Learn To Discern: Citizen Media Literacy in Ukraine and Beyond (9-minute version)

Learn To Discern: Citizen Media Literacy in Ukraine and Beyond (9-minute version)


Most people really can’t tell fake from real, fabricated stories, the fake news phenomenon has hit Canada, fake news about Qatar, flood Germany with disinformation and fake news, Russian propaganda, fake news, censorship, manipulation, fake news Disinformation hurts and compromises democracy because it pollutes the information space to such an extent that people can’t tell facts and lies apart anymore. That means that they can’t have a real deliberative debate about what to do in a country because if you can’t even agree on the facts, then any kind of debate breaks down. I think in the US that has already started happening, which is incredibly worrying. Ukraine has much more experience compared to many other countries in how to deal with fakes and disinformation. The country has a contemporary history of conducting war with Russia. I learned about the Learn to Discern curriculum when I was looking for solutions to the crisis in Ukraine. Media literacy is a very very important ingredient and Learn to Discern was by far and away the most original approach to it that we came across. So at the beginning of the Learn to Discern project we looked around for different media literacy trainings what what we found is that the media literacy curriculums weren’t addressing the types of challenges that we face today with disinformation and propaganda. They were not as sophisticated as propaganda and disinformation itself. And therefore, we decided that we need to create something new with a fresh start that addresses those specific manipulation tactics We need to realize that we are in an information vortex and these winds can have a negative effect on our minds. My job as a Learn to Discern trainer is to help my students use common sense and critical thinking when working with all these different information streams. I came here today, because I think it’s rather important for me to understand the whole truth what happens in my country now and during my talking with people sometimes there are many problems and most people feel very anxious because they don’t know whom they could believe. It was interesting to see how the training was organized, learn about new tools, and refresh my skills. Most of all, I liked the first part when we learned to differentiate news from propaganda. This will make me work more efficiently and find real news and information and distinguish it from the fake ones. It was a revolutionary and extremely ambitious project. In a very short period of time, a breakthrough in the field of media literacy was made. More than than 15,000 opinion leaders, people from the East and South, have received critical thinking skills. And you think, for example, that Ukraine has this proximity to Russia, has had this long-standing relationship with Russia and that these sort of lessons that we saw achieved through the IREX Program, that it’ll be only relevant in Ukraine. In fact, what we’ve seen is the complete opposite. Particularly, over the past couple of years in the West and so that is why the skills, citizen media literacy, these skills are critical not just here in Ukraine, but in many countries including in the West. So what I really liked about Learn to Discern was the fact that it broke down the audience into different categories. As much as we have to be media literate, we have to be audience literate. We have to understand how people consume information, why they consume information, what their social context is. Together with experts we created different types of profiles of people who would come to our trainings. Starting from students continuing with bank workers activists and even pensioners. All types of people and we created for each person some kind of profile. What are their interests? What they like? What kind of information they need to know? And what are their typical sources of information? I learned how people who create disinformation use fake photos and write headlines with lies. Anyone who reads or watches news needs to know what’s true. This knowledge will help me personally and professionally. I learned new things about how information is manipulated. I plan to share this on Facebook, and I’d like to see more things like this that help fight manipulation. I think it’s very important to understand, the way our minds work just by their very nature they’re very susceptible to manipulation and it really doesn’t matter how clever or smart you think you are. We all tend towards what’s known as confirmation bias. We all tend to cherry-pick information, which makes us feel good and that we want to hear. It can be very difficult to distinguish lies from the truth because lies are often based on the truth. So we take a close look at that and we use compelling visuals to help participants absorb information better. All the studies have shown it really doesn’t matter whether you were a PhD grad or somebody working class with no higher education. You can be just as susceptible. When we look at the answers together, everything becomes clear and participants wonder how they didn’t see it at first. By teaching people the skills of how to tell what’s true, what’s not in the media and how to discern disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda, we create bigger demand for good quality information and that’s why we focused on people who actually consume the news. I think the Learn to Discern strategy is really what makes it special. By targeting the people that it trains, the idea is that they then go and spread these ideas to the people around them thus creating a space where critical thinking is nurtured and media is engaged with in more sophisticated ways. That methodology is as true for Ukraine as it is for Mexico or for the US. Most of the people who participated in the training were teachers because they understood the importance of this work and they’re the direct links to parents, students, and colleagues. It is a very big responsibility to open people’s eyes and teach what to do with the truth I believe that we have a unique opportunity to provide our children with practical media orientation skills and critical understanding of information. I am conducting this course for my son at home and when we watch TV, he can now clearly see where the lies are. Everything is learned during school years and if we can teach a child, it will reduce the risk that later in life people will be subjected to manipulation. The thing that I remember the most from this training was this leaflet, this pamphlet, which I took home, and we were discussing in my family these problems, and it was very it was very useful not for only for me, but also for my family and for my friends. From our evaluation forms we received from participants we calculated that each participant in average they shared with six other people this information, which they received during the training. It means that they not only received knowledge, but they also were motivated to share this information. I was thinking, what is the best way to test our materials? And I sent some handouts to my grandma, my babushka, in one week she called me and say Marina, now I understand why a lot of Ukrainian channels show good news about Ukrainian oligarchs because they are actually owners of these channels. And I was like yes, it works. And I think it’s highly applicable in the region and it also could be applicable to other countries. Because it is not about telling people what to watch, telling them how to select their source of information, it’s not about being Pro-you or pro-Russia in Ukraine, it’s not about being Republican or Democrat in America. It’s about making up your own mind about what you read and see and hear. You

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