This needs assessment report is part of the Media Literacy Case for Educators project, which was introduced in April 2023 in the article:Media Literacy Case for Educators: Empowering Educators to Lead Media Literacy Initiatives in Europe
. In this research phase of the project, / we gathered information and insights from key stakeholders using an interdisciplinary approach combining educator scoping sessions, research and literature review and youth input sessions.Over 100 educators and approximately 300 teens from over 20 countries participated in the sessions. There were numerous insights and recommendations about topics, formats and facilitation methodologies which will be considered and incorporated into new materials.
The Media Literacy Case for Educators (MLCE) project aims to increase societal resilience by giving educators including teachers, trainers and librarians across Europe the skills, tools and resources they need to be effective, innovative, future-fit advocates and facilitators of digital and media literacy (DML). This is a needs assessment report of findings from the first phase of the project (January-June 2023).
Tactical Tech formed a cross-sectoral consortium of partners comprising capacity-building NGOs focused on informing citizens about how technology impacts society, along with European network organisations working with schools, libraries, education centres and youth and cultural centres. This consortium—including Tactical Tech, European Schoolnet (EUN), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Save The Children Italy (STC)—represents a unique combination of sectoral practical expertise and insights as well as a range of trusted and established organisations for educators.
The project aims to transfer knowledge and ownership of innovative DML solutions—methods, materials and toolkits—to strong and effective pan-European actors, starting with the project consortium partners and their networks, in order to maximise the long-term impact and sustainability of the project amongst educators across Europe. Our consortium will train Media Literacy Champions to be advocates and facilitators in their own communities, providing them with access to materials and resources.
Research, Scoping and Co-Development with Youth and Educators
In the first phase of the project, Tactical Tech designed and engaged in research, scoping and co-development sessions with three aims:
- To determine which formats and methods were best suited for librarians and other educators teaching DML to youth ages 13-19.
- To ascertain what DML education techniques and interventions have been documented as effective.
- To define the most pressing topics among youth and educators across Europe when it comes to DML.
The research processes for the MLCE were informed by Tactical Tech’s core principles and methods of collaborative creation. The core principles include: curiosity as critical thinking, pursuit of uncertainty, equity and inclusion; and process-orientation. The core methods, based on two decades of collaboration with groups and communities on questions around digital technology and developing self-learning resources, include participatory action research, peer learning and design thinking.
These core principles and methods have formed the basis of our most recent projects dedicated to DML: The Glass Room: Misinformation Edition
. and our youth-led initiative, What the Future Wants
. In the MLCE, these core principles and methods have been combined with other credible innovative processes, such as human-centered design and UX design.
In this research phase of the project, we gathered information and insights from key stakeholders using an interdisciplinary approach combining educator scoping sessions, research and literature review and youth input sessions.
1. Educator Scoping Sessions
In order to assess the needs of educators, including teachers and librarians, we worked with our core partners (EUN, STC and IFLA), who ran three “Educator Scoping Sessions.”
The central question we wanted the Educator Scoping Sessions to answer is: Which formats and methods should inform the creation of the MLCE? To answer this, we developed three unique sessions to gather information from distinct groups of stakeholders including formal educators, informal educators (e.g. librarians) and representatives to European Ministries of Education.
The three sessions were organized as follows:
- Raw Ideation and Sharing (with educators and librarians)
- Existing DML Environment (with Ministries of Education)
- Feedback on Tactical Tech Resources (with educators from EUN and Insafe network*)
Learnings from the “Raw Ideation and Sharing” session
This session focused on ‘raw ideation and sharing’ of helpful formats and methods from educators. Here we collected information about teaching formats and methods related to any topic, not only DML, in order to gather learnings from different subjects (e.g. history, engineering, etc.) that are being successfully taught and explored with youth. These sessions featured:
- 5 Sessions: 3 facilitated by STC, 2 by IFLA
- 37 educators, teachers and librarians
- Countries represented: Italy, Ireland, Lithuania and Singapore
Before the session, we asked participants to consider the following prompt: Think back to a time when you had a successful activity or session where the participants were fully engaged and captivated.
