Using the eye of the camera to address social issues

Students at DV8 media college in Brighton recently took part in a Social Dialogue Session as part of the WYRED project. Each student was creating a photo essay and a film project on issues that were important to them. Subjects ranged from online gambling addiction to the effect of technology on the behaviour of young children to the impact of stereotyping on youth groups.

One student had chosen to take portraits of the people in the streets of Brighton to explore the issue of diversity. If you’ve ever walked up to a stranger on the street and asked to take their picture then you’ll know how hard that can be. Another girl made a photo essay about Brighton at 4am showcasing the characters, colours and curiosities of the city streets late at night. “I was struck by how many people were out and about.”

The short film on the effects of gambling illustrated how certain betting companies will offer freebies and reminders and incentives for people to return to their websites. This can be very difficult for someone who is actively trying to give up an addictive and detrimental relationship with gambling. The films also showed how easy it can be to get into serious debt and the other severe consequences. “I was surprised how many companies offered incentives for people to spend a target amount each month.”  Although only available to people over 18, the easy access from your smartphone as soon as you turn 18 is an issue that is important for some young people.

DV8 students will be uploading their projects onto the WYRED platform soon. They would love to get feedback on their projects and participate in online dialogues with other young people across Europe.

Join their community to find out more!

Students at DV8 Media College in Brighton learn to create multi-media such as film, photography, fashion and music production.

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Gender and Non-Binary Gender Identities

Gender and non-binary gender identities group have been set up in order to address the issues of individuals with different identities and expressions. The YEU volunteers, aged between 20 and 30 years old and based in Belgium, researched the ways different societies react towards the topic of gender, and what is the role played by Social Media in this.

Research Question: What is the impact of Social Media on building awareness and understanding around gender and gender identities?

The participants chose this topic because of their past experience working on different international events and projects on it as organizers, facilitators, trainers etc. By analyzing Social Media and other online sources, the group recognized that in most debates about gender identities, the non-binary gender identities and expressions are less addressed and debated. Consequently, it is also obvious that many young people around Europe here lack of the proper understanding and awareness on this topic.

The main outcomes* of the group’s work and researches were:
– The sources promoting understanding and awareness on gender issues are just a few;
– There are lots of aggressive and “hate” speeches online;
– There is the need to promote a gender-sensitive educational approach online and offline from early years;
– There is a necessity to talk about this kind of issues, especially in relation to online behavior, respect and tolerance;
-It is very important to link Formal Education and Non-Formal Education to actually promote, support and raise awareness on these issues. That can also support the development of digital material and help people tackle related issues.

*Note: These are the current conclusions, with the finalization of the process (beginning of June 2018), there could be more results.

 

The nonbinary flag.

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Tales from the first WYRED’s youth-led Showcase Workshop in Rome!

The first WYRED youth-led meeting, suitably named “Young researchers in the digital society”, took place last Friday at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the University Roma Tre in Rome, Italy.

Our partner Oxfam Italia , organized and supervisor of the whole initiative, briefly introduced the project and the work carried out by the young participants over the last academic year and then merged into the roundtables that were scheduled for the day. The meeting did not provide for an external moderator, in order not to steal the show from the young researchers and let them expose the methodologies used, make their points, host and foster the debate on their own. The audiences consisted of students, lecturers, representatives from the main local authorities, all praising the innovativeness of the event, the methodologies used and the topics chosen by the young ones. Sometimes, the Oxfam staff had to cut the debate short to make it possible for everyone to have their say…they were so caught up in conversation that they totally forgot about the time limits!

The topics discussed between the young researchers and their audiences are listed below. We truly wish to repeat this wonderful experience next year, so that even more young people will be able to enjoy the opportunities provided by the WYRED Project. Please keep supporting us!

 

The Showcase Workshop’s roundtables:

  • Young people, media and self-depiction social media foster the narcissistic need of receive approval from peers: as a consequence, relationships developed online often lead to social isolation, emotional distress, performance anxiety, and then to bullying and cyberbullying. However, young people often are not informed about data privacy and Internet security at all. What to do?
  • Young people, labour-market and political participation The research projects all point out that young people today do not feel any sense of belonging to communities and/or generations. They do not feel anything that is not apathy and withdrawal when confronted with civic engagement and rational voting. They do not even recognize themselves as NEETs and prove to be unable to find individual solutions to achieve active citizenship and personal fulfilment. What to do?
  • Young people, globalization and social inclusion– The stereotypes on Italy and Italians by foreign people show how, even in our country, people changed their perception of immigration over the last few years. Only the negative side of globalisation are addressed, that is precisely why foreign students are often discriminated in schools. What to do?

