We spoke to Danijel Labas about the project Djeca medija (Children of Media) from the DKMK (Association for Communication and Media Culture) in Zagreb, Croatia. Danijel is the The project recently won the award of Special Jury Prize from the Evens Foundation’s 2017 Media Literacy Prize.
Tell us a bit about the project. What is the idea? How did it start? How many people have been involved?
The project Children of Media was established in 2008 with the initiative of communication sciences and journalism students at the University of Zagreb who participated in “Communication School” organised by professor Igor Kanižaj and I for our Croatian cultural institution “Matica hrvatska”. Three years later, in 2011 the Association for Communication and Media Culture (DKMK – Društvo za komunikacijsku i medijsku kulturu) was established by a group of student volunteers from University of Zagreb led by professor Kanižaj and I. Our idea was to build a new voluntary extracurricular media education program to educate teachers, parents and children in media literacy called “Djeca medija” – Children of Media. We have prepared, organised and implemented more than 600 workshops, lectures and conferences on media education for more than 13.000 participants in Croatia, primarily on a voluntary basis.
The project is directed towards children and youth, the academic community – students and teachers, educational institutions, families and parents, as well as minorities and the general population. The main activities are interactive lectures and media workshops that are suited for children, the youth, teachers and educators. The most common topics of the lectures and workshops are, for instance, cyberbullying, internet safety, the influence of video-games on young people, stereotypes and media representation of beauty, welcome to the world of cartoons, family and the challenges of new media, the educational and upbringing role of media and many others. Other activities include a radio show Upbringing for Ideals and creating educational and entertaining content on web-pages and the social networks of Children of Media.
What effects has it had? How is it funded?
The project has done a lot in the last few years for development of media education and media literacy, and for strengthening awareness about the importance of media literacy in Croatia. As I just mentioned, from 2008 we have delivered more than 600 interactive lectures and workshops. We have made more than 13.000 children, parents, educators and teachers media literate and we have visited more than 90 primary schools and high schools in Croatia. Furthermore, our members participate on numerous seminars and conferences, and we have written and edited a book “Children of the media – from marginalisation to sensation”, have published eight educational brochures for children and the youth and a workbook manual for parents and teachers “Challenges of new media”.
DKMK’s main project, as said is called Djeca medija () and is primarily done on a voluntary basis, thanks to the huge effort of our members. Our vision is that the sustainability of the projects is made possible due to the intrinsic motivation of our members. Each one of the volunteers is participating in our regular activities without any financial support. However, our new projects received official support from the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports in 2016 and 2017. Our regular supporter is also the City of Velika Gorica. In last several years we have received their support on public calls. Our activities were supported also by the biggest public Foundation Adris, too, and other institutions and partners.
Our constant advocating activity has led to the acceptance of the Amendment to the Strategy of education, science and technology. In October of 2014 the final form of the Strategy included the term media and information literacy.
We have also organised a scientific symposiums and round tables dedicated to the Place of Media Literacy in Croatian Schools (2016) and Media Literacy for a Responsible Society (2017), in cooperation with the City of Zagreb, City of Velika Gorica and Agency for electronic media.
Besides that, ACMC successfully cooperates with different institutions, associations and projects, and is also one of the main partners of a major social responsibility initiative Šeraj pozitivu, blokiraj negativu (Share the Positivity, Block the Negativity) by Hrvatski Telekom – leading Croatian telecommunication company, whose key output will be the first national research into the levels of safety of children on the Internet, which is to become an expert base for national regulation and new policy making. Owing to this initiative lead by Professors Igor Kanižaj and Lana Ciboci, we will have the first national research that is fully aligned with the criteria of the international EU Kids Online project.
For its activity, the Children of Media project was rewarded with a Special Rector’s Award which is given every year to the best student projects and scientific papers by the Rector of the University of Zagreb in 2015. And just a few days ago the project has won a Special Jury Prize for Media Education 2017, provided by Evens Foundation. According to the results and the explanation, the members of jury were “impressed by the way the project involves both academics and volunteers, how it approaches the media as part of lived experience, its importance in the context of Croatia, and the impact it has on both participants and volunteers”.
What is a good story or example of one of the project’s outcomes?
There are many good stories and positive examples but we especially treasure stories where children, our youngest audience, share their experiences with us, ask for advice and share their knowledge with their family and friends. Also, some primary schools included our workshops and guidelines for teaching media literacy in their curriculum. Our ideas for MIL workshops in family are also very popular among parents mainly because they realise that they don’t need hours and hours for including media literacy activities in their households – they only need a few minutes daily for spending quality together time with their children and with each other. It is important for us to share our knowledge, experience and ideas with our audiences that, as individuals, could be role models and ambassadors of media literacy in their homes, schools, cities etc.
What’s next for the project? Would you like to expand it?
This year (2017) we are providing specialised media literacy workshops and training for children, teachers and parents in 12 Croatian Counties. The project “Djeca medija za aktivno građanstvo – treninzi medijske pismenosti” – Children of Media for active citizenship – media literacy training”, is the first project of this kind in Croatia. The idea of the 2nd phase was to offer a specialised training in order to achieve the multiplying effect where a group of children, parents and teachers was educated. In an intensive program, in one school from each county we identify two groups of 35 member’s representatives of school children (1st-4th grade, and 5th-8th grade). In every school we have had an additional working group with parents and teachers. In joint partnership with 12 schools in those counties we organise and implement training for at least 2730 participants. 22 volunteers from DKMK were or will be included in that project to the end of August. We are also planning to produce an educative brochure on media literacy with additional material to be used by parents and children.
Our SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM will support all our activities but our communication action plan is based on the cooperation with local media in each county. We are also including school media in each institution we have or we shall visit, and we will include national media as well. The level of satisfaction with our programs is outstanding. Our Facebook page counts more than 3300 followers, while our Twitter profile @djecamedija has 760 followers and we are developing it.
How will you spend the prize money?
With the prize money we would like to extend our activities to secondary school aged young people (15 to 18 year olds). We see huge potential in our social media channels and we would like to offer new set of activities with the “Evens Prize” extension, as we wrote in the application. First of all, we will make a weekly teaser campaign on critical media literacy for teenagers on our Twitter and FB profile. Secondly, we will prepare a public competition with the task for the participants to write and send us short essays on the importance of critical media literacy, and the 12 best essays will be published on our new web page to be introduced by the end of the year – djecamedija.org. Finally, we have planned a new series of workshops on Critical ML for teenagers from different secondary schools and a brochure on the outcomes of the project.
Do you have any recommendations for changes to media policy in Croatia or the EU?
As Lana Ciboci, Igor Kanižaj and I wrote in a paper “Public Opinion Research as a Prerequisite for Media Education Strategies and Polices”, there are many examples of countries with outstanding media education policies and programs, although they have not conducted any kind of public opinion research, asking the public for its opinion on media education. We did it because central to our argument is the belief that media users are civil society actors and for this reason they should be approached on all matters concerning media education policies. We also argue that media policies in some countries could be more easily introduced if they are based on public opinion research. From our point of view, the high quality and wide scope of public opinion research on media education is a key requirement in countries where there is an evident lack of research data, based upon which public officials are expected to formulate concrete policies. We are convinced that our model of media education and our volunteer’s project “Children of Media” could be also adopted on the level of EU as the innovative concept on how to empower public – children, parents, teachers and educators – and build new platforms for understanding and new creative initiatives in critical media literacy.