Teacher interview on students’ media habits

Andreas Holtberget Articles , ,

Under Pressure talked to Anouk van Butselaar (41), who has been a teacher for more than 20 years, about the media habits of her students, how polarisation is increasing and why she is concerned about her students

Hi Anouk! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about this issue. Let’s begin with what you enjoy most about your job.

I love that I can get students fired up about playing an active role in society. I raise awareness of the fact that they are allowed to vote, file complaints or join organisations to express their views. We address relevant topics such as ‘how does the government work’  and ‘why follow the news?’

Why are you looking to take part in Under Pressure?

My students often have a rather singular point of view. During the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, for example, they focused solely on the story of “the white man brandishing weapons to defend his property against a mob”, completely losing sight of the fact that there are lots of black American citizens fighting against inequality. They can get overly focused on one side of a discussion, to the point that they actually start believing that that side is the only “real truth”.

Under Pressure combines peer education and gamification to make European young people resilient to disinformation and polarization. It was co-developed by Diversion, the Dutch bureau for social innovation. We recommend that teachers interested in employing the Under Pressure methodology consult their overview page for educators. For more information about Under Pressure or Diversion, please go to www.getunderpressure.comwww.diversion.nl or get in touch with Emma van Toorn at etoorn@diversion.nl.

Are you concerned about your students’ media usage?

As a teacher, it concerns me that all these young people are thrown into society with such black and white conceptions of the truth. They watch videos posted by conspiracy theorists or footage of mobs storming the Capitol and create their opinion accordingly: they believe what they see on social media. Fortunately, I can see that they still have empathy. Sometimes, they will talk to me about what they watch and tell me: “I don’t know whether you would want to see this” or “I don’t think you would quite agree”. I always try to encourage them to consider a different perspective by asking them whether they watch the news, but I can tell that there is a huge gap in how we use media. They often either do not care about the news, or they do not understand it.

What do you like most about the Under Pressure method – peer education and gamification?

Having students engage in conversation with their peers is very powerful. I have found that, unfortunately, I am getting a bit old: I get my news from other sources and often have a different opinion than my students. Talking to someone who speaks their language and who they can identify with can be helpful, because it is a far cry from the he said/she said discussions they will typically have with teachers. We have taken part in peer education programmes before and it is very successful every time, with students really identifying themselves with their peers. In my opinion, we currently do not make enough usages of games in education, because teachers are still afraid to give up personal interaction with their students. Students, however, love learning by playing games: it gives them a clear role to play, something to do, and a break from having to listen to the teacher.

Do you think your students can recognise disinformation, or distinguish a fact from an opinion?

No, I do not think they can. It is difficult, of course, because there is often a thin line between disinformation and the truth. Sometimes, I will hear my students say that “all journalists are fake news”, but only because they do not know better. If you do not know that journalists have to abide by certain codes of ethics and that you can lodge complaints with the Press Council, it is no surprise that you believe that all journalists do is share their opinions.

Under Pressure was set up with the aim of countering polarisation by making young people resilient to disinformation and strengthening democratic values. How do you view polarisation in the Netherlands?

Attitudes in society are becoming more tough. In the past, I could show my students whatever I wanted, but now, I have started second-guessing myself more often. The Charlie Hebdo attacks ushered in a real change and you have to be careful about what you say and how you say it.

How does this manifest itself in the classroom?

Students are much more rigid and outspoken, even to each other. In the past, they would think: “I don’t know you, so I don’t know if you’re any good.” Now, they think: “I don’t know you, so you must be no good.” Now that many schools have stopped offering all different levels of secondary education, dedicating themselves to one or more levels instead, a kind of segregation has emerged. How much do VWO pupils really know about VMBO pupils, and vice versa? They do not meet anymore.

How do the Internet and social media contribute to this?

I have noticed that young people tend to gravitate towards opinions that match their own and only watch what they want to watch. Social media reinforce this and it is easier than ever before to disappear into a tunnel of sorts. In the past, people would watch mainstream media and see people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Now, it is as if old-school polarization has returned in a new guise.

We are now a year into the corona crisis. Has this affected your students’ media habits?

I do not have as much insight into what they are interested in anymore, because I am more concerned with their state of mind: what do their days look like and are they getting enough sleep? In the past, I would watch the news with my students, but now it has become hard to tell what is happening on the other side of the screen, which also makes it more difficult to make them aware of the bubble they could be in.

Soon, you will be taking part in Under Pressure and welcoming our peer educators. What do you hope to accomplish with the classes?

I can not change what my students come across online, but I hope that I can inspire them to ask themselves whether what they are being told is true. What are the intentions of the person who created this video? At the moment, they see everything in black and white and they are blind for shades of gray. Questioning what you see happening around you is essential, as it makes the world a more nuanced place.

Anouk van Butselaar is a teacher of Citizenship at the Koning Willem I College in Den Bosch, the Netherlands. This interview was originally published on getunderpressure.com.

