A recently launched handbook for teachers highlights the youth’s role in countering disinformation and polarizing discussions in the lead up to the 2022 national elections.
The “#MIL4Democracy Handbook: Teaching Media and Information Literacy for Democracy” contains lessons that address timely and key issues in democracy, such as press freedom, disinformation, and digital citizenship, which will come in handy for teachers who want to engage their students in electing the nation’s next leaders.
With less than a year before election day in May 2022, Filipinos can expect “an even heavier barrage of disinformation, hate speech and political propaganda,” said Marlon Nombrado, co-founder of Out of the Box Media Literacy Initiative (OOTB) and co-author of the handbook.
“Media and Information Literacy [MIL] provides the important tools that enable citizens to prevent the further spread of such deceiving and divisive messages and to push back on such content and its peddlers,” Nombrado added.
With a total of 18 lesson plans, the handbook provides local case studies based on current events, news articles, viral social media content, and social issues that reflect contemporary realities of the country.
These are complemented by teaching and learning activities that challenge students’ skills in media critique and creation, research, deliberation and problem-solving.
In one of the modules, examples of mass movements around the world before and during the digital era give students an idea of how social media has evolved to become a platform to express political dissent.
Teachers are encouraged to require their students to read up on the Bill of Rights, particularly how people’s right to free speech gives them the right to participate in protests.
“We don’t want young people to lose the motivation to participate in civics because they find politics in the Philippines too dirty, chaotic, or confusing,” Nombrado said.
He added that while social media can be empowering, “it can also isolate people leading to either disengagement or political division.”
These learning resources were carefully put together by Out of The Box Media Literacy Initiative, a non-government organization that aims to mainstream media literacy practices in the country.
To socialize the handbook, OOTB also held a pilot training program on August 14 and 15 for 32 public and private MIL high school teachers. Through discussions on innovative classroom activities and media literacy’s connection to one’s civic duties, the educators gained practical know-how on teaching the values of democracy and students’ role in protecting it.
During the virtual sessions, handbook co-author and Philippine Association for Media and Information Literacy (PAMIL) president Arniel Ping said that media literacy can hand students the tools to be critical not just about their next leaders, but also the information they share about them.
“In teaching MIL, we don’t say who to vote for. We provide you with the skills to discern which information is accurate or false, so that you’ll make the right decision,” Ping added.
By training students to develop a ‘solution-oriented mindset’, “we develop among them the love for discourse which can inevitably entail the clash of perspectives, but despite that, we have to look forward to finding solutions,” said Joeven Castro, another co-author and Associate Professor of the Department of Communication of Far Eastern University.
Castro added that classrooms should serve as academic sanctuaries for students to feel safe in expressing their views.
“It’s a safe space for them to talk about anything and they will not be scolded simply because they have a different idea or they expressed a ‘wrong’ idea,” Castro added. “When the classroom environment is threatening, creativity is stifled at the same time.”
One of the training participants, Jill Palarca, the MIL Subject Area Head of the Ateneo de Davao University Senior High School, said that an emphasis on teaching media analysis besides media creation would better serve students.
“Filmmaking activities are just part of the Media Literacy class. But really, media literacy should be about analysis. It deals with how to produce responsible citizens, especially with the context of the world now,” Palarca said.
Other teachers cited insufficient school resources and students’ susceptibility to disinformation despite their learnings as the difficulties they hope to overcome.
Launched on July 5, the handbook is available for free download on the OOTB website and as a limited edition printed copy, which is up for grabs through an ongoing giveaway on OOTB’s Instagram and Facebook page.
The handbook was co-written by Out of The Box with the alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) 2019 on “Promoting Media Literacy through Education.”
The IVLP is the premier professional exchange program of the United States Department of State for current and emerging leaders in various fields. Participants of the exchange program, which include Filipino educators and media literacy champions, met with experts in the field of media literacy education in various cities in the U.S.