Project MediaNumeric brings data literacy to Creative Business programmes


The first victim of war is the truth, or so the saying goes. Even in other highly charged discussions, it’s often hard to separate fact from fiction. How should you respond to this as a creative professional? How do you learn to tell data-driven stories. This is the key question in the Erasmus+ project MediaNumeric, for which Inholland University of Applied Sciences organised a summer school in June. ‘It’s a testing ground for introducing data literacy into our degree programmes.’

Education and heritage institutions from the Netherlands, France, Poland and Estonia are working together in the MediaNumeric. ‘Digital advances are making archives like ours ever more accessible, also for new target groups’, says project coordinator Johan Oomen of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, which is coordinating MediaNumeric. ‘But how can you put all this data to good use? How do you spot misinformation, how do you check the origin, the context, the sources? By bringing together heritage institutions and education institutions in MediaNumeric, we aim to teach professionals how to tell stories with the help of data.’

Three training courses
The MediaNumeric partners are organising three training courses that help students to tell stories with data. The first course was held in Paris in February, followed by the second at Inholland The Hague in June. Now a third is planned for Warsaw. In order to determine the content of these courses, researchers at MediaNumeric conducted interviews with experts such as data scientists, data journalists and the staff of archives. ‘We wanted to know what the most in-demand skills are for young professionals’, says Natalia Berger, researcher at the Inclusion and the Creative Industries research group. ‘Finding, interpreting, analysing and presenting data are important skills for journalists and creative professionals. And this is what we incorporated into the training courses.’

Data literacy is relevant to all our degree programmes.

Jannerieke Hommenga, Education and Research Manager of the Creative Business Faculty, Inholland UAS

An intensive programme
A varied group of students from the involved countries experienced an intensive six-day programme in The Hague. ‘In the mornings we started with theory’, recounts Natalia. ‘This included things like legal and ethical issues relating to data, the many different tools for working with data and how you organise a data project. In the afternoon they formed small groups to work on a self-chosen case study relating the theme diversity in the music industry. And then on the final day they presented their stories to a jury.’

Testing grounds
As Education and Research Manager of the Creative Business Faculty, Jannerieke Hommenga is happy that Inholland UAS is a partner in the project. ‘Data literacy is relevant to all our degree programmes. We see the training courses as testing grounds for introducing data literacy into our programmes. What effect do these courses have on our students and how can we create space in our teaching for themes such as collecting and analysing data and recognising fake news?’

For primary and secondary schools, too
‘Ultimately one of our goals is to supply teaching modules that enable those involved, as well as other education institutions, to begin applying techniques for acquiring data and searching collections’, says Johan. ‘It’s a way of combating misinformation. This should be represented more widely in education as part of media literacy. Not only in vocational and higher education, but at primary and secondary schools as well.’

We aim to teach professionals how to tell stories with the help of data.

Johan Oomen, project coordinator at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Embedding it in the curriculum
Natalia and her colleagues have the fine task of researching what form data literacy can take in the curricula of the Creative Business programmes. ‘Roughly speaking, this can be done in two ways’, she explains. ‘You can embed it in the curriculum: data literacy is included in as many courses as possible, so that it is really absorbed in the students’ mindset. Or we create in-depth modules in which 3rd-year and 4th-year students work on their operational skills. Actually we’d like to do both if possible. We’ve set up a think-tank with people from the programmes to see how we can work this out in practical terms. Here, the summer school in The Hague and the questionnaire completed by the participants at the end have given us new insights into what works and what doesn’t.’

Student reactions
And what did the students think of the summer school? ‘You learn a whole lot in a short time. It might seem technical, but you can handle it’, says one student. ‘The tools you work with are really useful for your future career’, adds another. ‘You learn from the personal experiences of experts and their valuable insights, and that’s something you generally won’t find elsewhere’, says yet another. Another student comments: ‘The things you learn about fact-checking and creative storytelling can be used in every course of studies.’ So it looks like MediaNumeric is preparing the ground for an excellent education innovation.

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