Media literacy: teenagers present their solutions
The projects for media literacy were initiated during the first online national hackathon
How can we create content online while staying safe? How can we spot fake news? How do we ethically report on incidents and productively express an opinion? Seventeen teenagers previously selected through a national competition developed five projects with the aim of answering these questions.
• The project ‘Share Your Dreams’ created by Momchil, Galena and Desislava won in the category of ‘Most Potential for Change’. Watch the students present their project here: https://youtu.be/F-r_FfSAtF0
• The project ‘Ethical Incident Reporting’ created by Simeon, Mishel, Vladimir and Vasil won in the category of ‘Most Innovative Solution’. Watch the students present their project here: https://youtu.be/28aKyZu88Y4
• Two projects won in the ‘Most Applicable Project’ category: ‘How to Deal with Fake News’ by Kristiyan, Anna-Maria, Beyshan and Yuliyan; and ‘Cybersecurity’ by Petar, Yoana and Zheni. Watch their short presentation videos here: https://youtu.be/bZRlufz0PJc / https://youtu.be/df2zixmZ-10. The latter was also awarded ‘Best Presentation Design’.
The young innovators presented their ideas during an event which was hosted in accordance with the strictest anti-epidemic measures in Sofia Tech Park. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva was patron of the event, together with Generations Unlimited – UNICEF and partners’ global initiative champion – preparing young people for the future.
“Media awareness and awareness of the content these produce is paramount today, and not only where young people are concerned. It thrills me to see how many young people nowadays show such deep social and societal commitment to creating content of value”, Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev said, speaking to the crowd on behalf of Minister Zaharieva.
The students worked together during the first online youth hackathon, which was symbolically held on May 9, Europe Day. A few days prior, a closing event was held in the context of World Youth Skills Day, which had been organised by UNICEF, the Association of European Journalists Bulgaria, the Media Literacy Coalition, Teen Station, VIVACOM, Resonator and Sofia Tech Park. The EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel welcomed them.
“I commend you for this initiative which is being held in a time when not an insignificant part of a student’s daily life is spent online. What this shows is that digital skills are key, not only in education or the path to employment; they are life skills. Media literacy occupies an equally important place in education as reading literacy. Regardless of age, everyone needs the right skills necessary to read, understand and look at online content critically, as well as being able to discern what might be hiding behind that content”, the Bulgarian EU Commissioner said, addressing the public.
The projects which have been developed at the conceptual level by teenagers, for teenagers, offer different approaches ranging from a website with quizzes to platforms for creating online content or social media campaigns. The hackathon was part of ‘Teenager Academy: My Right to an Opinion’, a joint project of UNICEF and AEJ-Bulgaria which aims at increasing social media literacy amongst Bulgarian youths.
“According to Eurostat data, Bulgaria and Romania are on the bottom of the ranking where the digital skills of young people are concerned, with 58 and 56 percent of youth having basic online skills, compared to 97 percent in Croatia. This is why I consider all of you young people with your conceptual projects to be ambassadors of digital skills and media literacy among your peers. Your task is to inspire them and help them acquire the necessary skills, while fighting the challenges that have been presented to us by the coronavirus crisis together. This is why I have two questions for you: What are the new skills that young people must develop in order to adapt to a post-COVID-19 reality? And how can these skills be acquired remotely and digitally?” UNICEF Representative for Bulgaria Dr Jane Muita said, speaking to the crowd of youths.
The unique advantage of these projects is that they are aimed at teenagers and have been developed entirely from their point of view, albeit after a thorough preparation process and mentoring by experts.
“Teenagers having the ability to use the internet and social networks safely will allow them to quickly identify false information, protect themselves from people with malicious intents, identify online bullies and avoid them, so that they will be able to make the most of technologies which, where knowledge, databases and a means of communication are concerned, are otherwise extremely beneficial and have become ingrained into our daily lives. These skills have become a key element in education, active participation in society and employment. This is why we at Sofia Tech Park will continue to support similar initiatives that contribute to the furtherance of the digital security and literacy of our children”, said Todor Mladenov, Executive Director of Sofia Tech Park, who hosted the event.
“We want to present our support for the important social and ethical questions you have raised and are collaborating on, thanks to the hackathon. In these times of social media noise and platforms, it is of utmost importance that you, the youth, be educated and informed without being influenced by every stranger’s opinion. Continue setting the example for your friends and peers!” Mihaylo Nikolich, founder of Resonator, proclaimed.
“For several years now, the digitalisation of education is one of the main causes VIVACOM has supported. This is precisely why we are so pleased with the large number of interesting and exciting proposals we received for using technology to solve current problems”, Ekaterina Buzalakova from VIVACOM said.
