In a joint action by DG EAC and DG CNECT, the European Commission has launched an expert group to tackle disinformation and promote digital literacy through education and training in the context of the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027). The group met for the first time recently to start what promises to be a busy round of activities in the coming 12 months. The call for members of this expert group was an open one launched earlier in the year from which the final group was selected based on their interest, experience and knowledge of the area. The Expert Group brings together 25 individuals and organisations covering a broad range of expertise, representing the world of broadcast, journalism, technology, civil society, media, teaching, education and training. All have experience in the fields of tackling disinformation and promoting digital literacy, with a focus on education.
The Expert Group will look primarily at existing practices and approaches in the EU and at the international level and at all levels of education, including both formal and non-formal education settings. The mandate of the Expert Group runs to September 2022 and the group is expected to produce two main outcomes. The first of these is a report that focuses on the key issues that relate to tackling disinformation and digital literacy in education. As well as describing the process through which the report comes about, it is expected to include short descriptions and analysis of inspiring practices, a short summary of key discussions and potential disagreements and dilemmas, as well as key pathways forward. This report comes at an early stage and is intended to feed into the main expected outcome which are guidelines for teachers and educators expected in September 2022. These guidelines are intended to help teachers and educators to tackle disinformation and promote digital literacy through education and training. They are expected to be written in a manner that is accessible and useful for teachers and educators,
The first meeting highlighted the enthusiasm and expertise brought to the group by its members along with the high expectations of the two European Directorates involved. Participants worked in smaller subgroups on a variety of different themes including one on Teacher Training and Education where it is planned the focus will be on both pre and in-service teacher education. Work in this group starts from an assumption of the importance of the role of teachers in building critical thinking skills amongst their students and helping them cope with disinformation. It works from the premise that digital skills and competences of teachers are fundamental, and in many cases even conditional, to the successful implementation of digital education.
While little that was shared in the group goes again such a basic premise, the question for the subgroup and the experts group at large is how best to equip teachers with the skills and resources that they need to deliver on this expectation. Approaches to teacher education at all levels from pre-service to in-service support and continuing professional development vary enormously across Europe and this is an area that is already over-burdened in terms of analysis and critique. Making space for concerted efforts in this area at a time when resources are already under pressure is going to be quite a challenge. It will be a busy year.
Sally Reynolds, Media & Learning Association