Each #MediaMinded event started with students looking at headlines on 4 topics: Space, Jobs and Automation, Generation Z and Music and Gaming. The discussion then began immediately by probing the students to think about how the headlines made them feel, whether they recognise the sources and how reliable and accurate they thought the headlines were. The students got involved by talking and debating amongst different school groups and the facilitators. They discussed which titles struck them as peculiar, which news sources seemed reliable and the type of emotional reaction each title provoked. The first part of the workshop ended with the students writing their thoughts on post-it notes and sticking them onto the headlines.
The next activity of the day was ‘Guess the Fake’ — a competition, which helped the students start thinking about fake content they may encounter on social media. This was followed by a lecture by our keynote speaker Damaso Reyes, a journalist at the News Literacy Project in New York. He delivered an exciting talk on how to be more conscious and critical media consumers in the new digital information landscape. During his talk Mr Reyes outlined how the information landscape has changed within the last 20 years, enabling the spread of misinformation and disinformation. He showcased current media examples of photoshopped images, promoted political content on social media platforms and demonstrated how celebrities increase financial gain by promoting products. He ended his speech with a compelling video which showcased how easy it is to create fake videos (‘deep fakes’) and how simple it will be in the future given how fast technology is advancing.
The students then split into different groups to analyse news articles, social media extracts and videos. They utilised their smartphones and conducted background checks on authors and print/digital sources, sought up to date information and statistics, compared articles, found the original tweets/Instagram posts, transcribed the videos and then went on to fact-checking websites. Ultimately, they concluded this activity by creating their own ‘Action Plans’ on how to be a more critical consumer of all media. The day ended with each workshop group presenting their Action Plans.
Schools we worked with
We worked with over 100 students, male and female. The age range of the participants was from Year 8 students (age 13-14) to Sixth-form students (16-18). We also worked with a wide range of schools — from state (government funded) schools to academies. Some schools were religious schools, while others travelled up to two hours to reach the city-centre venues where the events were held.
Each event was a great success — the students were highly interested in the topic of the lecture, and later were keen to apply the new information they had learned into practice during the workshops. The activities highly improved students’ understanding of the contemporary media environment, as well as their ability to be more critical media consumers. This was done using pre- and post-workshop surveys, which asked students to reflect on their own media literacy skills. One limitation to our data is the fact that not all event participants had phones. Many of them arrived after the end of their regular school lessons, where mobile devices are forbidden. However, most students answered our survey questions, allowing us to gain deep insight into their level of media literacy and information consumption trends.
Initially, we asked the event participants to tell us about where they consume the most information from and how often they read the news. This allows us to better understand modern youth trends in information consumption, and consequently to improve the quality of our media literacy materials.
As can be seen on Fig.1, more than 60 per cent of participating young people in the age cohort 13-18 use social media as a tool to stay informed. A little less than 20 per cent of all students answered ‘TV’ to the same question. This demonstrates the transformation of media consumption trends from traditional information outlets, such as radio, newspapers and TV towards social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
The survey also revealed to us that the majority of young people that took part in our events watch/read the news on a daily and monthly basis — 59.3 per cent are daily readers, and 22,1 per cent read the news once a week. These results show that contradictory to popular perceptions, young people are interested in current affairs.
Having learned that the majority of participating young people consume information mostly on social media and that they do so daily, it was necessary to ask whether they distribute information responsibly. For this reason, we asked them to tell us about how often they check the source of an article before they share it on their social media accounts. The question produced mixed answers; 24.4 per cent of all participants always check the credibility of their sources, and 22.1 per cent do so most of the time. However, the result in the end ‘Never’ was not significantly less – 18.6 per cent. Most of the answers were concentrated in the ‘Rarely’ section; 25.5 per cent of those who answered the question rarely check the sources of articles they share online.
Having already established the media consumption trends amongst the project participants, we asked them to rate their knowledge on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest) in the following areas:
- Rate your knowledge of how to critically analyse a news source
- Rate your knowledge about the media industry
- Rate your knowledge of how to understand and spot reliable news sources
- Rate your knowledge to spot bias in the news
Table 1 shows the improvement in students’ knowledge, understanding and confidence over the course of the 4-hour workshop. The answers we provide are of students who rated their knowledge as 4 or 5.
The most striking improvement amongst the sample of students is their knowledge about the media industry. Before the workshop, 32.95 per cent of those who answered would rate their knowledge as ‘Good’ (=4) and ‘Excellent’ (=5). After the workshop the percentage of all participants in this cohort increased by 35.5 per cent to 71.23 per cent. The number of students who rated their ability to critically analyse a news source as ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ increased with 29.42 per cent. ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ answers to ‘Ability to spot reliable news sources’ also jumped with 20.1 per cent, whereas students’ ability to spot media bias improved by 16.25 per cent in the same category. The comparison between students’ answers before the workshop and after provides conclusive evidence for the impact of our events on students’ knowledge and understanding of the media environment they are surrounded by.
We also asked the event participants if they would recommend our event to a friend. Of the 67 participants that answered, 91 per cent said they would recommend the event to a friend.
GLASGOW: What did you enjoy the most?
‘I liked the quiz and the group activities; the whole fake news theme was very interesting and if I could I would do this again’.
‘The presentation about Media bias and misinformation was extremely useful. If the resource could be shared with schools, then I think this will be very valuable to other pupils’.
‘Meeting others and discussing. Loved the presenters — learned a lot. Liked Damaso and his presentation and his interaction with others. And the other helpers were lovely’.
MANCHESTER: What did you enjoy the most?
‘Learning about the dark side of media and how it manipulates what you see’.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this event and learnt a lot. I enjoyed the game. Someone from my school won the game’.
‘Learning to spot the difference between fake and real news and group 3’s presentation’.
CARDIFF: What did you enjoy the most?
‘I enjoyed that I was able to learn and understand different ways of finding out what is reliable. I also found it surprising that ‘fake news’ is the wrong term to use. Another thing I found enjoyable is that we were able to discuss this with people’.
‘I enjoyed listening to the talk from the guest speaker from America. It was very interesting and engaging, I learnt a lot from it’.
‘I learned a lot more about the reliability of the media and the interactive activities were very enjoyable’.
For a third year in a row, the #MediaMinded events have provided British students with an interactive, captivating and informative opportunity to learn about the dangers of misinformation and disinformation. Based on the survey results, we can conclude that workshop participants improved their abilities to distinguish media content from instances of media bias. Their feedback showed us that they enjoyed our approach to teaching media literacy and that they would recommend our event to a friend.
The pre- and post-workshop survey results, alongside participants’ comments also reveal to us current youth trends in digital media consumption — namely that young people are highly interested in learning about the subject and find it enjoyable. This was also evident during the workshops from their high levels of participation and thoughtful responses to the questions asked.