I was 17 years old when I heard about the project from one of my teachers, and it made me curious about the topic. As teenagers, we have many tools to navigate the internet, but it is important to know how to do it safely. I still apply the strategies we explored. For example, before clicking on a website, I check if it is valid, or I research the identity of the authors. In particular, one game made me reflect about how much manipulation and the quality of information are connected. We, a group of 6-7 people, were in a room. The game leader told a story to one person in the room while for other people waited outside. The person who was in the room had to tell the story to another person who came in from outside. In turn, this person, who came from outside, had to pass it on to another person and so on. At the end, the story the last person received was totally different from the original, so we understood it is not easy to tell information in a clear, reliable way. It is enough to forget a detail or use another word to create a different interpretation. We were only a small group but imagine it in a big e.g. the world’s scale! I liked all the interactive, playful tasks. Apart from being a nice memory, the diary they gave us helped me to understand what I have learnt. If you are a young person, you should not be afraid. Projects like this are managed by experienced educators who are there to listen to you, if you need. These exchanges enrich you from a cultural and personal point of view. They open new horizons, and let you see other opportunities out of your daily routine.
Youth workers and experts from five countries joined forces to promote critical thinking about disinformation and Internet content. The result: a wide collection of fun games, interactive learning methods, and a playful app! With the help of these creative training materials, it has never been easier to train young digital natives how to fight disinformation.
Participation means an exchange. If people from all around Europe get involved in a process, it helps to develop, adapt and improve quality for a specific topic.
Laura Reutler, a project coordinator representing bit schulungscenter GmbH from Graz, Austria, and Alice Trevelin, from the Italian partner organisation, Jonathan Cooperativa Sociale, gave us an overview of the European partnership project, FAKE OFF.
Accessing, analysing, creating, and using information were the main topics of your project. How did you identify them?
The idea was born in the adult educational centre bit schulungscenter GmbH, Austria. We aimed to create a new European network of organisations who had the best expertise in the field of youth work and media literacy. We wanted to explore how difficult it is staying safe on the internet, and most importantly, offer solutions for two target groups: young people and youth workers. We understood that to teach youngsters about the always changing digital world, we needed up-to-date knowledge. For this reason, we produced our “General Didactic Concept”, training materials and an interactive, game-based app. All of them are available on the project homepage (also available in the Google and Apple Store) in five languages: German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, English.
What methods did you use?
In almost each of the project results, we followed a 3-step model. First, getting trained on information literacy. Second, creating new habits. Third, applying them in day-to-day life. This method applies to both youth and youth workers who first need to be taught how to recognise fake news. Then they can think about what contextual change is realistic. For example, can they read five newspapers a day to compare news? Which fact checking method fits them? And finally, they must put it all into practice. This idea is explained in detail in our General Didactic Concept — a guidebook that we created for educators who want to work on media literacy with youth. This literature explains the history of fake news, how to counteract it, the role of critical thinking and how young people can educate themselves through non-formal and game-based learning methods.
What were the main elements of this ambitious collaboration?
After our project proposal got approved, we again assessed the general plan at a partner meeting in Graz, Austria. The project started in March 2018 and lasted two years. The first result was the General Didactic Concept. This was tested on a Learning, Training and Teaching Activity (LTTA) by youth workers. The training materials (games and interactive non-formal educational activities etc.) and the app, were created based on the information gathered. All these tools, games, and exercises were further developed and tested with youngsters on another LTTA. These LTTAs are an essential part of big strategic partnerships like ours, allowing organisers, trainers and youth workers to have the chance to come together and learn. They involved face-to-face peer teaching and training, involving the target group itself, the young people. Throughout the process, intensive communication, both online and offline, as well as regular meetings, ensured that we were on the right track to achieve all the results.
How did you form the partnership?