Recall the details—what made this session so engaging and successful? What strategies would you recommend to others so that they can repeat the success? Be prepared to discuss what you have in mind.We developed a detailed outline to guide the session facilitators, accompanied by Miro boards for online sessions, that included clear instructions for each activity and were adaptable for in-person sessions. STC and select partners from their network attended a 1-hour training by Tactical Tech to explain the materials and advise on the agenda and format. The participants of this training went on to localize the materials into Italian and thereafter, three 3-hour sessions were conducted in Italian engaging educators. Two additional 2-hour sessions were co-facilitated by IFLA and Tactical Tech, engaging librarians who had been partners in past projects. Their experience hosting Tactical Tech’s previous exhibitions and contact with visitors was valuable feedback that will be incorporated into the design of materials in the current project.
Based on the participants’ responses during the Miro board activity, we clustered the answers into five specific categories of similar needs.
Screen capture of one of the five specific categories derived from analysing results across sessions.
From the responses, we identified the following needs and suggestions by educators when it comes to preferred and effective methods for teaching:
1. Insert play
- Playful methods, gamification, movement and games are all important for promoting participation and stimulating the youth audiences.
- Play can be static or involve movement.
- Digital tools used by educators: Kahoot (quiz); Character AI; Canva; WordWall.
2. Include individuals and groups
- Allow space for self-evaluation.
- Teamwork is key.
3. The key to participation is in the design
- Keep terms un-technical.
- Think about your setting.
- Let their imagination run free.
4. Create empathy: "Understanding by means of experience"
- It is recommended to use a learning method that starts from the experiences, interests, needs and expectations expressed by young people.
- Consider regional localisation, or including space for personalisation; the chance to put critical thinking in practice; problem solving activities.
- Working with families, by engaging the parents was also highlighted.
5. Protagonism: Youth should have an active role
- The role of youth should not only be receiving or listening, but also the active role of contributing to change, through greater involvement, using “affective dimension”.
Findings: Spectograms about teaching formats and structures
We presented three spectograms for the participants to gain a baseline assessment of what kinds of teaching formats and structures are most effective and what opportunities this provides for our creation of the MLCE.
Q: How much freedom do educators have to design their lessons?
Conclusion: The majority feel they are mostly free to design their lessons.
- Opportunity to design activities based on the facilitators’ passions. Encouraged to come up with ideas to reach out to schools and general audiences.
- Opportunity to use the preferred tools, methods and content that are most suitable for students.
Q: When educators facilitate successful lessons, are they more spontaneous or structured?
Conclusion: The majority feel their most successful lesson is between spontaneous and structured.
Q: How practical or theoretical was the content?
Conclusion: The majority feel a successful session they ran was more practical.
Learnings from the “Existing DML Environment”
This session helped us to understand opportunities, gaps, needs and systemic issues (e.g. very little time allotted in curricula for this topic) across Europe, as identified by the participants. The session was facilitated by EUN and lasted approximately 90 minutes. Here is a summary of the results:
- Ministries of Education attendance: 6 representatives of EU ministries of education (4 on-site, 2 online) plus 7 participants from the Insafe network*
- Countries represented: Finland, France, Ireland, Malta, Portugal
*Note: The additional seven representatives of ministries from Insafe network also took part in a different session format and contributed to the activities by providing perspectives using the lens of policy makers.
The participants provided the following recommendations & observations:
“Digital and media literacy is one of the strategic priorities of the Digital Education Action Plan.”
“Should aim to equip people with the critical thinking skills required to exercise judgement, analyse complex realities and recognise the difference between opinion and fact.”
Emerging issues (topics/themes): Cybercrime; AI; ChatGPT in relation to disinformation.
- DML standards should exist across EU countries.
- Ethics should exist in the development of content and users of digital tools.
- The challenges vs. speed of change in tech.
- Role of mainstream media, industry/tech companies.
