I’ve been back from overseas now for a few weeks and have almost (almost) accomplished the Great Assignment Marking Catchup. We’re all faced with one from time to time, but for me having a trip overseas is still always worth it!
Part of my overseas stay was, amazingly, in Cairo. I had never been to Egypt before, or anywhere in the Arab region. Most of my time was spent at the MILID Week meetings at Cairo University, which was the event I was there to be part of.
What is MILID?
MILID stands for ‘Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue‘. UNESCO, together with the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) have created a UNITWIN Cooperation Program and Global Chair on ‘MILID’, to focus resources and efforts across partner universities from around the globe on Media and Information Literacy.
To give you an idea of what the group does, here are two of the seven objectives of the MILID network:
- Act as a Observatory for critically analyzing: the role of Media and Information Literacy (“MIL”) as a catalyst for civic participation, democracy and development; for the promotion of free, independent and pluralistic media; as well as MIL’s contribution to the prevention and resolution of conflicts and intercultural tensions and polarizations.
- Enhance intercultural and cooperative research on MIL and the exchanges between universities and mass media, encouraging MIL’s initiatives towards respecting human rights and dignity and cultural diversity. (http://www.unaoc.org/communities/academia/unesco-unaoc-milid/)
How did I get involved?
Across the globe there are eight universities involved as Chairs in the MILID program. My institution, Queensland University of Technology, is the Chair from Australia. Other countries represented are: Spain (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Egypt (Cairo University), China (Tsinghau University), USA (Temple University), Brazil (University of Sao Paulo), Jamaica (University of the West Indies), Morocco (Mohamed Ben Abdellah University).
This semester QUT has run a pilot course in Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue, using the UNESCO Curriculum for MIL. Along with Michael Dezuanni and Hilary Hughes, I’ve been teaching the course to students online, for free, from over 70 countries.
MILID WEEK is a space to promote contact and cooperation between international organizations, associations, NGOs, universities, media, research groups, researchers, teachers, and students from around the world working in media literacy and information and intercultural dialogue. (http://milidweek2013.blogspot.com.es/p/presentation.html)
This year Cairo University was the host of MILID week, which ran from 22-25 April. Last year the week was hosted in Barcelona, Spain; next year the week will be hosted in Beijing, China.
What I liked best about my first MILID week was the opportunity it provided to speak in depth with colleagues in this specialised field. Over the days of debates and presentations we shared information about how media is being used (and subverted) in our countries and regions, as well as the politics of information literacy in schools and communities. This event gave us space to find common interests and develop shared strategies for promoting the concept of MIL.
What did I learn?
It was eye opening to consider such questions during the MILID week as: How can we plan collaboration via social media in a group that includes members from China? How can we share media texts across national boundaries to promote intercultural dialogue? How can media and information literacy support social justice initiatives?
Mostly I was interested to learn about how other universities worked and how much attention is given to media literacy and/or information literacy in different places. I came away with the impression that Australia is relatively well-placed in terms of access to traditional and new media, connection to the internet, and use of social media. But I wonder whether Australian students are exposed to practices of citizen journalism as much as they might be? It struck me that in a place like Egypt, citizens currently have a lot of motivation to produce their own stories and information…by contrast the culture of media consumption in Australia seemed complacent to me.
And, as always when spending time with folks from a range of countries, I was reminded of how monolingual my world is. I speak next to no words in other languages; most of the people around me from Anglophone countries were in the same boat.
If I can’t go in person to the MILID Week in China next year I’ll be disappointed now, as I feel like I only just got to know this group and my place in it! However with the week falling in April/May, right in the middle of semester 1 in most Australian universities, I can’t say I will be able to take this kind of a break away from classes again for awhile. Either way, I’ll be continuing to promote the new MILID journal and contribute online to the Clearinghouse.
Soon the MIL Curriculum will be available via an interactive module-based website, to complement the existing PDF of the Curriculum. I’ll be sure to post again with details once the site is launched!
Thanks to QUT Faculty of Education and UNESCO for supporting this travel and development opportunity.