 

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A lesson learnt: never entrust anyone with your personal data!

The Northern Ireland WYRED group, comprising 48 children who range from 10 to 11 years old, have now moved into the research phase of the project exploring Cyberbullying, Fake News and Hacking and coming up with their research questions.

One story about hacking came from a 10 year old girl.

“I was going to my grandmother’s for a week’s holiday with my family and she has not got internet connection, so I gave my friend my password to my snapchat so that she would keep up my streaks.”

What are streaks?

“You snap chat a person every day and they have to snap you back in the same 24 hour period and you build up streaks.

My friend sent my password to her friend who passed it onto another friend who I do not know. They hacked into my account and got all my information and I had to make a new account.”

Why did you give your password away?

“Because I would have no wifi or 4G when I was away. If you don’t snap in the same 24 hours you lose the streak and I would have lost 200 days of streaks so I had to give away my password.

I learnt never to give my password away.”

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Homeschooling or Traditional school? The WYRED kids have their say!

Among the valuable aspects of WYRED, a special mention should be made to the wide variety of backgrounds of the young people that have been involved in the project so far. Although it might be hard to properly engage all of them properly in all the activities proposed, but we do believe that the extra effort will pay off as children and young people from all walks of life do deserve to have their voices heard.

The Boundaries Observatory, a recently founded Community Interest Company that focuses on developing new approaches to social research and partner of the WYRED project from its start, shared with the consortium a story about a group of 9 young people (5 boys and 4 girls) between 10 and 12 years old, all being educated outside the normal school environment. They are a very varied group with different backgrounds and different reasons for being home-educated. Most of them have experience of conventional schooling, and for different reasons they and their families have decided to opt for home education. The group forms part of an informal network that comes together for different activities in different combinations.

Although a group of this nature might be expected to make extensive use of digital technologies to access learning opportunities, few of them are whole- hearted users of digital technologies, and in some cases, they are actively resistant to them, eschewing social media and the use of the Internet except for quite specific activities related to learning. They expressed a degree of skepticism regarding the value of these technologies and some questioned their unconditional use by other young people.
This extended to their initial responses to the digital dimension in WYRED.

Questions were raised about the data in the platform, who would control it, why was it necessary to give names, surnames and ages and why indeed was it necessary at all? What was valued was the opportunity for international interaction in this case, but not all have yet confirmed that they wish to enter the platform.

As mentioned, most of the participants have experience of the way schools work, having spent in some cases a few terms, in others longer, before taking the decision to leave and start, or return to, home education. The reasons for doing so are quite varied. In some cases, it was the sense that a lot of time is wasted in schools on things that are not relevant to learning. The focus on discipline was particularly commented on as problematic as it got in the way of actually learning things, but important was the sense that much of what is taught is not useful in their lives. Others had had negative experiences relating to the lack of humanity in the school context, where at many points in the day there is little supervision of the children and how they behave towards one another. The shared conclusion was that for them, conventional schools are not an appropriate environment.

However, some had heard of progressive schools, such as Steiner schools, and identified some positive elements in them. The group did feel that a good aspect of schools like that in general is the chance to come together with friends and try new things. The fact that the others are simply there in the school context, as opposed to having to organize to meet them was mentioned.

As a group they felt that schools could be improved, and it might be possible to design a school that would meet their needs more appropriately and in a more humane (friendly) way. They therefore decided that one of the projects the group would work on is the idea of “a better school”. The aim is to use the WYRED platform to ask other children and young people across Europe about their school experiences, explore different kinds of school and how they work, and using all this information, create their own design.

More news soon! And look for them on the platform.

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The faults in the Israeli education system voiced by students

The University of Tel Aviv (TAU), WYRED’s Israeli partner, recently shared with the consortium a story that highlights very well what are the perceived faults in their education system and how this can be improved. These findings emerged from a lively debate carried ou by the 13 students from the Hof Hasharon regional high-school participating in the project.