- Difficulty in communicating issues on dis/misinformation to parents, without creating panic.
- What specific needs exist for SEND (special education and disabilities) children that haven’t been considered in media literacy?
Conclusion: From this input, we can conclude that representatives of European Ministries of Education are concerned with including a structured curriculum addressing DML in national programs across Europe. However, these programs should address key issues while managing the challenges in a very dynamic sector and remaining inclusive. The role of policy makers was also highlighted along with the need for regulation, such as the recent EU-wide AI law that was published.
Learnings from the Feedback on Existing Tactical Tech Resources session
This session was designed to collect feedback on existing Tactical Tech resources on topics related to DML in order to gather concrete learnings that can be applied to the MLCE—specifically on framing and format choices as a vehicle for those specific digital topics.If Tactical Tech resources are made available to anyone online without context, what are their reactions and impressions?
For this session, we selected 10 specific Tactical Tech materials to receive feedback from educators and learners on the effectiveness and usability of various formats including posters, animations, toolkits and e-learning.
Here is a summary of the results:
- 1 in-person session organised by EUN and Insafe network
- 62 participants from 27 countries
- Educators, teachers, administrators and representatives of Ministries of Education were represented in this group.
Facilitators gathered information from the participants’ discussions. The comments, questions and feedback was transferred online into a Miro board to help us analyse and process the feedback.
Findings from the review of Tactical Tech’s resources
During the sessions, the questions below were introduced as part of the design framework to maximise the input from the various target groups (educators, teachers, librarians). The participants were asked to review existing materials on Tactical Tech’s cloud and to use a prepared Miro board to list answers to the questions. They were divided into groups, each focusing on a specific prompt question. Participants were given one hour to discuss and share their results.These included:
Q: What are the challenges around DML education in your country?
Comments from participants:
- Need to turn DML into media education; need for more action.
- DML is coming out of focus at a political level. Using digital devices is in the focus at the moment.
- Norwegian youth seek out news through non-editorial platforms/social media platforms.
- 13 years of funding cuts has left schools running on skeleton staff and barely able to focus on the curriculum, let alone DML education.
- Addiction to social media like TikTok and YouTube shorts is a concern.
- DML is not part of the school curriculum in any education level.
- Parents and educators not (fully) knowing what their children and students are doing online is a concern.
Summary: Based on the responses, we concluded that topics such as deepfakes, misinformation and providing accessible resources and issues such as lack of national curriculum, lack of training and lack of funding (e.g. libraries) are the biggest challenges in DML.
Q: What are the emerging challenges and opportunities with digital technologies?
Comments from participants:
- There is a global rise in cybercrime.
- Common ground on DML standards should exist across EU countries, which proves difficult, as EU countries don’t have equal possibilities.
- Basic DML is unavoidable but personal skills are equally important in order to become a critical citizen. The role of traditional media skills should also not be forgotten.
- The importance of ethics in the development of digital tools, such as AI and in their use by citizens.
- Context is key in relation to possible harmful online content—e.g. you should be able to ask ChatGPT how to steal a car, because your motive may be to know how to protect your car from theft!
- The challenge is that technologies change so quickly, difficult to keep the skill set in tempo.
- The role of mainstream media, as a correct and trustful source and the role and responsibility of industry/tech companies to take greater ownership over disinformation issues. The future role of ChatGPT as a (huge) disinformation spreader?
- It is difficult to calmly communicate issues of misinformation to parents.
- Social and emotional learning aspects should be used in the DML landscape.
- The importance of developing ‘plugged’ and ‘unplugged’ methods for understanding DML issues (with and without technology). Need for more in-person assessment.
- Are there specific needs for vulnerable that haven’t been considered in media literacy?
Summary: Based on the feedback from participants, we concluded that topics to cover in the MLCE could include: ethics, traditional media and specific needs for vulnerable groups; and that teaching concerns include in-person and emotional approaches, staying up-to-date and how to calmly communicate with parents.
Conclusions:Participants emphasised many points which can be distilled into four overarching categories including: topics, format, clarity and national concerns.
