Ithaca College’s Project Look Sharp delivers media literacy training in one of the world’s most restrictive media environments.
In the era of fake news, the ability to critically evaluate media has taken on a central importance for engaged citizens in countries around the globe. To that end, Ithaca College’s Project Look Sharp was invited by the U.S. State Department to teach media literacy best practices in Turkey, which ranks 157 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.
In March, Project Look Sharp experts Cyndy Scheibe and Chris Sperry delivered a series of trainings to educators and students at high schools and universities throughout Turkey. Based in the Ithaca College School of Humanities and Sciences, Project Look Sharp provides training and materials for educators to integrate media literacy and critical thinking into their existing curricula at all educational levels.
“It was a real privilege to be invited by the U.S. State Department to give presentations to teachers, college students and high school students in several cities around Turkey,” said Scheibe, professor of psychology and founding executive director of Project Look Sharp. “Chris and I were warmly received everywhere, and we found both the educators and the students eager to take on media literacy approaches.”
The workshops and presentations focused primarily on teaching students and educators the importance of decoding all media messages for authorship, purpose, credibility and bias. Scheibe and Sperry also delivered the opening and closing keynote addresses for a media literacy conference at Annadolu University.
“Turkish students and educators were excited to learn about critical thinking and embraced the imperative of teaching young people to thoughtfully analyze all media messages,” said Sperry, director of curriculum and staff development. “Educators were particularly excited to learn Project Look Sharp’s interactive and student-centered approach.”
It was the second time Project Look Sharp took its mission to Turkey. Scheibe and Sperry first visited the country at the request of the U.S. State Department in 2018. With a pro-government conglomerate owning its biggest media group and regular harassment or arrests of journalists, Turkey has one of the most restrictive media environments in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders.
“Like everywhere, disinformation is a big problem,” said RaeJean K. Stokes, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. “But according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey is also the world’s top jailer of journalists. So for us, partnering with Project Look Sharp has been a fantastic way to reinforce journalistic standards while also helping to identify disinformation.”
In 2014, Scheibe and Sperry delivered a keynote presentation at the First International Media Literacy Conference in Iran, attended by around 500 educators and journalists.