University of São Paulo: Young journalists help in the media literacy of students in a USP project

Currently, it is almost impossible for a person to surf the internet without bumping into fake news from time to time. Or rather, fake content. “I do not use the term ‘false news’ because if it is news it cannot be false”, says professor Mônica Nunes, from the Department of Journalism and Publishing at USP’s School of Communications and Arts (ECA) and responsible for the Foca nas Mídias project , which seeks to promote media literacy for children and adolescents.

The digital age is here to stay and in this world so connected it is necessary that people learn, earlier and earlier, to protect themselves from misinformation. It was with this in mind that Foca nas Mídias developed. It began with the project Media Literacy and Audiovisual Production at Public School: Teaching children and young people to interpret and produce information, created by Mônica and organized in conjunction with the Faculty of Education (FE) at USP. The project was applied with funds from USP’s 2019 Social Entrepreneurship edict.

The initiative is based on the principle of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), which states that media literacy is a fundamental right for everyone. “If you don’t have the resources to discern what is real and what is false, you are a person who lives in a very insecure world; their relationship with the world is unequal”, says Mônica.

To explain the damage caused by the growing misinformation that fills the networks, the professor draws an analogy with a game that gained fame among young people in 2020. “I say that misinformation is like an imposter of that Among Us game: it is between us and you need to have the resources not only to identify it, but also to mine it.”

This comparison reinforces the main idea of ​​the project: getting closer to young people using their same language. Therefore, the content developed is focused on audiovisual, with videos for YouTube and, in the future, for TikTok, as well as productions for Instagram and the website. In this way, social networks start to function as tools for teaching and combating questionable content and their users become knowledge replicators.

The project has just been pre-selected in the Social Inclusion and Diversity public notice at USP. If approved, it will have, in addition to the six current scholarship holders, another seven scholarships to offer, and it will expand its activities in another public school. “We are directing our activities to public schools because we understand that it is a group with a larger number of students and that, perhaps, they have not had contact with this subject in their trajectory”, explains Mônica.

The valuation of extension projects
The extension projects, carried out in partnership with the Pro-Rectory of Culture and University Extension (PRCEU), work as instruments for democratizing the knowledge produced at the University. And it would be no different with Foca nas Mídias, whose main objective is to disseminate good communication practices and help disseminate other works on media literacy that are being developed in Brazil.

The workshops produced for students at the School of Application (EA) had part of their development hampered by the pandemic in 2020. But thanks to the efforts of all the professors, teachers and scholarship holders involved, the results were encouraging. According to Claudia Saraiva, a French teacher at EA and a member of the program, one of the reasons for the success is the appreciation that all employees give to university extension.

At school, the project was divided into a training course for teachers, focusing on the use of media, and teaching workshops for students. The children developed videos in TikTok format, reflecting in a good-humored way and with young language about the damage caused by misinformation.

For Claudia, “this is an urgent and important issue not only for adults. All students had stories of scams on WhatsApp, fake news, things they thought were one way and actually produced another way. Sometimes we, teachers, keep thinking about things that are necessary but have no direct relationship with the student’s life, but this is a topic that for them was also important.”

Vera Marinelli, a teacher at FE and another Foca nas Mídias collaborator, argues that “reflecting on the making of videos in everyday school life helps these teenagers and young people to have a critical and attentive look at what they consume” and thus become , knowledge replicators.

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