- Topics: We concluded that educators on the whole feel that the topics of Tactical Tech's existing resources are highly relevant and appropriate for the audiences of educators in DML in Europe.
- Format: The participants explored the different formats including posters, digital platforms and digital media. From the comments, we concluded that the posters are particularly helpful and user-friendly from the perspective of educators.
- Clarity: Although the content was understood by the participants in the session, they reiterated the need for clarity when presenting new ideas so that they can be easily digested by younger audiences. Metaphors, symbolism and satire may require more context or explanation. Content should be clear.
- National concerns: Many of the participants stated that there are a few themes that would require special attention and that have become priorities in the national agenda, whether in education or other sectors. These included the topics of misinformation and deepfake technology.
2. Research and Literature Review
As part of the research phase, Tactical Tech also sought to engage experts in DML education to conduct desk research on the most recent developments and findings in the field and to identify key resources. In February 2023, Tactical Tech launched an Open Call for Researchers to seek an experienced researcher with a good understanding of DML to gather and distil the latest research in the field of DML education. Tactical Tech reviewed the applications and chose an experienced researcher familiar with different regions, including Europe, called Laura Vidal.
- What are effective methods, formats and practices of DML in public education for youth (13-19 year old)?
- What does the recent research say about why these methods, formats and practices work?
The researcher developed a report titled “Digital and Media Literacy Experiences: Navigating an Ever-Evolving Landscape”, based on more than 20 cited resources by institutions, academics, experts and civil society organizations. Furthermore, she conducted informal interviews with educators through Mozilla Festival, an international conference. Her report explored the ever-evolving landscape of DML, as well as reviewed the various environments for learning, using models of “informal learning” and “non-formal learning”. The report boasted several key learnings and recommendations:
- Analysing successful DML experiences is complex, as they may depend on multiple factors, including social, economic and educational factors. This means an educator’s success is not guaranteed to translate well into another context (i.e. there is not a one-size-fits-all solution).
- “Most authors encourage the integration of multiple methods, learning strategies and environments, instead of concentrating only on one space, software, or device.” The researcher added the importance of flexible learning programs and using co-creation methods with students, in order to “incorporate their experiences and acknowledge their lived realities.”
- While finding methods and measurements for evaluating the efficacy DML interventions and materials is critical, the complexity of developing and implementing such assessments (which should combine multiple factors) is acknowledged.
- “There is a need to expand digital literacy training programs for teachers and explore ways for teachers to learn continuously and informally, both among themselves and with their students.”
- “When developing DML programs, it is important to remember that digital literacy is not a singular concept but instead encompasses various other important literacies and skills. These skills also call for the inclusion of areas of critical knowledge such as gender and intercultural communication.”
The conclusions were based on the researcher’s assessment of 26 pieces of literature encompassing guidelines and resources, interviews and reports on experiences and academic research (conceptual notes). We studied several of the resources compiled in an annotated bibliography, in addition to our own desk research, in order to deepen our understanding of the topics covered in the report.
Go to the report
"Digital and Media Literacy Education: Navigating an Ever-Evolving Landscape" Report
The third part of the research phase involved assessing the most relevant topics in DML for youth ages 13-19 in Europe. To gather this information, we drew on expertise from Tactical Tech’s previous co-development sessions with youth for the What the Future Wants initiative. We opened a call for Organizations Working with Youth (OWY) and reached out to six previous project partners who seemed suited for this initiative. Here three Tactical Tech team members reviewed the applications to reduce the effects of implicit bias. We focused on the following selection criteria: whether the organisation had existing programs with teens, existing programs which touch on DML and diverse locations across Europe.
The 10 OWY project partners selected represent 9 countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain. The partners include Associació Verificat, Spain; Central Library of Srečko Vilhar Koper, Slovenia; Computer History Museum, Slovenia; Goethe Institut Skopje, North Macedonia; Laboratorium Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Platforma Uroboros, the Czech Republic and Slovakia; Prelog Town Library, Croatia; Trinec Town Library, Czech Republic; Webwise, Ireland; German Youth Foundation Baden Württemberg, Germany.
