Stories help us make sense of our world and our serves, and most importantly they help us connect to each other. And the thing about stories is that they are everywhere, and increasingly we tell our stories through social media. Today, we are sharing more about our lives publicly than we ever were before and this is especially true of teens today, who may be adept users of technological tools, but, often, they are not critical consumers of media and information. This is increasingly challenging, if we consider that teenagers who are 14 today, grew up in a world where platforms like Facebook have always existed. We live in a media saturated world, and arguably the most pressing issue of our time is equipping youth with the ability to consume media products with discernment. Given how many of us rely on technology to access information, to share experiences and even just to talk to each other, it is as important as ever to think critically about media products.
This was the spark that set Your Story, an international project funded by the U.S. State Department, World Learning and Alumni TIES, into motion. By focusing on storytelling, we developed an approach to integrating media literacy skills in a way that also celebrated the wider community, and connected younger and older generations together, through the use of media and technology. The project took place in three small and close-knit communities, in Larnaka (Cyprus), Hyvinkää (Finland) and Mulhouse (France) and invited teenagers ages 14-18 to connect with an older member of their community, and through engaging in journalistic practice, to tell their interviewee’s story in the form of a short documentary.
Participants in each location took part in a set of three workshops that each focused on documentary, journalism and storytelling. During the first workshop, students were asked to question their understanding of reality, by reading and deconstructing media messages through semiotic analysis and then examining realist media products such as news and documentaries with this newfound critical lens of mediated representations. Finally, young participants explored how to conduct interviews with real subjects, and how to transform the raw data into a narrative, using a range of storytelling techniques. Lesson plans for the workshops can be found on the Media Learn platform.
A total of 19 short documentaries were created by young participants in Larnaka (Cyprus), Hyvinkää (Finland) and Mulhouse (France) and you can view some of them here.
This project was made possible through a small grant by Alumni TIES and World Learning, and with the collaboration and support of Catherine Wimmer (France) and Marianne Jokivirta (Finland).