When we published a call for partners, many organisations applied. After reviewing their profiles and conducting interviews, we selected the organisations who showed a clear interest toward media literacy, and had expertise and contact with the young people and the youth workers. Our German partner had experience with youth-oriented projects as well as with media and media design for and with young people and helped us to create the general didactic concept and the educational resources. We involved an Austrian organisation that had expertise in telecommunication, with a focus on how to stay safe on the internet, providing guidelines to parents about securing the internet for kids. The Italian team came from a youth organisation with a direct connection with the young people and with the city and municipality of Padua at the regional level. We knew our Spanish partner already — they are a very reliable and experienced youth organisation. The Portuguese team took the lead on creating the digital resources, the app. In order to have more contact with local youth workers in our Graz region as well, we involved another Austrian organisation, LOGO jugendmanagement, an expert in teaching media literacy.
In such a long programme it could have been difficult engaging everybody. Did you succeed?
We think so! All partners, project managers and participants were active. They gained, developed and transferred valuable knowledge. Although engaging young people from the wide age group of 13–19-year-olds was tricky, because 13- and 19-year-old youngsters are living in two different worlds! For that it was very helpful to have on board organisations with direct contact to youth. They knew very well how to organise fun educational activities involving young people from different age groups. For the online outreach, we needed to find out where young people are actually present, and what the most effective ways to engage and educate them on the topic would be.
Based on our knowledge and experience, we put together Training Materials that consist of exercises, games, tips and tricks on how to foster digital literacy and digital wellbeing amongst young people. It consists of 43 pages of information and 71 exercises that youth workers can use in their work with young people on the topic of fake news. We cover topics like: a) young people as social media users; b) recent trends and technologies of fake news; c) relevant key skills for young people to tackle them and d) practical ways to train young people in these skills. Everyone is welcome to check out the Training Materials and see if there is anything useful for their work.
What do you consider the highlights of the project?
When we tested the newly developed content and resources in real time. The first LTTA in Valencia, Spain, involved 15 youth workers who helped us adapt and strengthen the methods of the General Didactic Concept. The second LTTA was organised with a group of young people in Padua, Italy, to test the exercises and training materials. It was so cool to see young participants creating flipcharts, analysing news, and keeping discussions going even in the breaks! They had lots of fun. The app offers two activities. One is a quiz where players read the definition and history of fake news, misinformation and disinformation, mistakes and lies, facts and opinions, etc. After that they can test their knowledge by answering multiple choice questions. In the second game players have to detect suspicious elements in articles or webpages. For example, it can suggest fake news if a title is too attention-seeking, if there is too much advertisement, or if you can see that a photo is edited.
Can you tell us more about these pilot workshops at the second LTTA?
We developed 71 exercises with which youth workers can really play around. The LTTA in Padua was like a youth exchange where each partner oversaw different sessions. Ice breakers, teambuilding, introducing the app, spotting false information activities and evaluation composed the basis of the 5-day mobility. We had circa 20 participants, with young people from 5 countries. For some of them it was their first Erasmus+ experience and they faced some language barriers, but were positively blown away by the super inclusive and supportive group.
How did you overcome challenges in the partnership?
Having seen each other once a month for at least one hour during online meetings helped a lot. This way we could discuss any questions that came up along the way. We had a long brainstorming session about the game-based application, including layout and finding a balance between being playful and informative. One issue was coordination. I (Laura) took over the role of project coordinator right in the middle, when the former coordinating project manager left the organisation. As a young person myself and a beginner in Erasmus+ project management, it was quite tough for me to suddenly become the person in charge. When I thought we needed to change some content, I have learned to rely on my professional judgement, to honestly communicate my views, and also the expertise and trust of my team leader.
What happened after the project?
Partners continued collaborating on various topics, and using the materials in other mobilities. And look at what the Italian partner organisation has created! Jonathan Coop, based 15 km from Padova city, collaborating with another Italian NGO, developed a series of “Fake News Hunt” workshops for schools. In this programme, funded by CARIPARO Foundation for 4 years, they reached about 140 classes with circa 20 students (aged from 11-12 to 14-15) per class. The workshops consist of two meetings of two hours each, and a one hour follow up with the teachers who receive links to the FAKE OFF resources alongside a postcard with the TOP 10 actions to spot fake news. This way, they are able to replicate or implement similar activities.
