6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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Currently there are a number of national strategies that promote media literacy and online safety.
Malta Diġitali aims to digitally transform society and the economy, leading to better public services, increased productivity, and empowered citizens. The recent global health challenges have accelerated the adoption of digital technology in various sectors. It aligns with the European Union's Digital Compass and leverages grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility to drive digital transition. Digital sectors currently contribute over 20% to Malta's economy, and the strategy prioritizes digitalization across all industries for growth, innovation, and carbon neutrality by 2050. The focus is also on developing cutting-edge digital government services to enhance citizens' quality of life and well-being, establishing Malta as a digital benchmark.
The Malta Cyber Security Strategy 2016 has a number of goals among which is ‘Cyber security Awareness and Education’. This goal refers to the Digital Malta Strategy and states that Digital Citizenship will become part of the National Education Curriculum, to equip children and young people with the abilities to interact and use the Internet safely and intelligently. It also states that parents and carers will be involved together with educators and youth workers. This action intends to stimulate the production of creative online content, empower young people and help create a safer environment. It is also intended to help combat cyber abuse and exploitation.
The Maltese National eSkills Strategy 2022-2025 is designed to ensure the acquisition and availability of digital skills both now and in the future, considering the impact of domestic national, sectoral, and specialist strategies on the digital skills landscape. Building upon the previous National eSkills Strategy, this new plan addresses the current opportunities and challenges in Malta's digital skills sector. Additionally, it aligns with the European Union's Path to the Digital Decade and the targets set for all Member States by 2030.
The Strategy is guided by several principles, focusing on a comprehensive and inclusive approach encompassing all segments of society and the economy. Education, awareness, multi-stakeholder engagement, and alignment to relevant strategic direction are emphasized to achieve the objectives. The Strategy is structured around a four-dimensional model, incorporating goals, outcomes, strategic pillars, and common governance enablers to drive its success.
The Strategy and Vision for Artificial Intelligence in Malta 2030 aims to position the nation as a global leader in the AI field, securing a strategic competitive advantage in the global economy. It encompasses both commercial and social impacts, identifying economic opportunities and addressing the need for special consideration or regulation where AI intersects with national priorities, values, and citizens' rights.
The Strategy is built on three strategic pillars:
- Investment, start-ups, and innovation: Fostering investment to establish Malta as an AI hub for research and development, encouraging a vibrant start-up community focused on AI applications and niche areas.
- Public sector adoption: Widely deploying AI across the public administration to enhance citizens' experiences, expand access to public services, and improve well-being through six pilot projects in areas like traffic management, education, health, customer service, tourism, and utilities over the next three years.
- Private sector adoption: Initiatives to raise awareness and enable companies of all sizes to integrate AI applications within their organizations, providing access to technological expertise, toolkits, and financial support.
Media literacy is also a cross-curricular subject and it is mainly tackled in Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) and in Religious Studies covering media awareness and its use. It is also used to enrich Maltese and English language development and use.
The issue of "critical thinking" and "being media literate" are both tackled within the Learning Outcomes Framework for Personal Social Career Development and Social Studies.
Within the Secondary School Social Studies Outcomes Frameworks there are units that tackle the issue of responsible media use. These coalesce with and reinforce the Religious Studies and PSCD as well as Media Literacy work on the use of media in a responsible manner.
Students are guided by teachers particularly in PSCD lessons and during the ‘be safe programmes’ on what is acceptable for students to view and use on social media.
The Cyber Crime Unit, a specialized police internet vice squad within the Malta Police Force protects citizens from any abuse deriving from the social media.
A good example of media literacy is a programme within St. Thomas More College’s PSCD Primary school teachers entitled: Media Awareness Talks with year 4 students. This is about the use of Media Tools as part of our daily lives. These sessions highlight the quick methods of communication via electronic Media but also the potential dangers of misuse or overuse. Such talks also include Parent Talks and some PD Sessions with teachers in other Colleges as requested by different schools.
Malta is addressing the challenges related to media literacy by introducing the subject for teacher-training (through the Institute for Education); and for digitalisation (through MOOC programmes), lifelong learning and media literacy through the operations of the Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning.
Additionally, the Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) Section in conjunction with the Malta Communication Authority (MCA) have a structured ongoing programme entitled BeSmart Online! This programme targets students of all ages and parents about the safe use of Social Media in general. What is needed to be added is that the MCA and the PSCD Education Officers regularly organize Seminars for teachers and Administrative Teaching Grades with regards to Internet Safety Use.
