Here's how the University of Rhode Island's Summer Institute in Digital Literacy has had a powerful impact on digital and media literacy education in Brazil
Brazil's media literacy community has been fertilized and supported by their participation in the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Here's how it began: in July 2019, having just launched EducaMídia, the Brazilian media literacy program, we decided to attend the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in Providence as a team.
EducaMídia is Palavra Aberta's program to train teachers and educational organizations by engaging society in the media education process of young people, and developing their communication potential in different media. It was built from three core competencies: (1) critical interpretation of information, (2) active production of content and (3) responsible participation in society.
We secured a grant from the U.S. State Department to bring along an additional group of 5 educators, knowing that we would have to form a core group of facilitators; and also invited some other education leaders to see media literacy practices in action. Seeing the photo of the Brazilian group on the DigiURI web site, we couldn’t help looking back at the many wonderful things that have happened since our first participation.
After attending the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, we launched a professional development effort that has grown into a 30-hour MOOC (massive online course).
The Summer Institute's amazing response to teaching in the pandemic was a source of inspiration, and we took a lot of lessons from our online learning experiences at DigiURI. The people we brought along in 2019 have become some of our most trusted and constant collaborators, creating materials, facilitating our trainings and helping us design great learning experiences.
We have also published a book, started a webinar series, created resources and, in a project that was first outlined during the Leadership Seminar in 2020, launched a structured effort to bring media literacy to state-level public school districts all over the country, which includes a roadmap for policy makers and distance learning materials.
The DigiURI community reinforced our vision of media literacy as a cross-curricular strategy. We are thrilled to see teachers in all subject areas embracing this work. One of our facilitators who attended SIDL in 2019 is Estevão Zillioli, a biology teacher who, at the time, had just started a fact-checking club in order to explore the scientific method with his high school students. Estevão has just created, with our coordinator Daniela Machado, a media and political education project – a wonderful set of materiais on elections that we are making available to public and private education groups everywhere, at no cost.
The modules cover topics such as democracy and elections; the science of election polls; reading and communication poll results; truth and myths about the electoral process and electronic voting; and the impact of defamation and disinformation. They also promote information literacy, search skills, critical reading, data and visual literacy.
Our MOOCs attract a diverse group of teachers from all subject areas and education levels, as well as researchers, journalists and representatives of civil society organizations. By the Summer of 2022 we will have certified over 2200 media literacy practitioners from different professional backgrounds. This diversity encourages reflection from multiple perspectives and the cross-pollinations of ideas, and the final projects they produce are representative of the many ways media literacy can be addressed.
Last year, for example, we had a Medical School teacher who created a project to train pediatric residents on how to establish sensitive conversations with families around the issue of health disinformation and conspiracies.
The Summer Institute in Digital Literacy has been an integral part of our journey. Whether we’re pairing up with the electoral courts to bring media literacy to first-time voters, creating digital literacy materials for the 60+ public or discussing online learning in a post-pandemic context, we’ve had this great international community to learn with, get inspired from, and trade experiences and ideas.