Which activities built on the FAKE OFF project do you use most with young people?
For example, an icebreaker (4.1.7) where participants stand in a circle and a person passes a ball claiming a fact about themselves. The person who receives the ball guesses if it was true or false. Or a core activity (4.1.15) where fake news is detected in pairs or groups. For this, we collected news examples both in print and online. Another task we use (4.1.69) is inviting participants to update their filter bubble, for example: follow other users, delete old sources, think about shared posting with highly emotional content etc. Naturally we adapt all activities to time, age, context and available tools. What is fantastic is that sometimes the adaptation itself generates brand-new activities!
What did you learn from an organisational point of view?
That online meetings can be humane and efficient at the same time! We must consider that people are coming from somewhere else, and need at least 3-5 minutes to arrive mentally. Pushing the agenda just to be punctual does not work. It is ok to do a short check-in or discuss real world happenings. This way even in a project like this you can discover that finding a small figure hidden in a Spanish Christmas cake brings luck! And knowing each other from a personal perspective creates a nice while productive atmosphere.
What would you suggest to other project organisers?
For us, it was crucial to clarify what Erasmus+ and our responsibilities were. In big projects like FAKE OFF not everyone is “happy” all the time, so being honest and standing up for yourself is the way. Having an open attitude works. For example, at an online partner meeting, people started to switch off their video camera. After we pointed out how uncomfortable it was for the moderator, everybody came back, and the workflow became fluid again. The same is valid for deadlines. Respect them or if you are not able to, communicate it clearly. In a nutshell, speak up, be clear, and stay humane.
Ilaria LagoItalian participant of the 2nd LTTM
I was 14 years old at the time of the project. It was my first experience like this with International young people, so I was a little afraid. But sharing the experience with my peers and with alternative methods, made it easy and stimulating! I think you shouldn't miss any chance to participate! I loved the educational context outside the traditional school environment, exchanging knowledge instead of receiving it frontally. I found super timely topics of fake news, as we are surrounded with the internet and technology every day. I learned to pay attention to details in articles and posts that reveal false information. For example, a sign can be if there is no date, no author or there are a lot of grammar mistakes. A small change, such as a few different letters in the name of the website, can be revelatory too! I really liked the app and I still remember the cool graphics! The group mixed with each other very well, everyone talked to everyone. The intercultural night with typical national food and video presentations was especially great and memorable!
Carolina GirlaItalian participant of the 2nd LTTM
Excellent, replicable outputs have been created and shared in 5 languages. One of them is the game-based, youthful application that has already been downloaded more than 300 times. Grab your smartphone, take the quiz and learn about fake news on your own!
True News Resources
Do you want to know more about safe surfing on the web? Or do you work with youth and need an up-to-date Toolkit for promoting media literacy? Here you are!
The General Didactic Concept, Training Materials, Survival Kit towards Fake News and the game based App will guide you through all the necessary steps in this learning journey!
Good news — the rich collection of great resources is available in German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English.
About the project
Erasmus+ / Cooperation Partnerships
EU Youth Programme Priority:
Participation in Democratic Life
Media, Information & Critical Thinking
Youth Participation / Skills Development and Volunteering
During the two-year partnership organisers engaged thousands of people online, and their multiplier events involved 242 people from 8 different countries. Their best dissemination practices included university seminars, conferences, publications in magazines and journals, newsletters, school workshops.
bit schulungscenter (Austria), Osterreichisches Institut für Angewandte Telekommunikation (Austria), LOGO! Jugendmanagement gmbh (Austria), Internationale Akademie Berlin Für Innovative Padagogik Psychologie und Okonomie GGMBH (INA) also known as YEPP EUROPE (Germany), Jonathan Cooperativa Sociale (Italy), Future Balloons (Portugal), Go Europe (Spain)