Students to get digital media literacy lessons to help combat misinformation

Strategy says young learners need enhanced skills to help navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected world

Students of all ages will receive lessons on how to be more media literate and counteract misinformation under a new initiative.

It is one of the aims in Ireland’s new literacy, numeracy and digital literacy strategy (2024-3033) which seeks to ensure all young people are equipped with the skills to navigate and succeed in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

The strategy, developed jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Children, was launched by Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman on Wednesday.

The strategy notes that an increased focus on digital literacy is needed, given the central role played by technology in society.

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While international rankings indicate Ireland performs strongly in literacy and numeracy, countries such as Finland perform better in terms of resilience against misinformation.

Experts say the Finland’s success is linked to a concerted effort to teach students about fake news and the key role of media literacy in the national curriculum, starting in preschool.

Ireland’s new strategy will seek to embed digital literacy in education at an earlier age.

“With the rapid advancements in digital technologies, including social media, the increasing number of online information sources, and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, learners need enhanced digital literacy skills to function and participate fully in a digital world,” the strategy states.

It defines digital literacy as including an understanding of digital citizenship, data privacy and online safety.

Ms Foley said while the digital world provided “enormous benefits”, it also posed challenges around misinformation, as well as risks around exploitation and use of vulnerable young people as “money mules”.

She said her department is planning to involve parents and guardians, as well as students, in the new plans as part of an effort to ensure wider society is better informed and able to counter disinformation.

This will include running programmes through the State’s network of Education Support Centres, to help parents develop and promote digital literacy skills with their children.

The strategy has been informed by research and consultation including the views of learners, parents, staff in schools and early learning and care settings, as well as the wider public.

This new strategy’s vision is that “every learner, from birth to young adulthood, develops the necessary literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy skills to thrive and flourish as an individual, to engage and contribute fully as an ethical, active member of society and to live a satisfying and rewarding life.”

It aims to deliver “systematic improvement” in literacy, numeracy and digital literacy across the continuum of education from early learning and care to post-primary level, and to strengthen supports for the critical roles played by parents and communities in supporting the development of children’s literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.

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