For more on how to deal with fake news, propaganda and media literacy in the classroom, join EuroClio's thematic webinar series Fake & Real.

Fake & Real: a webinar series on Propaganda and Fake News

In 2017, BBC launched a special series on the grand challenges we face in the 21st Century. In this series, a panel of experts was asked to indicate what they believed were the biggest obstacles faced or to be faced by modern societies. Many of them mentioned “the breakdown of trusted sources of information” as one of the most urgent challenges. They argued that, while the need to figure out which source of information is reliable has been a constant throughout history, what magnifies the size of this challenge today is the sheer amount of available information, as well as how people have access it. To this we should add the fact that, as Kevin Kelly (co-founder of Wired magazine and tech author) said to BBC in the 2017 series: “Truth is no longer dictated by authorities, but is networked by peers. For every fact there is a counter fact. All those counter facts and facts look identical online, which is confusing to most people.” And even when mistakes are spotted, “corrections do not spread very well” (Paul Resnick, University of Michigan).

This can be said for a variety of topics, including history, current affairs, or sensitive and controversial issues. Today, it is no longer only a matter of who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’. It is first and foremost a matter of what is ‘fake’ and what is ‘real’.

Luckily, there are many resources and methodologies out there that can help us develop lesson plans that foster media literacy and critical thinking. During this webinar series, we will present some that we and the members of our community have tried, discussing with you their positive aspects, as well as potential pitfalls.

The Design of this Webinar Series

The webinar series will begin with a keynote lecture dedicated to defining fake news, propaganda, the relationship between the two. During the keynote, we will also discuss what is the impact of fake news on students, and how we as educators can equip them with the tools necessary to navigate and evaluate the information they are exposed to.

The keynote will help us set the tone for the remaining sessions, and will be followed by two active workshops. In the first workshop, we will discuss how media content can be purposefully developed to manipulate the reader, and how we can help students spot manipulation and become resilient to it. In the second workshop, we will focus on how to help students deconstruct (historical) examples of propaganda, how it works, and what is its effect on society.

The webinar series will conclude with interactive discussion groups, during which participants will have the possibility to discuss their own approaches to propaganda and fake news in the classroom. The fourth session will include also an official, festive, closing in the form of an educational game.

What will we learn?

During the webinar series, we will:

• Engage in a dialogue about Fake-News, Propaganda, and their impact on (history) education.
• Obtain a historical perspective to the notion of ‘Fake’ in Europe.
• Share educational initiatives and equip teachers with ready-to-use material and methodologies which contribute in teaching media literacy and promoting students’ critical thinking.
• Discuss how to equip students with tools to help them navigate the stream of information they are constantly exposed to, become more resilient to the effects of propaganda, and grow into active citizens in the democratic space.
• Exchange innovative tools, methods, and professional knowledge with other educators in Europe and beyond.
• Introduce history and citizenship educators to the educational material developed by the House of European History, which is also available on Historiana.eu


Upcoming Events

  1. Using Historiana to teach history from different angles

    February 15 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
  2. EuroClio 28th Annual Conference – What is History for?

    April 28 @ 9:00 am - May 1 @ 3:00 pm

Participation Fees

Participation to this webinar series is free of charge

We would like to thank our Individual Members for their support in developing this webinar series. The topic has been selected based on input from all members, and the recordings of our sessions are (partially) supported through individual membership fees.

Event report “Critical Thinking in the Age of Emoji’s” now available

How do you stimulate students to question their sources? Can news that is distributed via social media still be reliable or is it “fake news” by definition? And how can you use Call of Duty in the Classroom?

On 2 February EuroClio organized the professional development course “Critical Thinking in the Age of Emoji’s” in Hilversum, the Netherlands. In this event over 75 educators, students and other interested people gathered to dive into the question of what the role of history education in acquiring medial literacy competences amongst students.

Participants were invited to share their thoughts on this subject in a panel discussion, and participate in different workshops focused on what strategies can be used in the classroom increase media literacy, not only among students, but in educators as well.

The full report of the event is now available here.

European Commission Colloquium Underlines the Importance of Education

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A Way to Prevent Violent Radicalisation

On May 26 a colloquium was held in Brussels on “Promoting Inclusion and Fundamental Values through Education. The objectives of the Colloquium were to take stock of progress since the adoption of the Paris Declaration at EU, national, regional and local level. During the colloquium to showcase some innovative and inspiring practices and to contribute to key policy messages to support further the implementation of the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education. In short, this declaration calls for the mobilisation of the education sector at European, national, regional and local level on the following four objectives:

  1. Ensuring young people acquire social, civic and intercultural competences, by promoting democratic values and fundamental rights, social inclusion and non-discrimination, as well as active citizenship
  2. Enhancing critical thinking and media literacy, particularly in the use of the Internet and social media, so as to develop resistance to of discrimination and indoctrination
  3. Fostering the education of disadvantaged children and young people, by ensuring that our education and training systems address their needs
  4. Promoting intercultural dialogue through all forms of learning in cooperation with other relevant policies and stakeholders

The declaration was adopted in March 2015 and considering the events occurring worldwide, there is an urgent need to accelerate actions on the ground, while seeking long term solutions that focus on strengthening the role of education in fostering inclusion and promoting fundamental values.

