Baltic MIL Summit: strengthening MIL networks between Baltic countries

The first Baltic MIL summit which took place on 26-27 November 2020 attracted more than 100 media and information literacy professionals and practitioners. Most of whom were from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but a few dozen also joined the conference from various parts of the world.

The theme of this event was “The Dark Side of Media and Information Literacy“. and it took place on the context of the first DW Akademie MIL project in the Baltic states. During this two-day event, teachers, youth workers, NGO activists and civil servants discussed burning issues related to MIL education. Participants were welcomed by His Excellence Matthias Sonn – the German Ambassador to Lithuania, Tomas Daukantas – Chancellor of Lithuanian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Natascha Schwanke – Director of Media Development at DW Akademie and Evaldas Rupkus – the Project Officer at DW Akademie.

Marija Ratković, a Media Theorist and chief executive of the Centre for Biopolitical Education in Serbia delivered a keynote presentation on the topic “(Re)Born in Media: New Horizons of Media Literacy and Identity in Digital Environment”. During her talk, Marija put forward her opinion that while there’s a lot of influence to our perception of gender roles in traditional media, the “new” media does not necessarily make the situation better. Digital media presents a lot of new challenges regarding hate-speech and our own identity and fighting those challenges is of great importance.

Following this presentation, the summit went deeper into specific MIL subjects during three parallel workshops. One of them, held by Rasmuss Geks from “Quo Tu doma?”, Latvia, presented “Populist” a critical thinking board game – an educational tool that brings together the concept of argumentation and social deduction.

Participants, who wanted to learn more about social skills training in social media, joined Maarja Punak from Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. During her workshop, Maarja shared her experience of organising practical workshops for students. She stressed the importance of safety in the learning group, using chat rooms (applications) participants are familiar with and the importance of being conscious about the needs and experiences of different students.

In the third parallel workshop “Black Mirroring Daily Life” Digital Security and Safety Trainer Aidas Gedminas organised several practical activities with participants. He shared many tips on personal safety on the internet. Lessons emerging from this activity included: don’t give out personal information; think before you click; never share your banking information in an email; keep software updated; use antivirus software and stay informed.

The first day ended with a roundtable discussion on strengthening the cooperation between Baltics on MIL education. Speakers Meelika Hirmo (Coordinator at SALTO Participation and Information Resource Centre, Estonia), Mindaugas Grigaitis (Vilnius University lecturer and literature teacher in Kaunas Jesuit Gymnasium, Lithuania), Nadine Gogu (executive director of Independent Journalism Center, Moldova) and Kristers Pļešakovs (head of Media Policy Division at Latvian Ministry of Culture) shared their thoughts and experiences on supporting and expanding MIL education.

Speakers stressed the need for the development of competencies for youth workers and the need to seek partnerships and expertise from practitioners. They also mentioned how important it is to involve teachers through organising events and developing MIL competencies. The speakers stressed that the contribution from state institutions is vital.

During the second day, the summit explored three new innovative educational tools and held further discussions during BarCamp sessions. Educational tools that were demonstrated were: “Media Wit” – videos on MIL topics by Janika Möls from Estonian Public Broadcasting, simulation game “I know it all – I notice it all” by Neringa Sendriūtė from Lithuanian Youth Council and an online game “Media literacy circus” by Klinta Ločmele, MIL expert from Latvia. These tools were commissioned by DW Akademie in partnership with the Knowledge Economy Forum.

During the BarCamp, participants selected six topics which they later discussed in depth in smaller groups. Those topics included online games for MIL, Media literacy in Baltic Universities, Global and local film practices and cross-cultural competency, Civic MIL as a common topic for Baltic MIL networking, Participation Resource Pool, Media literacy curriculum for youth trainers in the Baltics.

Speaking about this summit in his conference closing speech, Arminas Varanauskas, KEF executive director, stated “It is a great move forward for increasing Baltics cooperation in MIL topics. But it is only the first step in this journey. I hope that this cooperation will form a strong foundation for further strengthening links between organisations working in the MIL field in all three countries” .

All of the sessions of the summit have been recorded and can be found on this page or in this Youtube playlist. The Summit was organised by the Knowledge Economy Forum and DW Akademie and is funded by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.