“These young people have demonstrated so much skill, perseverance and creativity, and I am convinced that great things lie ahead of them. I hope their ideas will get the support they deserve”, said Kristina Hristova, Chairperson of the Media Literacy Coalition.
It is important to give the floor to young people, instead of poking around trying to understand what is important to them. When young people collaborate, they accumulate a great potential. Our role is to support them in this process”, Evelina Blagoeva from TeenStation explained.
What sets this hackathon apart is that, due to the emergency situation, everything was done online, from the preparation the students did to their work on the conceptual projects, and the students had never met previously to their participation in the hackathon, and did not interact in a physical environment. Despite these challenges, the youngsters managed to exceed the most daring expectations of the event organisers, as they worked together to create original and well-thought-out projects.
During the presentation, all hackathon participants were awarded prizes. The event host Sofia Tech Park provided a walk in the interactive children’s centre for science and technology Techno Magic Land, the VIVACOM telecom operator offered wireless headphones, and the Resonator innovation hub gifted vouchers for accessing its technical laboratories. The biggest prize, however, was a moral one: every team was crowned a winner and received recognition in a specific category, as well as training by mentors specialised in video documentaries, digital marketing, online gaming and podcasting.
Parents, as well as representatives from national institutions, the business sphere, the private sector and the media were all present during the unveiling of the ideas. The aim is to develop these ideas into real projects with the help of all of the beforementioned in order to reach as many young people in Bulgaria as possible and to increase their media literacy, digital skills, social activism and civic awareness – all valuable components of the so-called ‘21 century skills’, which support every developed and inclusive society that has children’s and youths’ best interests at heart.
Who we are:
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories. We save children’s lives. We defend their rights. We help them fulfil their potential. And we never give up. Because we believe that every child and young person has a right to life and prosperity and to develop to their fullest potential, for a better world. Because we are UNICEF – for every child! https://www.unicef.org/bulgaria/
The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria is a member of the International Association of European Journalists. It promotes critical journalism in the European integration process and defends the freedom of information and freedom of the press. The AEJ offers journalists the chance to be a part of a professional and social network. The Association is an independent observer in the Council of Europe’s Media Steering Committee. The AEJ is a founding member of the Media Literacy Coalition. http://new.aej-bulgaria.org/
The Media Literacy Coalition brings together over 20 organisations in the field of education, journalism and civic participation, as well as academics, journalists and media literacy experts. The Coalition works for the full integration of media literacy into the educational process and for improving society’s media literacy. www.gramoten.li
Teen Station is an independent media that unites students from all over the country. We talk and listen, read and write, take pictures of ourselves and everything around us. We tell stories, share our favourite music, record podcasts on a variety of topics, fill galleries with exciting footage. Teen Station’s various podcasts reach hundreds of regular listeners on popular platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud, Mixcloud. The network of schools and students that join our team is ever increasing. Teen Station is a founding member of the Media Literacy Coalition. www.teenstation.net
VIVACOM is one of the leading technology companies in Bulgaria. In addition to providing mobile and fixed services and cable TV, in recent years the company has been actively developing and offering a series of innovative solutions in the field of the Internet of Things, smart cities, cloud services and digital education. Our company stands behind the belief that education and technology are the main driving forces for the development of society. For over five years, we continue our efforts to prove how the introduction of technology in the learning process will make it more interesting, effective and useful for students. In 2018, in partnership with the press, institutions and a number of organisations, we launched our largest initiative towards this goal – Education 4.0, dedicated to the digitalization of education. www.vivacom.bg/
Resonator is a hub for shared innovation, which aims to strengthen the spirit of cooperation between different circles – both in and outside the tech sector. The centre connects big and small businesses with the specialists, experimentalists and artists necessary for the creation of a new product, service or innovation. Resonator promotes educational and practical work in a variety of fields. The hub offers subscription-based access to various laboratories equipped with high-end technologies, electronics and others, and offers training courses for their use. Next to providing possibilities for rapid prototyping in the development of new products, Resonator lets visitors freely experiment with technologies and devices while stimulating discussion with enthusiasts from other disciplines. www.rsntr.com
Sofia Tech Park is Bulgaria’s first science and technology park. Its main aim is to enhance the competitiveness in the fields of science and entrepreneurship in Bulgaria by improving the exchange of information between the academic field and the business community. It does so by supporting start-ups, as well as innovative ideas, thus opening the road to commercialisation of scientific research. https://sofiatech.bg/
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