Recap: Building interactive news literacy simulations for future content creators
What happened in this year's pre-conference workshop at Trusted Media Summit?
A total of 43 participants, including myself, from 11 Asian countries joined the workshop. We were divided into groups and built a prototype of simulations that could be used in the classroom.
The goal was to create a fun and engaging activity that teaches learners how to become responsible content creators and social media influencers.
Masato Kajimoto, our director and a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong, and Yvonne Chua, our Advisory Council member and an associate professor of journalism at the University of the Philippines - Diliman, led the event as facilitators.
Why content creators?
Various media research around the world indicates younger generations primarily get news from video-based platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Surveys also show more children dream of becoming content creators than astronauts or medical doctors in different countries, including many in Asia.
Some of the articles shown in Masato’s slides were:
'YouTuber' is top 5 job for elementary schoolchildren (The Korea Times)
Top 10 Popular Dream Jobs in 2023 in India (The Times of India)
How to make money on YouTube in 2023? (The Times of India)
Yvonne discussed how social media is the primary news source in many Asian countries, citing the report by We Are Social.
She also talked about the significant amount of time internet users spend on YouTube and TikTok — more than any other social apps and services in 2022, according to the same report.
Teaching with simulations
When executed well, interactive simulations can provide a fun and engaging learning environment.
The idea of the workshop was to develop a scenario-based choice game to teach our students — many of whom aspire to be content creators and social media influencers — how to be responsible for their content and behaviours.
Masato showcased a few such simulations used in news and media literacy education.
BBC iReporter, for example, is a sophisticated interactive game that simulates some situations that a newly recruited news reporter encounters. The embedded video below is a short demo of him playing BBC’s iReporter.
BBC’s simulation game aims to teach journalistic concepts like balance, fairness, accuracy, speed (when covering breaking news), and impact.
The key idea is to develop stories in which students are faced with choices to weigh values, anticipate consequences, and make difficult decisions so that they can draw lessons from the simulated experiences.
Developing simulations — topics, challenges, and choices
During the workshop, participants were divided into groups and had two brainstorming sessions.
In the first session, each group was asked to figure out what kind of topics and concepts they would like to include in their simulations.
Here’s what the two facilitators said before we submitted our list:
Remember that our goal is to teach how to become a responsible content creator / social media influencer
Business models? Misinformation? Hate speech? Harmful content? Copyrights? Privacy? Transparency? Comment moderation? Obscenity? Other ethical issues?
You will need to make a simulation slide in the afternoon. Try to limit your focus to 2-3 ideas and dig deeper
Are there any real case studies and examples in your country that could possibly address those topics and concepts?
In the second session, each group was asked to make 1) a rough storyboard to illustrate the overall storyline and 2) draw a decision tree, mapping all the choices students would face in the simulation. Yvonne and Masato asked:
What is the story? Is it in line with the learning objectives?
What choices and challenges should learners need to face?
What are the consequences?
After the two brainstorming discussions and feedback sessions, each group was asked to create a set of slides that could be used in class when running the simulation. This final stage was also a contest.
On the final day of the conference, the seven groups presented their slides before the best projects (contest winners) were announced. Yvonne and Masato have chosen two simulations as winners.
The first winning group’s story revolved around Mr. X, a YouTuber specialising in politics who is making videos for the upcoming election.
Throughout the simulation, Mr. X would encounter various choices, such as how to deal with government funding and uncorroborated claims. The main concepts incorporated in this simulation were transparency, trust, and misinformation.
The other winning group’s simulation focused on business models and tax issues. The story was based on an influencer in the crypto industry who has to decide whether or not to promote a specific crypto company.
The scenario also involved the importance of verifying information sources and even knowledge about a taxation system.
The goal of the workshop was to develop simulations to teach future content creators, but this idea seems to have been difficult to understand for many participants.
Some groups simply created a story without adding challenges, choices, and different decision-based outcomes along the way. These stories do teach important ideas, but they were not simulations.
Other groups produced simulations, but their stories put the protagonists (i.e. students) in the shoes of the audience, not the content creator.
Their projects were mostly about teaching how to responsibly consume and share information from the influencers rather than becoming a responsible influencer himself/herself.
The two winning groups, on the other hand, touched on important issues in social media content creation, and their simulation ideas were both practical and engaging.
But even so, this workshop revealed that it is not at all easy for educators to imagine being influencers, let alone the issues and challenges they face.
After all, most teachers and journalists are unfamiliar with the world of content creation and social media influencers.
They may understand communication theories and newsroom practices very well, but such knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into lesson plans and educational simulations targeting this new generation of media personalities whose styles are very different from the ones in the traditional mass media.
It was also interesting to see how participating educators and journalists naturally reverted back to the idea that students are the audience and users of social media — a more straightforward way to develop a media literacy scenario — instead of thinking about them being the creators of information.
For this reason, Masaot says if ANNIE has a chance to give a similar workshop, he will make sure to invite some social media influencers as either co-instructors or participants. He will also invite students to work together with the educators and journalists.