Evaldas Rupkus: MIL Skills – Something All Educators Should Promote

Year of production: 2023

I met with Evaldas Rupkus, a true professional in the field of Media and Information Literacy (MIL), after the workshop in which he introduced a set of trends in MIL to youth workers and other people who work with and for young people. He is currently working with DW Akademie, Germany’s international media development centre, where they work to develop MIL skills among wider audiences globally and train journalists. However, he started out as a youth worker in Lithuania with a background in political science. Or if we go even further back, he started as a 10-year-old boy presenting a radio show for children on a local radio station in the north of Lithuania. He says that he has mainly worked in the field of youth information and that is where his heart still lies.

MIL trends in the era of technology

For his workshop, Evaldas presents youth workers with a whole range of future trends that speak to him deeply and which will affect the area of youthwork today and even more so in the near future. For example, he talks about the polarisation of the media and its relations with the current technology that young people are using.

„There is a slight change in how people are using social media in general. They are not necessarily following some specific broadcast or specific page; they are just receiving different things that the algorithm thinks they should like,” says Evaldas. He finds that this phenomenon has what he calls the “YouTube effect of polarising”. This in turn could lead to young people sometimes being ferried in the direction of extreme views that are being sold through the algorithm that keeps on showing you the same content repeatedly.

Evaldas also raises the concern caused by technology and attention span. „We are now talking about an even shorter attention span, and it is also very much based on video format. This also means we need more resources to produce something likeable,” he says. He believes that it is no longer enough to “only” write a post or make a nice poster inviting young people to join your youth information service or for a workshop.

He also reminds that the advent of AI ( Artificial Intelligence) is not far off; the “deep fake” program is already generating fake pictures, and these factors must also be considered in youth work. „The questions for those who are working with Media and Information Literacy are, for example, how do I educate my users to discern between a human created picture and an Artificial Intelligence created picture? Because sure, it can be used for artistic reasons, but it could also be used for manipulative purposes.”

Critical thinking as a lifesaving skill

Evaldas considers critical thinking to be synonymous with Media and Information Literacy and believes it is the primary skill that a person needs in order to survive in this world, which is being so much led by information technology.

“We just cannot imagine our lives anymore without all the devices and all the information and media that we are consuming daily, be it an advertisement, books, a theatre piece, a TV show or a radio show that you are listening to in a taxi. So, that is why it is part of our daily lives,” he says. By this, Evaldas does not mean only disinformation campaigns that are spread in the media, but also everyday decisions that people must make: „What will I buy, where will I go, with whom will I spend my time?”

The element of creation

When I ask about very concrete aspects and methods of how to approach MIL in youth work, Evaldas thinks it’s not so easy. He recommends ensuring there is an element of creation in every educational activity young people do, so that there is always that moment for participation.

He finds that young people who are attending a workshop, seminar or any activity must have this experience of creating content themselves.
“So, creating a video, making a piece of news, writing it, making a post or understanding how to take a picture. Only then will they really see how easily content can be manipulated as soon as you bring in your own bias and you don’t follow, for example, the quality information standards? I think this is a very universal approach that can be used by anyone who wants to address Media and Information Literacy in their work.”

Five step model in participatory youth work

Evaldas also describes the five-step model they teach at the DW Akademie, which can be used to assess how working with young people should look like today.

“It always starts with accessing information and then analysing one piece of a very concrete media message,” he says, introducing the first two steps. “In that way you’re able to interact with what has been there, then creating and then reflecting on what effect and impact it may have on society?” And lastly there is a question: how does it change the media landscape?

As an example, he talks about TikTok videos, which are becoming the first information source for many young people. “What is particularly important is that we understand that Media and Information Literacy is not just about fun or not just about somebody having a beautiful Instagram profile with well-made photos, even though it can also be that. The idea behind it is that we are talking about action and active participation, and that people can voice their ideas and become part of the political and democratic process through it.”


Photo of Piret Jaaks
Piret Jaaks

Piret works as a freelance writer, journalist and public relations professional. She holds a PhD in Performing Arts and strives to weave ethnographic perspectives into all of her writing about people in our diverse world. Having worked for quite a while in the international civic movement World Cleanup Day, which focuses on promoting waste clean-ups around the globe, Piret knows well that the dark side of life must be talked about without embellishing it.  That’s why she believes that in today's fragmented world it is very important that all people have Media and Information Literacy skills in order to make the right decisions on important life issues.