In order to ensure an implementation process aligned with the principles and goals of the project, we held an online onboarding session with the 10 OWYs and shared a partnership handbook which included informative videos covering topics like privacy, risk assessment and practices to safeguard youth and children.
To design the Youth Input Sessions, we developed the central question:Which topics are important to teens that we should consider when creating new DML materials? To answer this, we developed two sessions for teens:
1. Exploring What Matters to Us
2. How Tech Shapes Our Future
Furthermore, we collected previous feedback from teens about Tactical Tech’s youth exhibition, “What the Future Wants”, in order to gather learnings to take forward in the development of new materials. In addition to the OWY partners running the sessions with teens, STC also hosted the co-development sessions and gathered inputs from teens in particularly vulnerable contexts, bringing their voices into the process. To meet their needs, we also developed materials for core partner contacts to gather inputs from teens in their local communities which we called “Spectograms: Share Your Opinion!”.
We decided on these various inputs to experiment with two different routes. One was entirely guided by the teens and another was influenced and guided by Tactical Tech’s assessment of relevant topics for teens, according to prior research and experiences. The spectograms provided a good testing ground to gather inputs from anonymous sources without the context or support of sessions. This aimed to be an inclusive and wide-reaching method for teens who were unable to sign up for the sessions to offer input.
We received the following data from the OWYs:
- Raw data from partners such as photos of outputs (posters), videos, transcripts of messages for future generations and quotes.
- Translations of the quotes and posters, as well as summaries of discussions by facilitators.
To facilitate analysis, we input all results from each session format into Miro boards and spreadsheets to conduct a cross-analysis of all sessions to identify commonalities and intersections and then draw conclusions.
Caption: Screen capture of a partial compilation and analysis of “How Tech Shapes Our Future” results.
Learnings from the “Exploring What Matters to Us”
Description: Through activities and discussions, young people (ages 13-19) discovered, shared and examined what matters to them in their lives, realities and futures. The session uncovered common topics within the teens’ ideas, concerns, needs and values. The goal was to find out what young people care about in order to guide the topics covered in the MLCE.
- 6 sessions were held in 5 countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, North Macedonia and Slovenia
- Total of 88 youth participants
Due to the interconnectedness of "the digital" within young people’s lives and the world around them, we did not require facilitators to focus on technology-specific topics in this session. By holistically capturing and understanding what matters to young people, we hoped to learn how to better frame the topics around technology in ways that speak to the overarching values and priorities of teens.
The session was divided into three main sections:
- Brainstorming: Participants were invited to think about topics that matter to them.
- Clustering: Participants put their topics from the brainstorming activity together and clustered them into common themes.
- Creating and Advocating: Participants were asked to design a poster around a topic of their choice and explain to their peers why they care about the topic it addresses.
- Collect themes and subjects that are important to young people.
- Identify commonalities and patterns of the topics that arise within the group.
- Discover why those topics are important to young people.
Based on the portion of the session where the topics were clustered, as well as from facilitator notes of the discussions during the session, the primary topics that matter to teens who participated can be consolidated into the following points:
- Self-expression and self-growth are very important aspects of teenagers’ lives. This is related to their search for autonomy, agency and the opportunity to discover passions, pursue personal interests and explore their individuality.
- Relationships and connections with family and friends, as well as with people they can relate to and share similar interests with, are extremely important. It also seems to be an area in their lives in which they experience some tension.
- The teens value creativity and entertainment, which includes the autonomy to express themselves, opportunities to explore their interests as well as moments to have fun and experience joy.
- Young people expressed that health and well-being (both mental and physical) are important to them.