EuroClio ambassador Sylvia Semmet attended the academic conference in Brussels. She listened, with much interest, to the speakers there. According to Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, “we need to defend our values”. He stressed the importance of linking “the European to the local”. Barry van Driel, Secretary General of the International Association for Intercultural Education, and International Director for Teacher Training and Curriculum Development at the Anne Frank House, linked this to the classroom, encouraging teachers to address political aspects. He also highly promoted the professionalisation of teachers. According to him EuroClio stands as a good player in the field and as one to provide good practice.

Critical thinking and media literacy play important roles in promoting inclusion and fundamental values. Thomas Myrup Kristensen, Managing Director for EU Affairs and Head of Facebook’s Brussels office, promoted digital literacy as a core issue and stressed that Facebook was looking for partners from civil society  to promote this. In the closing remarks, Martine Reicherts, Director-General for Education and Culture, European Commission, put the focus on “collaboration as the key“.

For more information about the colloquium or video’s of the speakers, you can read the Background Note or the Leaflet below, or go to the official webpage of the European Commission.

European Council concludes on Media Literacy and Critical Thinking

EuroClio Partners ,

On Monday the Council of the European Union adopted a conclusion on media literacy and critical thinking through education and training. The Council considers the fact that “the internet – and social media in particular – offer unprecedented, almost limitless opportunities in terms of sharing knowledge and ideas.” The internet and social media are becoming more important in our everyday life and the Council realizes the possibilities that accompany this development. For the Council the term “Media literacy” also involves other key competences, notably social and civic competences which have a clear link to critical thinking, ensuring that people can value diversity and respect the views and values of others, but also cultural awareness and expression which are underpinned by the ability to relate one’s own way of expressing points of view to those of others, including those with different cultural backgrounds.

However, this need for digital competence can also lead to a “digital divide”, which means that some people might fall out of society or are unable to get a job. Furthermore, there is a lot of information on the internet as well that could be harmful for children or puts people on the wrong path by providing the wrong information. The Council states that “while it is unlikely that increasing educational attainment would stop all forms of violent extremism, education and training can and should contribute to preventing radicalisation.” They conclude that it is very important for education and training staff to stay on top of these developments and try keep up with the speed.

If you want to read the full conclusion and press release and check out the invitations for member states on how to deal with this development click here.

Challenging Perceptions: Participatory Learning Session with European Policymakers

Jaco Stoop Association ,

On 21 April, EuroClio Programme Director Steven Stegers and EuroClio trainee Laura Steenbrink attended a meeting organised by the Ministry of Education of the Netherlands that brought together policymakers in the field of education from all over Europe in The Hague. The group visited Pro Demos - House for Democracy and the Rule of Law, where the rules of democracy are explained in an interactive manner. Following the visit to Pro Demos, Steven Stegers presented EuroClio’s approach to the topic of media literacy and how to use media literacy to combat radicalisation. He shared EuroClio’s thoughts on media literacy and history education, and explained how history influences the way we see ourselves and the way we see each other. Four other NGOs active in the field of media literacy also presented their work. An interactive meeting where all NGOs offered policymakers their different approaches followed, leading to interesting discussions between policymakers and NGO representatives.

Steven Stegers offered the policymakers some recommendations for history education and education in general. His main recommendations are: Students should be challenged to critically think for themselves and should have more opportunities to disagree with the teachers, also during exams. Furthermore, professional development and teacher training should be developed so that educators are able to liaise with peers on how to have difficult conversations, address challenging histories, and share experience and methods with colleagues.

EuroClio Represented at Lifelong Learning Platform’s Panel on Digital Literacy

Jaco Stoop Association ,

The Lifelong Learning Platform organized the 5th edition of the LLL Week from 30 November to 4 December, in and out of the European Parliament. The idea of the annual LLL week is to bring together learners and educators, field workers and policy-makers, thinkers and political representatives and give them the opportunity to discuss a broad, long term concept of lifelong learning in depth. EuroClio founder and special advisor Joke van der Leeuw-Roord, who is also the Secretary General of Lifelong Learning Platform Brussels, had several active roles throughout the week’s exhibits, debates and fieldtrips. Moreover, EuroClio was represented in the week’s ‘Expert Debate on the Challenge of Media Literacy’, where EuroClio Project Manager Judith Geerling was part of the expert panel. This panel covered several issues related to media literacy, and enabled the attendants to share experiences.  You can find more information about the LLL week and the expert panel on the Lifelong Learning Platform news page.