Malta is also investing in digital skills in compulsory education curricula and through an investment in ICT infrastructure in classrooms.
The Framework for Education Strategy for Malta (2014-2024) emphasizes various goals, such as reducing the high incidence of early school leavers in Malta, decreasing the number of low achievers, raising the bar in literacy, numeracy, and science and technology competence, increasing student achievement and raising the levels of student retainment and attainment in further, vocational, and tertiary education and training attainment. Therefore, the aim for the OTPC which has now entered its third year with 15,000 tablets distributed to all students from Year 4 to Year 6, is to partially contribute to the fruition of the set goals through employing learning initiatives in all Maltese and Gozitan primary schools. The OTPC project is intended to provide a supportive technical and pedagogical framework for the tablet to be effectively used in the teaching and learning environment.
There are increased levels of motivation, self-esteem and confidence where tablets are more used. It is very common to see students searching for educational information on the web. Supported by teachers, students are sharpening their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Computational thinking skills and coding sessions through particular apps are also being done. In these instances, collaboration and communication competences are continually addressed. Students have also the opportunity to browse through various educational and fiction e-books, through the recently launched Literacy Pro App and even from the National Public Library of Malta. BrainPop UK and News-o-Matic are particular apps where various students are benefiting from daily articles aimed for students.
Malta has also launched the introduction of learning outcomes programmes in primary and secondary schools in Malta as from September 2018. This should increase the skills and competences of students and future graduates; and to ensure that all children will be given a fair and equal opportunity to be closer to technology.
Digital Skills are cross curricular, and students are expected to use technology across all the subjects in schools. A new ICT programme, entitled ICT C3, has been introduced in Year 7, to replace the traditional ECDL. The new ICT C3 programme will ensure that students will learn about safety on the net, robotics, coding and other new technologies which are the basis for further generations.
With regard to transforming teaching and learning of digital skills in a lifelong learning perspective, including the training of teachers, the Directorate for Digital and Transversal Skills within the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) has carried out work on mainstreaming the EU’s digital competence framework (proposed by the Joint Research Centre [JRC] for institutions and citizens). The National Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 and report on the future of post-secondary education both engage with the need to enhance digital skills – focusing on digital literacies and 21st century skills.
Online course on Using Mobile Devices in Education for teachers in primary schools - Currently there are two online courses which are professional development courses for teachers: Using Web 2.0 tools in education and Using Mobile devices in Education. Both courses aim to promote new ways of learning and teaching; to involve teachers in the quest of using new tools; to promote online collaboration and sharing of information and to develop cross-curriculum activities engaging different teachers and subjects. The overall objective is that these acquired digital competences and skills diffuse to the teachers’ classes. Through this diffusion student will also be benefiting when the tablet is used both in school and at home.
A digital system is available to assist teachers in the assessment process and recording of absenteeism. This will be strengthened further through the phased in introduction of a new management information system as form 2018/19.
Schools are being equipped with an infrastructure fit for today’s and tomorrow’s needs such as interactive whiteboards, all-in-one computers, Wi-Fi, 3D printers and scanners and the provision of tablets to students. In fact, by 2018/19 all students in Year 4, 5 and 6 in both State and Non-State schools will have a LearnPad Workbook 10.1″ tablet as a learning tool that could help achieve a number of educational objectives. The vision is to empower all students to become global digital citizens.
Malta is currently giving a fresh impetus to digital education. Malta is in the process of developing an Open Education Resources Policy, coordinated in conjunction with the Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning, the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver and Creative Commons.
A green paper developed by the Directorate for Digital Literacies in 2017, and the Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 form the basis for the digital education strategy steered by MEDE in compulsory education.
Media/Digital literacy is a cross-curricular subject and it is mainly tackled in Personal, Social and Career Development and in Religious Studies covering media awareness and its use.
The National Curriculum Framework for All sees Digital literacy as a cross-curricular theme where learners acquire skills in the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology for communication, work and leisure. They acquire basic skills in ICT organised around four major overlapping strands: data sources and manipulation; information communication and presentation; programmed control; and social, ethical and personal aspects. They discover and use digital data sources, and learn to organise, manipulate, interrogate and interpret data. They learn to communicate and present information using multimedia presentations; send emails and attachments; use VOIP and video-conferencing, and chat to collaborate with others. They use collaborative authoring tools and program devices to respond to input using a simplified iconic interface. They also explore social and ethical dimensions of digital technologies and learn to practice netiquette and online safety measures.
