Oxana Iutes from Internews in Moldova greeted the teachers, encouraging them to constantly develop their critical thinking. “During the pandemic, false information circulated in mass media and on social networks. Unfortunately, many people believe it and all sorts of conspiracy theories, and this is due to a lack of critical thinking. We live in an age where information abounds in both true and false things, so we must be able to tell the difference between true and false, whether it is in school or out of school, because false information is everywhere – in medicine, pedagogy, at your place of study or workplace. It is important to make the right choice in search of information. You will learn how to make this choice during the training,” Oxana Iutes said.
Steven Fisher, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Chisinau, addressed a greeting to the teachers who participated in the training conducted in Romanian, mentioning that “young people must learn to differentiate between objective and biased journalism. They need to know that much of the information on the Internet and on social networks is, in fact, false. Two of the essential elements of a healthy society are a free and independent press and an audience that is able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Your mission, as teachers, is to help young people see this difference,” said His Excellency Steven Fisher.
The trainers of the course were Loretta Handrabura, PhD in philology, and Aneta Gonta, PhD in political science, media researcher, and university lecturer.
During the two training programs, teachers developed the skills of teaching Media Education at high school level, based on the content of the curriculum and textbook of the same name, printed by IJC in both Romanian and Russian.
Using interactive online tools, the participants expressed their fears and expectations from the trainings, got acquainted with the Media Education textbook, studied the main terms in this field, discussed the quality and diversity of information, the role of photography in the press, as well as faked images as a form of manipulation. They learned how to perceive the media message, analyzing various messages that appeared in the media space, how to use new media formats, or what to do to feel safe online. Moreover, by using digital tools, the participants sent voice messages to future generations.
The participants also got acquainted with the Media Education platform, where they can find online games for the development of critical thinking, tutorials, animations, and other media products that can be used at the lessons of Media Education.
Trainer Loretta Handrabura, who is also one of the authors of the Media Education textbook, emphasized how important it is for teachers to keep up with students. “In order not to detach ourselves from our students, who are ‘digital natives,’ we, the teachers, must always be connected to the new digital realities in which we live. Otherwise, we risk having the gap between us and them grow even more,” the media expert says.
The trainer Aneta Gonta, who offered consultancy in the process of developing the Media Education textbook for lyceums, appreciated how important it is for us to be educated in the spirit of critical thinking today. “In order not to be manipulated, we must be aware that in a democratic society the main role of the media is to present the greatest possible diversity of opinions, thus ensuring the pluralism of ideas. Also, we must all be aware that critical thinking is the best antidote against false news,” Aneta Gonta said.
After the two trainings, the participants were convinced of the importance of the topics addressed by Media Education, and some of them already made the decision to teach the new subject in school.
Olga Oprea, a teacher at the “Mihai Eminescu” Lyceum in Sipoteni village of Calarasi district, considers the Media Education class indispensable. “Students spend a lot of time online; therefore, they must distinguish the truth from falsehood, be informed from truthful sources, such as Mediacritica.md, StopFals.md, and develop their capacity for discernment. They need to learn how to use media products rationally for their personal development and the development of those around them. After completing the training, I asked the administration of the lyceum where I work to promote Media Education in our institution so as to train media consumers with critical thinking and a responsible attitude. The administration responded to this initiative, so, starting with the new school year, we will teach the subject of Media Education at two levels: lyceum and gymnasium,” said Olga Oprea.
The participants of the two trainings were convinced of the importance of the topics addressed by Media Education.
Aliona Tarus, a teacher at the “D. Cantemir” Lyceum in Chisinau, mentioned that one of the key moments in the training was getting to know the media portals that present quality information. “We also learned that we can be not only media consumers but also media creators. It was interesting and new to find out about the rules of behavior online and the pluralism of ideas. Particularly sensitive was the issue of sexual abuse in the virtual space. By participating in this training, I gained a new motivation for further work. We will certainly pass this knowledge on to students, parents, and fellow teachers. We have many ideas and we can’t wait for the new school year to start in order to be able to implement them,” Aliona Tarus said.
To date, the IJC has trained 171 primary school teachers, 101 gymnasium teachers, and 36 lyceum teachers. The optional subject Media Education has been taught in Moldovan schools since 2017, being included in the Framework Program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Research of the Republic of Moldova at all three levels of education – primary school, gymnasium, and lyceum.
The trainings were organized by the Independent Journalism Center as part of the project “Media in Support of Democracy, Inclusion, and Accountability in Moldova" (MEDIA-M), funded by USAID and UK Aid and implemented by Internews in Moldova.