Series of teachers workshops on media literacy and critical thinking to mark 75 years of Human Rights

The sessions, organized to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and run by the Slovak Debate Association (SDA) with the support of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, aimed to equip teachers with practical tools to enhance media literacy, combat online misinformation, and promote critical thinking skills among young people.

VIENNA, 5 December 2023 – Around 120 teachers from different schools in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia joined a series of five online workshops on critical thinking and media literacy in November and December 2023.

The workshops were supported by local cooperation partners, including the Slovak National Institute of Education and Youth (NIVAM), the UNESCO national commissions in Slovenia, Hungary and Austria, the UN association of Slovenia and the Pedagogical Institute Kirchliche Pädagogische Hochschule (KPH) Wien/Krems in Austria.

Through engaging exercises, examples and discussions during each three-hour workshop, teachers learned about cognitive biases and gained insights into patterns of thinking. The workshop trainer from SDA, Richard Vaško, also spoke about the meaning of critical thinking, which he described as the process of “thinking about thinking”.

The second part of each session focused on the topic of media literacy, emphasizing the importance of understanding contemporary media and news operations to prevent misinformation. Vaško introduced methods to identify reliable information sources which can be practically implemented as exercises for students to identify trustworthy media sources.

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In the third part on teaching critical thinking and media literacy, the participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and talk about the challenges faced in the classroom. Instead of telling students what to think, Vaško proposed creating an environment which rewards critical thinking in the classroom. Through debates and discussions, students can independently develop critical thinking skills.

At the end of each session, many teachers thanked the organizers for the initiative and the valuable insights and information shared by the trainer. “The workshop was interesting and interactive. I also liked the way techniques for critical thinking were presented, which I can now use in my work," said one teacher from Slovenia. Another from Austria commented: “The input was not only very exciting in terms of content, but also very well prepared and very hands-on for my own lessons.”

In his welcome remarks at each of the five workshops Martin Nesirky, Director of UNIS Vienna, spoke about the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a milestone document in the history of human rights, adopted in 1948: “Seventy-five years later, there is still a lot to be done, especially in our digital world where hate speech and misinformation are often spreading faster than in the real word. Media literacy and critical thinking is crucial for all of us, and especially for young people, to navigate safely in the digital world.”

Nesirky also mentioned the Here and Now Campaign, initiated by UNIS Vienna to mark 75 years of human rights. He invited all the participants and their students to join the campaign, by taking a picture or video of a place that they associate with human rights and posting it on social media or sending it to UNIS to be featured on a digital map. You can find more information about the campaign here.