Our Macedonian team, together with the participants from 5 other countries: France, Serbia, Italy, Spain and Turkey, took part in the Youth Exchange “Real Facts Matter” which happened from 3rd to 11th of October in a small quiet place Domino, by the ocean located on the island of Saint Georges d’Oléron in France.
The main objectives of the project were raising awareness and increasing the knowledge of the participants about media and information literacy, fake news, digital skills and digital footprint. The location was great for the project and the weather was nice, which allowed us to have many outdoor activities. Despite the name games, ice-breaking games and team-building activities in the beginning of the project, we used several methods during the project to cover the topic, such as learning by doing, interactive presentations, creative workshops, discussions, creating a booklet and video, just to name a few. We also had intercultural activities where we had the opportunity to learn more about the food, music and cultures of the participant countries.
The activities were fun and dynamic as well as educational. Before we started diving into the topic of every session we had short but very fun energizers as a warm-up, and this really helped us get our mind focused in the present moment and communicate easily within the group.
Following these creative activities, we did some analytical work based on research and team brainstorming. We gathered in mixed-nationality teams, although sometimes we worked in our national team, and we worked on various kinds of activities that included the use of multimedia contents, critical thinking, theater simulations, research, presenting and topic discussions based on what topic or issue we were trying to elaborate.
We analyzed methods on how to spot fake news, learned about the big media conglomerates and the characteristics of their websites. Also, we learned how to rate and read articles, and most importantly we learned how to create our own media.
What we learned during this experience, also thanks to the analysis of the most popular news sites in the world and of the 5 UNESCO’s laws about media literacy, is that in none of our countries information is totally free from any kind of manipulation and that we must learn to defend ourselves from the ever-growing spread of fake news in contemporary media. In order to avoid being misinformed and misled, we understood the importance of critical thinking and source research, also thanks to the CRAAP method of analysis.
However, media wasn’t the only topic we were working on. The facilitators also coordinated a session about the whole Erasmus+ project, its benefits and its limitations. We also had a quick session on how to write a project and how to come up with project ideas.
During our free time we had a lot of fun, we exchanged life stories, played games and laughed a lot. On our free day we rented bikes and explored the island, which was a great experience since the place was wonderful and the day was very sunny.
The part of the experience that touched us most deeply was the interpersonal one. We learned how to express ourselves in front of a big multiethnic group of people, sharing our customs and traditions. This sharing between cultures is the greatest baggage of knowledge we bring home.
During this project we were educated about social media, the danger it represents as well as the positive side it possesses, we learned how to protect ourselves from the dark side of the internet and how to share this knowledge with others, and we came to the conclusion that the most important step for being safe on the internet is reading as much as we can and choosing wisely in what we believe.
We were also given the opportunity to meet amazing new people from Italy, Spain, Serbian, Turkiye and France, and we hope that we have made lifelong friendships.
For all of this we are thankful to VCS for giving us the opportunity to take part in this project, and we strongly advise everyone reading this article to apply and take part in a project or activity hosted or coordinated by VCS, we assure you you will not regret it.