The discussion focused specifically on the difficulties that arise from the conduct of the current education system, which, in their opinion, makes their learning very difficult and hampers their ability to reach high level achievements. Students feel that the system does not really see them as individuals, and they are wasting time memorizing material that will not prove useful in the future. They are frustrated because the numerous assignments and exams they are continuously tested on cause them to fail, while teachers only increase the burden instead of helping.

Students clearly expressed that they want the school to pay more attention to values and life skills, and less to grades. They need to stop memorizing contents just to forget them right after.

They expect decision-makers to listen to them and change the education approach and the curriculum, with more consideration of their private lives. Moreover, the system should allow students to choose the topics they wish to study, implement “meaningful learning”, change the dynamics teacher-student relationships are built on and raise the number of after-school activities available.

Our young voices illustrated their frustration towards education system by drawing a graffiti on the school wall, with the goal of raising the general awareness on the stressful situations that they experience on a daily basis.

 

The young participants from the “Hof Hasharon” regional high-school.

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“Raise your voice, be your own future!”

Elif Caliskan, a 17-year old girl from our Turkish partner Acarkent Doğa IB World School, undoubtedly has clear ideas about how to be her own future! After she won the WYRED Slogan Competition under the 14-17 category, she told us about her story, her dreams and the impressive science project she designed and carried out.
Let’s leave this story to her own words:

“Since I was a child, I have always dreamt about doing something that would have the power to change the world. With the great help of the introductory WYRED social dialogue sessions I attended, I found the courage to take action. I joined the WYRED community and their slogan contest.
I knew it could have a significant impact, but I did not think I would get that far.
When my slogan ‘Raise your voice, be your own future’ won first prize, I was completely mesmerised!

I was certain to achieve something, thanks to my dedication which I have always had to accomplish my goals; on this occasion, my goal was to achieve something that would be beneficial to humankind.
My school and my chemistry teacher Mustafa Abidinoğlu, supported me in my interest towards science.
They have encouraged me to apply for the science project and supported me to discover how to carry out scientific researches.

I am particularly interested in global pollution, therefore I decided to develop something that would reduce the impact of global warming. Global demand for energy has greatly increased, due to the increase of population. This need for energy is met with fossil fuel; however, it has already been shown that it has harmful effects for human health and for the environment, not to mention its high costs. Therefore, I decided to use a salt called sodium sulphate to insulate dwellings. The salt will be exclusively from local production, therefore helping the country to supply its own. This house front insulation substance will be sustainable and environmentally friendly as well, in contrast to the ones that are currently in use.

The materials in use today are outdated and, since I believe that new age materials should be used, I realised my project. After I finished my project, I decided to send it to the National Science Competition so that everyone could hear my voice. When I presented my project to judges of different science competitions, they looked at it with great interest, and the project was chosen to be sent to international competitions. Presenting what I put my efforts in was a great feeling. I knew that this project would not save the world, however, I was off to a good start.

I am still pursuing my interest in science and searching for ways to develop myself.
I hope that my ambition will make me one of the greatest female scientists who ever lived.”

Society really needs to focus more on these kinds of everyday success stories.
Once again we are proud of belonging to the WYRED global community!

Elif Caliskan and her winning slogan

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Youth, utopias and revolutions at the XIII edition of the Philosophical Olympics in Salamanca

Does it still make sense to talk about revolution in our day? Is there a search for a utopia at background for a revolution? The digital society has revolutionized social interaction and communication, especially among young people. What tools do young people need to live these changes in a conscious way?

On March 23rd and 24th, the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Salamanca hosted the finals of the XIII edition of the Philosophical Olympics, a regional competition (as part of the national process, to be developed in May) aimed to secondary school students.

The event, which was also sponsored by the WYRED project, gathered over two days 400 boys and girls aged 13 to 17 from Castile and Leon. Young people had the opportunity to talk with philosophers, educators, engineers, youtubers and television series consultants, sharing with them questions and reflections on how to face modern revolutions and utopias and to become an active part in the construction of their future. The interaction in the meeting room was managed by a “unconference”, supported by mobile phones and a collaborative wall.

