Organizational Member Spotlight: The Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB)

MD_Lab_BeirutThis month, Emily Bailin of the NAMLE’s Student Leadership Council, interviewed Lubna Adam of the Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB).

 When did MDLAB launch and why?

Following the recommendations of an Open Society Foundation sponsored study (Mapping Digital Media: Lebanon), The Media Studies Program at the American University of Beirut (AUB) proposed to establish an annual summer academy— The Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB) — to develop, advance, and promote digital and media literacy education in the Arab region. The academy was officially launched in August 2013. The academy was also inspired by The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change that proved to be a success in spreading media and digital literacy among its participants for eight consecutive years.

 What does MDLAB do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

The academy works year-round to develop media and digital literacy curricula, case studies, and multimedia. The main goals of the academy is to diffuse the knowledge and teaching of digital and media literacy education and promote its importance among Arab universities by training young Arab university instructors and undergraduate and graduate students on digital and media literacy concepts and skills. The academy also aims to establish a hub for a network of regional universities and media educators rotating around the development and promotion of digital and media literacy education.

What makes MDLAB stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about MDLAB?

MDLAB is a one of a kind program in the Arab region and it is conducted mainly in Arabic. We have simultaneous translations (Arabic to English and vice versa). The academy also offers graduate students and academics a unique opportunity to study with leading Arab and international (U.S and European) experts.

 What are recent projects or new resources that MDLAB would like to share with other NAMLE members?

The academy is working now on creating a media and digital literacy curricula with the help of the faculty who attended MDLAB 2014. We are also in the process of writing and publishing a research paper about MDLAB and the state of media and digital literacy in the Arab region.

 What are the connections between the work of MDLAB and media literacy?

By bringing pioneering instructors and professionals to teach advanced digital and media literacy concepts and debate skills to young Arab undergraduate and graduate students from various fields, and to Arab university instructors, MDLAB encourages participants to eventually spread the knowledge to their institutions and countries.

 Why is media literacy important to you?

Digital and media literacy education empowers individuals by making them critical media consumers and producers and also helps us realize that there are, a critical matter for East Arab youth who come from various religious, ideological and national backgrounds.

What are some of the challenges of doing media literacy education in the Middle East?

Media literacy in the Middle East has the potential to grow however, several challenges hinder its expansion such as: technological limitations, lack of resources, lack of qualified instructors, and the scarcity of curricular material in Arabic.

What do you wish American educators understood about the challenges of media literacy education in the Middle East?

We would like them to know that with all the religious sectarianism, political, and social divisions,  media and digital literacy is offering a way to bridge the gap between these divisions. This by itself, inspires us to work harder in spreading media literacy in the region and create cultural exchange between the Arab Region and the U.S and Europe to benefit our students and participants further by introducing new ways of teaching and learning.

 Feel free to tell us anything else about MDLAB, your mission, and your staff.

Besides the academic lectures and digital workshops, the academy includes excursions and cultural events to help participants interact and exchange ideas. These include trips to historic and cultural destinations in Lebanon, social activities, dinners, and visits to local media institutions. Our staff is diverse, we have professors and graduate assistants from the U.S, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.

Starting summer of 2015, students can earn credits for attending MDLAB. Also, the academy will be open to international students starting summer of 2015.

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