Digital citizenship program helps students fight disinformation

1 Digital Citizenship NEW
The Media Clubs program offers media literacy courses to 400 students from grades 9 to 10 in various governorates. (Photo: Pixabay)
AMMAN — The Media Clubs program offered media and information literacy courses to 10 public schools in Irbid, Balqa, and Amman during the last school semester and during the summer.اضافة اعلان

The Media Clubs program is implemented by the international development and education organization IREX, in partnership with Madrasati, the Ministry of Education, and the US Embassy in Amman. 

According to a press release from the US Embassy, it is run by 20 trained teachers and considered as part of the aforementioned school’s extra-curricular activities.

The program combined skill-building training based on IREX’s “Learn To Discern” (L2D) information literacy methodology, media production training, and discussions with professional journalists at local and international news organizations. 

After receiving the training, students worked in small groups to design and implement small media projects that counter stereotypes, hate speech, conspiracy theories, cyberbullying, and other information manipulations.

The press release shared that the Media Clubs is one of the initiatives that the US Embassy is supporting to disseminate media literacy and support the government’s national strategy on media and information literacy. 

Susan Szmania, community engagement specialist at the US Embassy in Amman said: “We know that communities around the world have experienced a concerning rise of online misinformation and disinformation.
The Jordan Media Clubs program demonstrates that youth are a vital component to addressing these challenges and to developing innovative solutions. We are also grateful for the teachers who have committed to this program and who have encouraged their students to take an active role in making their communities better.”

After a course in media and information literacy during the last school semester, 16-year-old Kinda, a Mahis School for Girls student, started to help her family and peers recognize facts from misinformation and use social media more critically and safely.

The 16-year-old shared that she did have some doubts about some of the information she received on WhatsApp, but used to brush off those doubts, especially when the messages came from relatives. “I now realize that my family used to share a lot of wrong information with each other on our WhatsApp family group,” says Kinda.

Kinda is one of 400 9th to 10th graders who participated in the Media Clubs programs.

Safi Abu Al-Yaqeen, a teacher at Abdul Rahman Halhouli School in Irbid, stated that the curriculum adopts an experiential approach to developing critical thinking skills, encouraging responsible behaviors and healthy habits in the way people process and engage with information.

“Beyond the Media Clubs, I began teaching my friends, colleagues, and family what I learned through L2D,” she said. 

According to IREX Country Director Francesca Sawalha, IREX uses L2D in classrooms, libraries, community centers, fellowship programs, peer-to-peer networks, and schools across various world regions and countries to help people of all ages build resilience to misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda.

Tenth-grader Mohammad, from Abdul Rahman Halhouli School in Irbid, said he “learned a lot from the L2D course, especially on the topics of hate speech, electronic crimes, and propaganda.” 

Mohammad and his group of fellow Media Clubs students designed and produced a video about rumors. “Our media production for the Media Clubs is about rumors because they can do real harm, are easy to spread, but very hard to resist and stop.” 

By disseminating their video on social media, Mohammad and his friends wanted to make sure that: “Our friends and other young people do not have to go through the negative experiences we had before joining the Media Clubs,” he says.

To recognize the best student media projects produced under the Media Clubs, Madrasati is organizing an award ceremony scheduled to take place early next month. 

“We convened a panel of media and education experts to award some of the student initiatives that were the most impactful in building awareness of the dangers of irresponsible online behavior and in highlighting the importance of critical thinking and objective and accurate information to our daily lives,” said Madrasati Executive Director Tala Sweiss.

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