Participants in the conference at the Faculty of Philosphy of USAL

In particular one of the themes addressed was the utopia of the technological revolution and we would like to share with you the main results of the discussion.
At the present, when we talk about technology, we talk about a revolution. Nobody is oblivious to that social revolution which comes from the hand of technology. The advances occur so quickly, that nowadays the generations of the future are trained with knowledges and practices of the past in a present in which many people are already overwhelmed by the context of the informatics and communications. The request of 21st century citizens is for computational thinking skills to understand the world in which they live and the artefacts they will find in their daily life. But, computational thinking is not an end in itself, it is only one item more in a toolbox plenty of options that should be chosen and combined, in particular and related to the ethical issues associated with the development and use of technology, the computational thinking skills should be always complemented with critical thinking capabilities with the aim that technology will be defined and used in the right way and ethically. the problems that we are going to face every day are tremendously ambitious, tremendously attractive, but also dangerous.

The technology is going to be there, but let’s not forget that the important thing about technology is that it serves us, therefore researchers have to be there with our critical thinking to know it and to manage it, because otherwise we will become only in a mass controlled by that minority that controls technology. A quote from one the most important scientific and philosopher, which unfortunately has recently abandoned us, Stephen Hawking summarized the conclusion of the discussion: “Success in creating effective Artificial Intelligence, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So, we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by Artificial Intelligence, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”

The event is the first step of a dialogue at large scale with young Spanish people, which will be followed by a think tank organized by the USAL WYRED group with the aim of proposing a new version of the WYRED manifesto and new inputs for the research projects.

The entire conference is available here.

For further information please see https://olimpiadafilosofica.com/

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Fresh proposals for future education

We do believe that the best way to show how WYRED truly brings out the voice of youth is by presenting the artifacts realized by the young participant to this project. As a matter of fact, nothing tells us about the youth of today more than turning their own words, their own feelings and ideas down into tangible objects for you to see. The success story we are about to tell you is quite a representative example of how this is true.

Valentina Borowansky, a 17-year old from Austria, has written an essay on the topic of future education, called “The Prison School – How the System Fails us”.

“We study. A lot. But we don’t really know anything. We can’t use it. We are not smarter than before.
But how does this work out? We go to school. We study. Then why don’t we know anything?

Did we fail the system? Or did the system fail us?” – is what she asks herself, and us, in her paper aiming to show how today’s school system makes children, young people and their own parents “all prisoners”.

Her ultimate objective is that of demonstrating how school actually doesn’t just provide children and young people with knowledge, but also takes knowledge from them. “The current school system is twisted, outdated, unauthentic and hostile of individuality. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are alternatives.”

Valentina outlines six essential points that, according to her, turn school into “a prison”.

  • The 50-minute school lessons: often meaning that students are forced to stop in the middle of a vivid discussion, an experiment or a fruitful analysis, and forced to focus on something totally different;
  • Young people do not have enough free time: this is especially frustrating as they enter into their final years of school, as they could devote their time to their interests to relieve themselves of the burdens imposed by school, homework and tests. Their spare time is too often overloaded with school-like activities (es. cram school), with the goal of helping them to succeed in school.
  • Too much importance is given to marks. Everybody has to achieve their best results. Since no mistake is allowed, young people are always put under the pressure of having to achieve good marks. Doing bad at school often leads to low self-esteem. Any curiosity for something different than school is put off, as school often takes more knowledge from students than it gives.
  • To be successful students have to put on a mask to hide their own individuality. “Do not invite unwanted attention, stay somewhere in the middle”, then you will succeed. Even after school is just the same.
  • School topics have nothing to do with real life. For example, there is no connection between the formulas forcibly memorized in maths and reality. They are being just learned for the test and forgotten after 2 minutes…
  • The school system will not admit responses differing from “YES”. A student’s life is all about agreeing, respecting rules, being subjected to somebody. These teachings might be prove useful in the future, but which one? This has nothing to do with the future we are heading to.

When focusing on solutions, Valentina argues that there already exist teachers with innovative approaches in didactics and methodology. However, this is just one side of the coin. The other side is the entire education system, which keeps parents, teachers and young people together. Valentina proposes new, democratic, alternative model of schools: for example “Kapriole in Freiburg”, or “The free school in Leipzig” which focus on childrens’ and young people’s individual skills and let the teachers play the role of empowering “Learning-Coaches” that foster the curiosity of the learners.

“Maybe this is not the ultimate solution for our old-crusted system, but it takes the right direction. We need to start learning, understanding, exploring and researching again. The people of tomorrow need a school of tomorrow.”

Valentina Borowanski, our young idealist longing for a better future for education

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