- Teens expressed concern about living in a world where people’s rights are respected, there is equality and social and economic justice across countries and regions
Learnings from the “How Tech Shapes Our Future” sessions
Description: In this session, we pre-selected one of three technology-related topics for young people to explore and react to: influencing, gaming and artificial intelligence (AI). By collecting input from the teens, we assessed how they relate to, experience and see the future changing in relation to the pre-defined topic. Here is a summary of the results:
- 9 sessions were held in 8 countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain
- Total of 148 youth participants
These sessions were divided in two main sections:
- Exploring the topic: a spectogram activity asking participants to rank their attitudes about the pre-selected session topic (either influencing, gaming or AI), followed by a discussion on their understanding of these terms.
- Speculative exercise: teens were invited to speculate in groups about how the pre-selected topic would impact their relationships by 2030.
- Discover how young people experience the tech-related topic presented.
- Identify and discuss how young people foresee the topic shaping their future relationships.
What is influencing?
From the responses, we can gather that the participants think of influence primarily in the context of "individual influencers on social media," friends or teachers, thus the focus on informing individual choices. Most teens talked about that in a positive or not so serious context. Young adults saw the topic of influence as a bit broader than the teens. Overall it seems that the concept of ‘influencing’ at large was difficult for participants to grasp.
Findings: Spectograms about influencing
The following two statements about influencing were responded to by participants:
I’m exposed to influencing on a daily basis.
Influencing can help us to solve the problems of tomorrow.
- The majority of the young people reflected that influencing is an integral part of their daily lives.
- When asked to give examples, they associated influence with individual influencers (social networks or people around them).
- Most youth participants have a neutral or undecided position as to whether influencing is a way “to solve problems of tomorrow”. In the cases where they agreed, it was related more at an individual level (regarding school, etc.).
What is gaming? Based on the responses, teens see gaming as having three main purposes:
- Entertainment: as a way to distract, escape and have fun.
- Connection with people.
- Opportunity to build skills and learn.
Young people seem wary of the downsides of the extreme exposure that gaming can bring in terms of addiction, isolation and wasting of time. TA tendency to escape reality was also a common point in their answers.
Findings: Spectograms about gaming
The following two statements about gaming were responded to by participants:
I’m exposed to gaming on a daily basis.
Gaming can help us to solve the problems of tomorrow.
From the results of the spectogram, we can see that young people feel exposed to gaming in their daily lives at different levels. When asked to clarify where and how they are exposed to gaming, it seems to be connected to the role gaming plays in their circle of friends or by necessity (e.g. during Covid-19 lockdowns).
Addressing the second statement, "gaming solving issues of tomorrow", young people value gaming as a chance to learn and foster creativity. Young people seem wary of the benefits, considering the downsides.
What is AI?
Most teens struggle to understand what AI is, where it is and how it works, although they do associate the term “AI” with chatbots or ChatGPT. Some teens have a bit more knowledge and identify the role of AI in recommendation systems on social networks or behind some apps. AI is seen as "tool" or a "medium" with a lot of potential for good—something that can support humans and could allow more free time. However, at the same time, young people seem conflicted about the implications of its wide use.
Findings: Spectograms about AI
The following two statements about AI were responded to by participants:
I’m exposed to artificial intelligence on a daily basis.
AI can help us to solve the problems of tomorrow.
Most teens identified that they are exposed to AI on a daily basis and that it is used in tools, mainly for creative tasks or for their work. About half of the teens believe that AI can help solve the problems of tomorrow, half are undecided and only a few people disagreed with the statement. There were discussions on whether AI will contribute positively or negatively to society (loss of jobs, new jobs, better performance at work, etc.).
Learnings from “Spectograms: Share Your Opinion!”
Description: This activity invited teens to weigh in on various pre-developed questions and statements asynchronously and anonymously, in order to illustrate their experiences online. For this, we developed six key questions and statements which were laid out on spectograms on two A2 size papers that could be easily translated, printed and hung on a wall or put on a table, with pens or stickers for participants to respond directly and discretely. Here is a summary of the results.
- Facilitated by STC across 6 cities in Italy
- Total of 57 youth participants
- Discover how young people experience the internet.
- Identify and analyse how young people relate to technology-related topics, especially influencing and harassment.
