The definition of media has changed dramatically since the turn of the century.
“Traditional” media such as television and radio have given way to the Internet and social networks. This change has led to a greater emphasis on what has come to be known as “fake news”, “misinformation” or “disinformation”, broadly defined in this article as false information 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 online misinformation.
Misinformation around COVID-19 has spread across the country with the pandemic. Just last year, Malta also faced the creation of fake websites posing as Newspaper, Net News, Lovin Malta, Strada Rjali and A news. This is of particular concern, given that in a ranking of resilience to fake news, Malta ranks 21st out of 27 countries in the European Union.
A logical area to turn to is education. An EU commission tasked with tackling online disinformation has acknowledged that “the lifelong development of critical and digital skills, especially for young people, is crucial to building the resilience of our societies in the face of misinformation” (page 12).
Unfortunately, in the 2018 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), Malta scored below average in distinguishing fact from opinion (p. 45) as well as in reading performance.
Things can change. Students are retaking PISA this year and in various interviews with teachers, education officials and the principal of a primary school, a few points were clearly agreed:
- education around media literacy should start as early as possible;
- all classes and subjects should participate in teaching media literacy, where appropriate;
- there is more to do.
Primary education seems to reach the first point. On the ‘Digital Literacy Malta’ webpage, there is a page dedicated to ‘digital citizenship‘ and another for parents as well.
The “Digital Citizenship” website includes fake news lesson plans and citation resources, and the parents’ page has kid-friendly search engines. In addition, the Directorate for Digital Literacy and Soft Skills has worked with the EU and the Erasmus+ program to develop eTwinning Malta, a multi-faceted initiative that offers “collaborative interdisciplinary projects” across Europe.
Last year they held two media literacy workshops for educators, one in April and one in September. eTwinning also awarded the title “eTwinning Schools” to 16 schools (14 primary) in its first year and 10 (9 primary) in its second year.
The Digital Citizenship website and media literacy workshops are important steps towards achieving education leaders’ primary goal of teaching media literacy early and often.
The second point – that all classes and all subjects should participate in media education – has not been fully achieved. Secondary schools teach a wider range of subjects, so it would make sense for these schools to have the same number of media literacy resources as primary schools.
As the pedagogical manager of the Digital Culture and Transversal Skills Department, Vincent Carabott, said, “I believe that all the subjects have integrated into them the aspect[s] digital and media literacy if we care to identify them and provide students with an additional opportunity to learn.
A solid avenue to create this opportunity for students is found in the same website discussed in the previous paragraph.
While the main page contains a number of digital and media literacy resources that can be used in a number of ways, the secondary page contains five links in total, including a digital citizenship lesson plan that does not cover the media education and a YouTube link that defines fake news. .
If modeled on the main website, this page could prove to be a valuable resource for publicizing cross-disciplinary lessons on media literacy and online disinformation.
Additionally, several secondary school teachers recognized and admired the eTwinning program but had not heard of Facts4All, a more specific workshop focused on countering misinformation, which recently started. Facts4All and eTwinning are open to primary and secondary schools, but eTwinning schools are mainly 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 consolidate media literacy up to secondary school. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine proving to be fertile ground for the spread of fake news, creating critical media consumers has never been more important for Malta.
Daniel Hopkins is a secondary school teacher from the United States and is currently on a Fulbright scholarship to Malta as an English teaching assistant.
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