Unlocking the power of play: Games for MIL students | Media and Information Literacy | DW | 11.06.2024
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MIL Dossier

Unlocking the power of play: Games for MIL students

In the Baltic region, educators have developed games to empower MIL students to navigate the media ecosystem

Games can have a great impact in engaging students and fostering active learning. Unlike traditional teaching methods, games immerse students in interactive experiences that captivate their attention and encourage participation. Through games, students navigate challenges, make decisions, and receive immediate feedback. So, why not use this motivating approach to teach vital Media and Information Literacy (MIL) competencies? 

From fostering critical thinking to evaluating sources, games offer a compelling platform for students to develop the competencies necessary to thrive in today's information-rich world. With this vision in mind, three game creators from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were selected out of 30 different proposals. Partners of the project “Baltic MIL: Education and Media Deliver MIL,” together with DW Akademie, have called for innovative ideas on how to teach MIL. Small development grants from the Federal Foreign Office and consultancy by DW Akademie were provided for the selected projects.   

Stepping into the shoes of a MIL Hero  

DW Akademie MIL Games

“Even if you won the game once, next time everything could come totally different!” - Povilas Šklėrius

One of the winners, MIL Teacher from Vilnius Povilas Šklėrius developed the board game “Encounters of New Age – the MIL Heroes and Villains Game”. The players awaken in a medieval city, surrounded by mysterious characters.  To get back to the the 21st century, the players must withstand the attacks of MIL villains. These characters embody the threats of the current media and information ecosystem, such as disinformation, propaganda and hate speech. The players have their own superpowers: Each one acts as a MIL hero, embodying one of the five key MIL competencies: Access, analyze, create, reflect and act.  Players must work together and combine their superpowers to resist the attacks. Cards offer the players tips on how to guard against sudden MIL villains’ attacks and how to better use their MIL competencies as superpowers.   

Povilas developed the game based on the MIL Heroes and Villains storytelling approach and tested the game in Lithuanian schools with almost 300 students. During various tests, Šklėrius observed that players were initially relaxed when getting attacked by a few villains. “However, when the game reaches a stage where the players are already surrounded by various villains and each additional villain can lead to the defeat of one or maybe all of the players, there is a tension that brings the players to work as a team. The game is, after all, cooperative, and its complexity forces players to learn how to work as a team,” says the creator.  


To defeat your enemy, you must know your enemy  

Is there a better way of showing students how manipulation works, than letting them try it out themselves?!” asks Diana Poudel, who developed the simulation game “Attack of the trolls”.  The game offers students a hands-on experience dealing with common internet manipulation techniques. Students receive a short input on techniques and technologies and then get the chance to try them out themselves – to trick their classmates. Students are not only shown what Artificial Intelligence and other tools are able to generate, they also experience it firsthand. This enables them to quickly grasp the tactics and technology used to influence opinions and understand their societal impact. By actively engaging within these simulations, students develop critical thinking skills and learn to recognize and counter manipulation effectively, ultimately becoming more discerning consumers of online content. After two testing rounds in Estonian schools, Diana finalized the learning material and the teacher's guide, which are available in Estonian and English.  

DW Akademie MIL Games

Testing the "Encounters of New Age – the MIL Heroes and Villains Game”

Evaldas Rupkus, project manager and trainer at DW Akademie finds simulations to be one of the most powerful training methods. “At the core of the DW Akademie’s MIL concept stands content creation. Being a media house, DW is convinced of the effectiveness of learning through experience. Seeing how simply media messages can be manipulated, users will never look at the news with the same eyes. Young people stepping into the shoes of a journalist or in this case, a troll, get to know how content can be created and how it can influence people. They also learn what makes a text become a piece of news and what quality criteria applies for journalism.”  


How do you engage your community to learn, discuss and have fun with MIL?   

This question was at the core of Mārtiņš Šteins’ game development process. With the "Nītaureņi" association in Latvia, he developed the card game “Truth!?” including quiz cards, conversation cards and task cards. Questions like “what is disinformation?” and “which news outlets do you trust, and why?” encourage the players to reflect on their media usage and discuss it as a group. Tasks such as unfollowing profiles where name or face are hidden suggest direct actions that improve players’ online safety.  

DW Akademie MIL Games

Testing MIL Games at Latvian NGO "Nītaureņi"

The game cards offer various ways to engage with the tasks and questions: The players are invited to organize charade rounds and bingo sessions. The back of each card gives tips, answers and directions for discussions. “The game also serves as a learning material that can be used in simple conversations, in assessment tasks, and in the development of various creative projects”, shares game creator Mārtiņš. 


Start your experiential learning cycle with games  

DW Akademie MIL Games

The media literacy game «TRUTH.!?»

"Games are the best example of experiential learning,” says DW Akademie’s Evaldas Rupkus. “For the game to become part of the learning cycle, educators should encourage reflection after the game – how did participants feel? What have they noticed? This should lead to a generalization or even some concrete conclusions on the elaborated MIL topics. These can be applied and tested next time participants are confronted with similar issues.” 

MIL games like “Encounters of New Age – the MIL Heroes and Villains Game”, “Attack of the trolls” and “Truth?!” engage students, promote active learning, and provide practical experiences. Through gameplay, simulation and guided discussions, students develop the ability to evaluate sources, recognize bias, and resist manipulation, ultimately becoming more informed and responsible consumers of media. Players also get better at cooperation and teamwork; they are challenged to look for creative solutions and think strategically. Having fun while learning – that is what engaging education looks like! 

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