Finland – Media Paths to implement media education in early education
- Finnish Safer Internet Centre
Media education should be provided already for young children, but how do these goals turn into practice? Are we turning kindergartens into schools, if media classes are included already in early education? Don't children spend too much time with screens anyway? Whose responsibility it is to make sure that development is pedagogically relevant and not just extra work? There are still many open questions in early media education. Saara Salomaa, Assistant Director of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre (SIC) discusses media education in early education in Finland below.
"Questions, such as these, are actually beneficial. They are a sure sign that the subject is being considered. A good educator takes time to think about what, why and how to teach children. However, it is about time for early childhood educators to commit to media education already, and not just wonder. The first Finnish national early childhood education and care core curriculum "Vasu", with mandatory media education was released in 2016, so the issue is no longer new.
"Fortunately, there is no need for anyone to develop media education in isolation or from scratch. At least in Finland, there are plenty of guides and support materials available for media education for young children. Vasu itself is a good guide because it tells you what early childhood education should contain. With the new Media Paths website and guide booklet, the Finnish Safer Internet Centre (SIC) have further clarified what curriculum-based media education can mean with young children, from infants to pre-schoolers. Early childhood education centres in Finland can order these booklets free of charge. In addition, the website offers a wealth of information and practical ideas for media education. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each team of educators to consider what is being implemented and how it is applied to one's daily work.
"In fact, I argue that the greatest challenges in media education are within the educator's own mind and in professional communities, namely the development of media educational awareness. A crucial step is to understand that an early childhood educator is also a media educator. This insight brings with it the responsibility of helping a child grow and learn in their media-rich environment. At the same time, it gives the educator a wonderful privilege to positively influence a child's life and learning in relation with media.
"The big questions in the work community include ‘how do we understand media education', ‘what do we hope the children will learn', and ‘how do we carry out education that supports children's growth, learning and development'. All education should be designed in accordance with the integrated pedagogy of early childhood education and the needs of children attending each group – be it media skills, literacy or arts.
"The best way to learn is through cooperation, which is why the Media Paths resource offers separate paths also for the whole educator team and a checklist for managers. Responsibility for media education rests with each educator. At the same time, it is the duty of the whole community to ensure that on-the-job learning is possible, and the working culture is developed together.
"A conscious and goal-oriented approach to work is a vast and ongoing professional challenge. Compared to that, learning practical media education methods is a piece of cake. Nothing so complicated is needed with kids younger than seven, that a work capable adult couldn't learn it with a little practice.
"Media education as a whole is an enormous challenge for anyone to grapple. But the point is not to do everything yourself. That would be impossible! When the media education contents of a curriculum are discussed into practice, it is easier to share responsibilities within work communities. It is worth acknowledging that media education supports many general life skills important to all children, and as such it is not something 'extra'. Good planning also helps discard all the work that is not needed or does not relate to children's interests. And those screens - they are just a small part of a diverse media education.
"Like all skills, media competencies evolve gradually. A toddler's media education is different from that of a 6-year-old. However, the foundation for growth and learning is created already in infancy by getting to know the world together with adults and other children. It's never too early to start growing into a citizen of our media world!"
Find out more information about the work of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.
- Finnish Safer Internet Centre
Lauri Palsa from the National Audiovisual Institute of Finland gives an overview of the revised Finnish national policy for media literacy.
- BIK Team
In each edition of the BIK bulletin, we look at a topical issue – in the March 2019 edition, we focus on media literacy. According to medialit.org, media literacy provides a framework to access, analyse, evaluate and create messages in a variety of forms – from print, to video, to the internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for the citizens of a democracy.