Enhancing Media and Information Literacy: From TechCamp to UNESCO
By Melinda Quiñones.FEATURE
MELINDA QUIÑONES FROM the Philippines and Wong Lai Cheng from Malaysia were strangers when they participated in TechCamp Malaysia 2020, the first online TechCamp that was organised by Penang Institute and supported by the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in October 2020. The event gathered media practitioners, journalists and content producers to share knowledge and work on technological solutions to combat fake news.
When Quiñones and Wong met during the speed-geeking session to propose a concept that would have a multiplier effect, they would not have foreseen how much the course of their lives would change.
TechCamp Malaysia-Philippines: A Mini TechCamp
As grantees of TechCamp Malaysia 2020, Quiñones and Wong implemented an online workshop highlighting country-specific media and information literacy (MIL) teaching practices for teachers and teacher-educators in their home countries. They established strategic partnerships with reputable organisations in Malaysia and the Philippines and put together a 12-strong team to run the mini TechCamp virtually. The three-day workshop, focused on the theme Teaching Media and Information Literacy Skills in Everyday Life, brought together more than 50 participants and eight MIL trainers from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Spain and the US.
Two months after this mini TechCamp, in an online project sustainability dialogue, most participants admitted that it was their first experience attending an MIL workshop. Some initially mistook MIL for technology use while others joined out of curiosity.
Carl Patrick Tadeo, a social studies teacher from the Philippines, shared that the mini TechCamp inspired him to hold a mobile journalism webinar in his local community. He became an adviser for a special journalism course for high school seniors and included media literacy skills in his action research.
Theresa Stanley, a chemistry teacher from Malaysia, presented her paper on Integrating Media Information Literacy Through Critical Thinking in Chemistry at the 3rd International Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (ICSTEM) in 2021.
“I shared my best practices in [integrating] MIL into Chemistry with other educators at ICSTEM. As a TechCamp alumnus and now a Google Certified Educator, I will take MIL in the classroom to the next level: implementing MIL using Google Workspace for Education in my lessons,” said Stanley.
The Birth of MIL for MY-PH Network
The workshop’s positive feedback and overall outcomes inspired Quiñones and Wong to keep advocating. The mini TechCamp also amassed a social network of MIL advocates from Malaysia and the Philippines called MIL for MY-PH Network, which became a member of the UNESCO MIL Alliance, a global MIL network, in May 2021.
In April 2022, Wong was appointed the Sub-Regional Representative of Southeast Asia under the Asia Pacific chapter committee of the UNESCO MIL Alliance. As a UNESCO MIL Alliance member, the MIL for MY-PH Network can connect with international MIL experts for benchmarking and knowledge-sharing.
Quiñones and Wong held a series of MIL webinars with speakers from international organisations such as the Canadian Commission for UNESCO via Zoom, and have trained more than 400 teachers and teacher-educators and reached more than 5,000 views through MIL for MY-PH’s and their partner organisations’ Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
Other than that, they also converted the mini TechCamp outcomes into a research paper and spoke at a host of local, regional and international events such as the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) annual community event YOUnified, SEAMEO Secretariat’s International Literacy Day celebration webinar and ASEAN Preventive Drug Education Training of Trainers to address officials and representatives from the US Department of State, the ASEAN Secretariat, Google APAC and YSEALI about the work they have done to advance and build resilience in Southeast Asia’s education system.
The Growth of MIL Network in Southeast Asia
Despite being 1,477 miles apart and although Quiñones and Wong have never met in person, they have established wide connections and trained many teachers virtually. With their conviction that MIL is a critical life skill, they strive to empower more teachers across Southeast Asia to integrate it into the schools’ curricula so that students can independently judge the reliability and validity of information and resources they encounter in the media.
“We value the momentum we have created in Malaysia and the Philippines through our network. It is good to know that we are not alone in our work and many like-minded colleagues surround us,” said Quiñones.
With a solid support base behind them, Wong and Quiñones have expanded the network to engage members from other countries in Southeast Asia. In April 2022, they renamed the social group "MIL for ASEAN Network".
With fresh funding from the US State Department through the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) 2022, Quiñones and Wong will work with partners from Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines to hold an MIL ASEAN Teachers’ Online Boot Camp and two webinars targeting school teachers and teacher educators, administrators or education officers from public and private schools as well as teacher training institutions.
“The goal is to provide opportunities for teachers and teacher educators to discuss and address critical issues such as cyberbullying, hate speech, misperceptions and information disorder in the media. Teachers must be well-trained to empower students with the necessary competencies to critically understand the ethical issues surrounding the access and use of information from all forms of media. It is, therefore, important to take a healthy approach to the information disseminated in the media, a skill that we believe should be learned and practiced since elementary school,” Wong said.
As part of the grant, the alumni will develop and launch an MIL for ASEAN Network official website to actively promote MIL curriculum integration at the elementary and secondary school levels across Southeast Asia.
The two strangers-turned-partners are committed to their shared mission to enhance teachers’ competencies in integrating MIL into their syllabi as a way to help people, especially young people, cope in a post-truth society.
“We have tackled this vocation enthusiastically – we believe that we will, one day, live in a completely media-literate society and we are glad to be able to play an active role towards that,” said Wong.
 The AEIF is a competition that provides alumni of US sponsored and facilitated exchange programmes with funding to expand on skills gained during exchange experiences to design and implement innovative solutions to global challenges facing their community.
is a public information officer with 20 years of combined work experience in development communication, policy advocacy and event management. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of the Philippines—Diliman.