Digital literacy enhances the teaching and learning processes, the interaction among peers, and interactions between students and teachers. It is driven by the need for increased access to learning which can be facilitated through:
• a shift to constructivist education philosophies;
• a move from teacher to student-centred learning activities;
• accessing both local and global resources;
• making full use of the potential of technologies to enable children to show and create knowledge;
• an increased complexity of tasks and use of multi-modal information.
Amongst other general teaching tools, as part of the BeSmartOnline! project in Malta, Personal Social and Career Development (PSCD) Education Officers have developed a series of workbooks to help teach young people digital citizenship skills. The aim of the workbooks is that of developing 21st century digital citizenship skills from a very young age. The workbooks, which are interactive, fun and thought provoking, are an important tool being used by PSCD teachers so that students learn how to communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly online. Comparison between online and offline citizenship is emphasised within the workbooks to ensure that students are made aware that the virtual community to which they belong also has its rules and regulations.
With the aid of these workbooks, various areas related to digital citizenship education are being explored since children and youth, more often than not, embrace technology without examining the consequences of what they post, search or download. Therefore, emphasis on the importance of protecting one's private information, communicating respectfully, and being careful on what one posts online are all given their due importance. Attention is also given to the importance of creating online personas that project a positive and constructive image, how to prevent, protect and report cyber-bullying, and how students look up, select and streamline information from the internet and thus choose authentic sources of information.
The workbooks provide a proactive way of helping students engage with the digital world, being an excellent tool to help students acquire the necessary skills that include, among others, media literacy skills and communication and critical skills.
Young people are amongst the biggest users of online and mobile technologies. Whilst Malta’s education system undertakes every effort to ensure the safety and well-being of ourselves and others in the real world, the same has to be done in the virtual world.
BeSmartOnline! is a programme which was set up in 1999 and evolved over the years, taking into account the latest technological developments and their impact on adolescents’ lives. The Safer Internet Programme is present in 30 European countries and supports the development of awareness-raising material and the organisation of information sessions for children, parents and teachers. The Programme also supports the establishment of Hotlines and Helplines. The Hotlines and Helplines are intended to receive reports on illegal content found on the Internet as well as give advice on how to stay safe online. This has been the national flagship initiative that promotes the safer use of the Internet for the past 6 years. The overall objective of the BeSmartOnline! Project is to act as a Safer Internet Centre in Malta. The project is coordinated by the Malta Communications Authority and implemented through a consortium made up of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, the Office of the Commissioner for Children and the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes. The overarching mission of the consortium is to proactively safeguard the well-being of children as they navigate and explore the Internet in order to ensure a positive online experience. It also aims to help children fully recognise and reap the benefits of the many opportunities that the Internet can present. This is done through the implementation of a number of awareness raising and educational initiatives targeting children and their supporting networks; particularly, parents, carers, and educators. In this regard, the learning objectives and outcomes of the Personal, Social and Career Development subject, which focus on digital citizenship, are instrumental in reaching all students within compulsory schooling.
This website is intended to help children, youths, parents and educators understand the basic principles and best practices for a safer online experience for children. It will also act as a tool to communicate news, announce events and share resources. Specific guidelines are available to all parties (websites, lesson plan, Power Point Presentations, educational games, tip sheets, helpline, brochures, a hotline – ChildWebAlert.
The BeSmartOnline! project is funded by the European Union through the Safer Internet Programme and national funds.
Apart from having a dedicated website to proactively safeguard the well-being of children as they navigate and explore the Internet in order to ensure a positive online experience – BeSmartOnline, various partnerships have been created with key supporters to promote and disseminate information on online safety:
- Malta Police Force - Cyber Crime Unit
- Secretariat for Catholic Education
- Aġenzija Żgħażagħ
- University of Malta
A number of awareness raising initiatives were organised targeting young people primarily, amongst which were:
- Campaigns on safer internet
- Public Discussions on Digital Awareness
- Children's Internet Use and Parents' Perceptions of their Children's Online Experience
- Conference for Professionals Working with Children
- Safer Internet Day
- Conferences for Educators
- Seminar for eLearning, ICT teachers and PSCD teachers
- Safer Internet Forums
- Maltese Safer Internet Centre
- Guide to protecting your kids online