24 Apr 2012
Yesterday I came back from Alexandria after spending two days in a workshop with an amazing group of young men and women. The workshop is one of a series of workshops organized by Meedan and Birmingham City University to enhance the skills of citizen journalists in generating content on and from online media and train them on verification techniques for content on the web. Other workshops took place in Cairo with Lilian Wagdy and in Mahalla with Tarek Amr.
While designing the workshop and planning the methodology, I came up with several activities and games to deliver the key ideas of each session and facilitate the participants in reaching their own conclusions in a friendly and approachable manner. Rather than relying on Powerpoint presentations and a trainer-centric talk, I helped the participants think together and share their views constructively. The 11 trainees - all from Alexandria - were from a diverse range of backgrounds and with differing viewpoints, and this was of real benefit to the workshop and the discussions.
The first session of day 1 was about “Information and News,” with the main goal being to discuss the differences and criteria for generating information and news. In this activity, I divided the participants into pairs (X and Y) and gave them 10 minutes to get to know each other more. Then I asked every X i to tell the group one piece of information and one piece of news about Y and vice versa - without telling the group, what was “news” and what was “information”. After hearing 20 pieces of news and information, each participant gave their impression and decided what was news, what was information, and why. Another session was on how to verify content on the web and to methods to confirm citizen media; the sessions discussed some technical tools and various practices and tips to help verify a video on YouTube or a photo on Flickr, for exmaple.
We also had a session on how to develop a report based on online content. For instance, how to write a story on a topic using tweets, videos and other user-generated content. Again I divided the participants, but into two groups instead of pairs, and gave each group a document on this topic and asked them to brainstorm and come up with tips, best practices and challenges. After this, I asked them to choose any topic they prefer and write a blog post based on content from online media platforms. The majority of the participants published their reports on their blogs, including one trainee who created a blog for the first time in order to publish their post. We discussed each post and gave group feedback, voting on the best report and awarding the winner a Flip HD Mini. The most interactive session was on ethics, criteria and values: I gave each participant a worksheet with keywords, tags, situations and questions. The trainees were divided into discussion groups to see where they agree and disagree, and answer questions such as “what would you do if...” . Everyone had different arguments and opinions.
The best thing was that the every participant felt free to speak and share their views without hesitation or fear. Every trainee came up with creative ideas and practices, and the group quickly developed a firm friendship in their very short time together.