Combatting Disinformation With Education – A Bottom-Up Approach Through Media Literacy

By Elizabeth Ratcliffe

Brazil ranks first among countries whose citizens said they have read and believed in fake news, according to an Ipsos Institute poll conducted in 27 countries. The rapid proliferation of disinformation has become a global problem as our lives become increasingly reliant on technology and social media for information. The dissemination of fake news, especially during election years, poses a profound threat to democracy, which relies on a well-informed and conscious citizenry to function. In order to combat this problem and promote good governance, TechCamp Brazil aimed to counter disinformation by promoting media literacy education in Brazil. 

STEAM TechCamp Brazil.

While media literacy is seen by many experts as one of the best ways to fight mis- and dis-information, the topic was still unknown to a majority of Brazilians. In 2018, Brazilian legislation ruled that media literacy should be taught in all schools by 2020, but there was a lack of well-developed pedagogic materials in Portuguese to teach the topic in schools. That’s where TechCamp Brazil comes in. In partnership with the Palavra Aberta Institute, the TechCamp team formulated a grassroots approach through innovative education methods to implement digital media literacy projects in public schools. By bringing a network of educators, design thinkers, game developers, activists, community organizers, librarians, and journalists together, TechCamp participants were able to approach education with a broader lense and position themselves as educators in the context of their own communities. 

With representatives from each of the 26 Brazilian states and the Federal District, TechCamp Brazil set up the network and infrastructure to continue spreading and sharing knowledge about media literacy education. These experts will be able to continuously reach new audiences, thus amplifying TechCamp’s effect, and creating innovative ways to disseminate the existing media literacy curriculum. 

Soraya Lacerda, a star TechCamp trainer and MakerSpace coordinator for Casa Thomas Jefferson, promoted active methodologies to help students understand media literacy. To Lacerda, media literacy is the ability to read, write, and interact in media environments in a way that enables us to act more democratically and fairly with each other. She finds parallels between maker-centered learning and media literacy, and incorporated this educational framework into TechCamp Brazil 2020.

Maker empowerment develops three main capacities: the ability to see how things work and how they’re connected; the capacity to explore complexity; and the innovation to solve problems and challenges. These skills directly apply to how TechCamp encourages students to dissect news sources. Students must first promote reflection and critical thinking of the media. After examining it closely, they can ask the following questions like, “What are the voices and interests behind this news piece? Is it biased? Which point of views are not represented?” Then, students must be encouraged to problem solve by seeking sources with a different point of view. This is all part of the media literacy curriculum TechCamp is promoting – to not allow students to accept media at face-value, but to question it, examine it, and seek more information. 

Soraya from Casa Thomas Jefferson working with participants to help map out possible avenues forward for their project.

Luciano Meira, cofounder of Joystreet and a trainer for TechCamp Brazil 2020, taught participants how to use gamification as a powerful strategy for student engagement. Through an architecture of missions and challenges, he encouraged participants to frame media literacy education in a dynamic structure based on students’ competencies and abilities. Using game mechanics is an exciting way to teach students how to solve problems and engage with the material through fun theory and positive reward. Luciano’s expertise is just one example of the innovative knowledge TechCamp Brazil supported to expand media literacy education. 

Luciano Meira and organizer Mariana Ochs running through a design thinking orientation to help participants better understand how to craft key challenge statements for the program that they will work together in tackling

The Information Age has greatly expanded our access to knowledge, but with this increased freedom to share, create, and consume content, comes great responsibility. Media education teaches students how to read critically and participate actively in our interconnected world. It can sometimes feel like we are barraged with information on a daily basis, so the ability to thoughtfully navigate these media environments is all the more pertinent. By focusing on educating children, who have grown up in this digital world, we are creating a generation of informed and conscious leaders who will hopefully break the cycle of falling prey to catchy headlines and sensationalized stories. 


– Elizabeth Ratcliffe

Photos from TechCamp