The six questions and statements we asked the teens to respond to on the spectograms are:
1.How old are you?
2.I have the power to influence the opinions and behaviours of those around me.
3.How do people influence the opinions and behaviours of those around them?
4.Do you think the internet brings out the best or worst in people?
5.I feel comfortable expressing myself online.
6.How do you express yourself?
The results were transferred to a Miro board and compiled in order to facilitate an overall analysis.
- Most respondents either do not see themselves as influencers or are not sure to what extent they influence others.
- Teens do not necessarily see the internet as a space that brings out the best or worst in people.
- When asked how people can be influenced on how to behave or think, most answers were either connected to how people present themselves (how they talk, dress, how they behave towards others, etc.) or through what they share or post online.
- When asked how they expressed themselves online, their answers were mostly related to the content they share through different social media (music, poetry, videos, photos, emojis) or about what they re-share or comment on. It was not clear if the content they share is created by them or by others, but that they feel connected to it.
Conclusions from across the youth input sessions
In this section, we present overall conclusions resulting from a cross analysis of the outputs created by young people during the youth input sessions, as well as the facilitators’ notes from the discussions held during these same workshops.
How young people perceive their online environment:
Since self-expression and connection are two very important aspects of young people’s lives, their behaviour and experience online are very much determined by their search for self-expression and connection with people. They see online spaces as a chance to have more autonomy to express themselves, build connections and explore interests.
Teens predict an increasingly online life and with an increasing impact on all aspects of their lives.They fear that ultimately they will lose touch with reality and that they will end up completely disconnected from their offline lives. This fear may come from the fact that they see technology moving more and more towards keeping people in the online space. Some teens may have experienced that the increasing time spent online results in less profound relationships, leading to isolation.
“The period between 2020 - 2022 looked like 2030 because they sat at home and consumed unreal amount of online content.”facilitator
“I have a sad feeling that everything in the future will be online including school.”participant
The dissolution of human-to-human relationships
A significant part of young people’s time is spent online, which can mean more connection with people from different places around the world. At the same time, it can weaken their physical and "real" relationships and lead to isolation, superficial relationships, loneliness and trust issues.
“We're afraid of who and what can we trust and what we can't. How are we going to trust each other?”participant
The group emphasized that they feel like this future is a very possible because they spend too much time online, following and listening to people they do not personally know. Teens presented many post-apocalyptic scenarios in which technology takes over their relationships.
Social justice and techno-solutionism
For young people, equal access to basic services is very important. They seem to have a strong sense of social justice and some notion of unequal access and the unequal impact of technology based on social, economic and geographical context.
Young people have a positive perception that technology can be a source for good: they believe that it can contribute to, mitigate or solve critical issues concerning access to healthcare services and facilities, push for medical advancements, improve quality and access to education. They also believe that tech can be created to support people with disabilities or to combat climate change.
Teens do not necessarily have a very critical understanding of the environmental costs behind technology or of how the systemic causes for inequality might play out in using technology to address these issues. Most of the groups had trouble understanding and imagining software and mostly illustrated their vision of the future with robots. There is a techno-optimist perspective regarding technology helping with climate change, but no consideration that tech needs power and resources. Young people do not seem to have a clear understanding of the technology or business models behind AI or influencing. There were a few exceptions where young people worried about classism, unequal access or how technological solutions deepen inequalities.
“Internet can close the distance gap that currently exists. Since society is more connected, cultures are more accepted.”participant
Increase of monitoring and control
Because of rampant data collection and implementation of biometrics, some youth believe that advances in technology will lead to a loss of control over one’s choices, mass surveillance, polarisation of opinions, regulation and eventually, the establishment of autocracy. Human rights was a recurring theme and is considered important by youth.
Teens had privacy concerns and concerns about big tech/governmental control and monitoring. Privacy and freedom seem like the trade-off for the increased role of technology, influencing and AI tech in future scenarios.
It is interesting that some young people seem very aware of the complexities of evolving technological developments but do not foresee ways to resist them.
