The European Commission this week published its guidelines for educators on promoting digital skills and tackling misinformation used in primary and secondary schools across the EU.
The guidelines provide teachers with context, best practices and resources to teach young people how to think critically, evaluate and recognize misinformation. These were developed by a group of experts from science and education, civil society and the media convened by the Commission last year.
“Eight out of ten Europeans believe that the existence of fake news is a problem in their country and for democracy in general. Yet only 53% of 15-year-olds in the EU said they had been told how to tell if information was subjective or biasedsaid Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel when presenting the guidelines on Tuesday (October 11).
“We know this is not a new phenomenon. This is a complex, divisive, and even pernicious problem, and to be honest, it’s not going away anytime soon.“, she added.”It is therefore evident that education and training need to be strengthened and teachers equipped with the necessary skills and competences to teach digital literacy and inform about disinformation.»
Launched as part of a broader strategy to improve digital education and step up efforts to fight disinformation, the guidelines are part of the European Executive’s Digital Education Action Plan, adopted in 2020.
Almost a year after its launch, the Expert Group on Disinformation and Digital Literacy has released its toolkit, covering three key areas: assessing and empowering digital literacy and tackling disinformation.
Providing advice and definitions for educators, as well as concrete plans for teaching, the guidelines cover areas such as distinguishing between fact and opinion, understanding context, as well as economic components, emotional misinformation, and fact-checking approaches.
The toolkit is also accompanied by a report that looks more fully at the role of education in tackling disinformation and possible policy responses at European and national levels.
Ms Gabriel announced on Tuesday that this training focus will also be integrated into the Erasmus+ 2023 programme, with projects examining teaching methods and study programs aimed at the same purpose.
Digital Education Action Plan
The toolkit is part of the Commission’s Digital Education Action Plan, which expires in 2027. This plan sets a vision for quality and inclusive education and helps member states ensure their school systems are digital-ready.
Digital skills as a whole have also received increasing attention from the Commission, as they are at the heart of the EU executive’s Digital Decade targets, which aim to ensure that 80% of the EU population have basic digital skills by 2030.
This is to prevent the digital divide from widening in disadvantaged areas where the education system is less well equipped to meet the challenges posed by new technologies.
The guidelines are also part of Brussels’ broader strategy to tackle disinformation.
Earlier this year, the Commission published its updated code of practice on disinformation, a set of voluntary actions to tackle the problem that organizations can sign up to show their commitment.
This tool, which aims to become a co-regulatory tool for major online platforms under the recently passed Digital Services Act (DSA), covers areas such as advertising, content manipulation, transparency and fact-checking.
The list of signatories, which mainly included large platforms in the first version, was expanded during the update process to include actors such as couriers, advertisers, research institutes and civil society organizations.