MIL goes viral: The app "Guardian of the Planet"

In the Palestinian territories, youth have developed an app for their peers. The innovative game teaches their counterparts about climate change and how to deal critically with the media.

False information, rumors and unreliable sources abound these days, and young people are particularly susceptible to targeted disinformation. Often unaware of the dangers, they unknowingly share fake news with others. In Guatemala, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, DW Akademie together with local partners Comunicares and PYALARA have been working with youth, enabling them to develop creative approaches to inform their peers about risks of the digital world.  

As part of the project "MIL goes viral" they have produced three fun apps or online games with different approaches for teaching young users how to tackle false information and rumors. The project is a component of the "Initiative for Transparency and Freedom of Expression: Media Resilience during Crisis", funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation. 

Palestinian territories: Participants become a team 

Seventeen young people from the West Bank and Gaza took part in an Idea Labs series, which is also part of the "Media goes viral" project. The goal was to develop an entertaining, interactive tool to teach Media and Information Literacy (MIL) to others. 

Nadia AbdelaI took part in the project and describes her experiences. “The approach to the problem was that many people, especially those my age, know little if anything about MIL. I think it is very important to share this knowledge and to share this education, especially with people in Gaza that are my age. Because of the war and all the rumors, about our political situation, all of that. "

She adds: "So in the initial workshops, we learned about MIL and gradually became a team. We discussed our ideas and developed mind maps and concepts. Some said we could make a podcast, others said a website, an app. Until at the end we took an idea from every person and we put that into an app. Because we thought it would be the most accessible and it is efficient. It can be a source of entertainment, a source of education, everyone can use it."

Hatem Abuzaid from the non-governmental organization PYALARA was involved as an MIL trainer and says he was impressed. "One of the most memorable issues is the high sense of participation and interaction of the trainees on the issues raised, which dealt with the axes of media and informational education, including digital security, misleading news, critical thinking, hate speech, cyberbullying." 

App against fake news and disinformation 

The game’s content was to focus on environmental protection and climate change, the team decided, and would combine this with MIL. The scene would be a fictitious village that residents had abandoned because of an environmental disaster. Players would learn about the impact of environmental pollution and climate change and at the same time use a critical approach to distinguish false information from facts. The goal would be for players to overcome various obstacles in order to undo the environmental damage. 

A major challenge in developing the app, says Nadia Abdelal, was combining entertainment with knowledge transfer. "We knew our criteria and we knew our target group (age 10-17). At this age most people look for something creative and fun, something that they can entertain themselves with. So as for myself I wanted something fun then add knowledge and education.  If you know how to differentiate between something fake and something that is true, then you build more skills. The skill to make a healthy choice and you can help people around you, especially in my society."

"My parents were proud of me"

The group developed a concept that included details about the game idea, the definition of the target group, content criteria and solution approaches. PYALARA mentors gave feedback and added technical details. The app was then programmed with support from professional designers, turning the team’s idea into a digital, interactive game. 

Although the game is aimed primarily at youth, anyone can play it. Nadia Abdelal says her family was enthusiastic. "My family and friends had to download the app, so I shared the link and then organized a type of game night. My parents like the app and are proud that I helped develop the game. And my brother has already signed up for PYALARA’s next MIL camp," she says

"Guardian of the planet," is a good example of an interactive app that combines fun with knowledge says Hatem Abuzaid, the MIL trainer involved in the project: “Through the high level of information it provides, methods of solving puzzles, and access to all the required flasks, the application can develop critical thinking skills and refine their personalities in a way that enables them at to manage crises and find creative solutions to problems facing them at all levels, whether at home, at work, or anywhere else,” he points out. 

Roaa Abu Rmeleh agrees. She also works with PYALARA promoting MIL and says the feedback has been positive. "Young people love the app for two main reasons: it’s a digital game where they can dive into the topic of MIL and interact, and because it's exciting. We now just need to advertise the app more so that it’s available to everyone in the Palestinian territories – not just for young people but for their parents as well," she adds. 

Nadia Abdelal is thrilled to have helped develop something that's innovative. "I’m proud of myself and my team. It didn't feel real at the beginning, and we didn’t think we could create an app that people would really use. I thought it would just be a project where we'd only give a bit of input. But now I can see the results," she beams, "and I think it’s really impressive."

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