Impact of technology on wellbeing, acceptance, self-image, addiction, tech-dependency and self-care
Teen participants of all genders shared that physical and mental wellbeing, as well as self-growth, are important to them.
Many times youth expressed that they see the online space as an escape—an alternative that can often be met with addiction, isolation, harassment, violence, impossible projections of lifestyle or body image, etc.
The opportunity to engage a wide range of stakeholders—including educators, youth and representatives of ministries of education—in several European countries resulted in a comprehensive outlook of the current intersection between DML education and youth perspectives on technology.
By employing varied approaches (both guided and open-ended) to extract the most current and relevant information from the partners and their wide networks, we were able to obtain actionable feedback on our current DML resources as well as soliciting input on new approaches and formats we have not yet considered. The results illustrate a wide range of topics, formats and methods that would be best suited to address the needs of the respective stakeholders while providing a unique and innovative approach to the field.
When it comes to our assessment of the formats and methods that best suit educators, a DML education intervention must be flexible and adaptable to a spectrum of learning environments, not just the traditional, formal school environment. This means that resources and activities should be designed for interaction in both formal and informal environments, as well as taking into account intentional and unintentional learning scenarios. In this sense, resources that include games and cater to individual and group participation are key. We will use our learnings and experiences with co-development with youth to incorporate this participatory co-development aspect in the MLCE.
From our research we also concluded that it is important to consider the skills and comfort-level of educators when it comes to DML topics. For that reason, the MLCE should include a robust training and training-of-trainers component for anyone who will be facilitating it. The trainings should allow teachers and educators to become familiar with the topics in the MLCE.
Educators feel strongly that for young people to be engaged in learning DML, the resources need to be designed in a way that catches their attention and incorporates aesthetics that they respond to. For that reason, we will consider revising our current design approach in an attempt to make resources less text-heavy.
The MLCE should address the limitations of DML education that our participants identified, namely: a lack of knowledge about the topics, lack of access or unequal access to tools or technology, time constraints and bureaucratic obstacles to incorporating DML in their current curricula.
Based on the sessions with youth and their feedback, we are able to get a better sense of the aspects of DML that matter to them in their lives, many of which fall outside of typical curricula on this topic. We will prioritize the topics that young people identified are important to them and dig deeper into those topics for the MLCE, with the aim of encouraging critical thinking and helping young people ask deeper questions about technology.
While there is a need to address the topics that educators identified, such as AI, it is clear that young people do not yet have a fundamental understanding of what AI is, how it is built, or what it can do. When addressing AI, the resources in the MLCE should first give young people a basic understanding of what it is and how it works. From there, we can address questions and ask young people to speculate about its consequences and what solutions it can and can’t provide to social, environmental,and other problems.
The MLCE resources should take into account young people’s strong emphasis on how technology relates to their need for self-expression and connection—both how technology can help and hinder it. The MLCE should also address how technology is impacting young people’s notion of trust— examining what role AI and social media play in influence, trust and the blurring of the lines between their online and offline lives. This should also tie into resources that address how and why technology may be affecting their mental and physical wellbeing and strategies or tips to mitigate this or help them make better choices that can suit their needs.
Based on the fact that young people showed concern about human rights, social justice and the risk of increased monitoring and surveillance in their lives, the MLCE resources should explore and ask young people to think critically about what role technology plays and can play in exacerbating or mitigating these problems.
This needs assessment report was written, reviewed and edited by (in alphabetical order by last name): Nicholas Crockford, Safa Ghnaim, Louise Hisayasu, Dominika Knoblochová, Christy Lange, Emma Neibig, Mo R and Helderyse Rendall. A special thank you to our project partners, OWYs and researcher Laura Vidal for their significant contributions and collaboration in the process.
Thanks to Aysel A. for publishing the piece online and Ana Maria Salinas and Chiara Di Maio for their work to outreach this piece. Thanks to Yiorgos Bagakis for the designs.
Media Literacy Case for Educators is a project by: