” webpage, there is a page dedicated to “Digital Citizenship” and one for parents, too.
The “Digital Citizenship” website includes lesson plans on fake news and citing resources, and the parents’ page has child-friendly search engines. Further, the Directorate for Digital Literacy & Transversal Skills has worked with the EU and Erasmus+ program to develop “eTwinning Malta,” a multifaceted initiative that offers, “collaborative cross-curricular projects” around Europe.
Digital citizenship, which includes media literacy, on the primary webpage (above) vs. the secondary webpage (below).
Last year, they hosted two media literacy workshops for educators, one in April and one in September. eTwinning has also awarded the title of “eTwinning Schools,” to 16 schools (14 primary) its first year and 10 (9 primary) its second year.
The digital citizenship website and media literacy workshops are strong steps to accomplish education officials’ first goal of teaching media literacy early and often.
The second point – that all classes and subjects should participate in media literacy education – has not been achieved as fully. Secondary schools teach a greater range of subjects, so it would make sense for these schools to have the same number of resources in media literacy as primary schools.
As the education officer for the Directorate for Digital Literacy & Transversal Skills, Vincent Carabott, stated, “I believe all subjects have embedded within them aspect[s] of digital and media literacy if we care to identify them and provide an added opportunity for students to learn from.”
A strong avenue to create this opportunity for students is in the same website discussed in the previous paragraph.
Whereas the primary page has a number of digital and media literacy resources that can be used in multiple ways, the secondary page has five links total, including one lesson plan on digital citizenship that does not cover media literacy and one YouTube link that defines fake news .
If modeled after the primary website, this page could prove to be a valuable resource to publicize cross-curricular lessons on media literacy and misinformation online.
Further, multiple teachers at one secondary school recognized and admired the eTwinning programme, but had not heard of Facts4All, a more specific workshop focused on combating disinformation, that recently began. Both Facts4All and eTwinning are open to primary and secondary schools, but eTwinning Schools are predominantly primary.
Greater inclusion of secondary schools can create additional access to its media literacy workshops and increased marketing of other opportunities, such as Facts4All, could provide alternative options for teachers to receive more training.
Malta has the resources, platforms, and initiatives in place to solidify media literacy education through secondary school. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine proving to be fertile grounds for the spread of fake news, creating critical consumers of media has never been more important for Malta.
Daniel Hopkins is a secondary school teacher from the United States and is currently on a Fulbright grant to Malta as an English teaching assistant.
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