The story goes that one day Veritas, the princess of Informia, the guarantor of truth and trust, disappears. Rumors spread that she is marrying Manipulus – the oppressor of the neighboring land who always wanted to occupy Informia. But Literatus – Veritas’s fiancée – doesn’t believe in this and goes on a journey to find his lover and to uncover Manipulus wrongdoings.
This is the storyline behind the new Armenian fact-checking board game called “The Adventures of Literatus” the digital version of which has been online for years now. High schoolers need to debunk fakes, analyze information, trace misinformation on social media, evaluate photos and put together facts to solve the problems included in the game.
Just out from the printing house, the game was distributed to many schools all over the country for the National Media Literacy week during November 8-14.
Already for 4 years Media Initiatives Center has been partnering with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports to celebrate the Week involving educational institutions- schools, universities, preschools, libraries, CSOs… As the problem of disinformation grows and the interest in media literacy rises, the weeks get more attention and support. This time UNICEF joined the movement too.
This year’s hybrid Week offered a series of webinars about international ML policies, educational games, AI, fact-checking and journalism, and offline events, games and lessons… During the weekend, people visited MIC’s ML pavilion at one of the popular shopping malls in Yerevan, the capital of the country..
The pavilion offered various activities including videoblogging and podcasting master-classes. The final event of the week was the youth forum titled “I am The Media” – a platform for young influencers, journalists, scientists, activists to come together and to discuss what kind of digital world they live in and what they can do to bring change and good through digital media and social networks.
In the scope of the week, MIC emphasized the integration of media literacy into the school curriculum by organizing an open contest and awarding small grants to 3 teachers with the best integrated learning projects to pursue with media literacy teaching through project based learning. Greater interest from teachers in the contest and in the week comes as after MIC’s many years of advocacy and awareness raising, our efforts have resulted in media and digital competencies being finally included in the new National preschool and school education standards this year. According to the National Curriculum, this competency should be developed through the integration of media and digital literacy into all subject programs. This change gave a new meaning to the ML Week and put media literacy in the focus of the government, schools and educators.
So far, Media Initiatives Center was the solo organization providing in depth teacher training in media literacy and its teaching: over 1000 educators were trained in the course of 10 years of the organization’s work in this direction.
However, that is a drop in the ocean, a drop that apparently makes ripples and spreads the skills and the knowledge in the community of teachers and trainers.
Media Initiatives Center’s Media.am is a unique media analytical and critique website with a very strong fact-checking focus and a resource base not only for media professionals, but also for educators and parents: handbooks, guides, videos and 3 games that help children and young people better understand the work of the media, differentiate facts and fiction and check information, as well as learn more about cyber security and digital rights. Some of this games are available in multiple languages. For example, the “The Adventures of Literatus” comes in Armenian, English, Georgian, Polish and Ukrainian and according to the available data is actively used outside of Armenia (Ukraine and Poland in particular). A new Media literacy online course is underway and will soon help with scaling up the teachers’ training, as well as serving as a learning platform for the public at large.
When in 2011 we started working on the first Armenian language ML curriculum and handbook, teachers in Armenia could not even tell what the term media literacy meant. In 2017 our team at Media Initiatives Center received UNESCO’s GAPMIL top prize for our work in media and information literacy. In 2021 Armenia is one of the countries hit the hardest by Covid19 with a very high death toll and shamefully low vaccination rate and disinformation and conspiracy theories play a big part in that. This dramatic situation pushes for better work in fighting the disinfodemic and more systematic and coordinated work in promoting media literacy and institutionalizing its teaching on all levels of the education system in Armenia.
Lusine Grigoryan, media literacy specialist at Media Initiatives Center