Open Data and media literacies: educating for democracy

Atenas, Javiera; Havemann, Leo and Menapace, Andrea (2017). Open Data and media literacies: educating for democracy. In: OER17: The Politics of Open, 5-6 Apr 2017, London. (Unpublished)



Data Journalism techniques, in conjunction with Open Data[1], can form the basis for open educational practices in both formal and informal learning spaces.[2] This presentation aims to introduce an innovative pedagogical approach that enables learners to build capabilities in critically assessing information – for example, news media reporting – in order to verify whether the information presented is reliable, accurate and trustworthy. Via this approach, students can further be supported to develop their skills in presenting information, generating evidence of their claims and findings, and communicating their research, using traditional or more innovative means to present research outcomes.

For Zembylas (2012)[3], when equipped with a critical attitude, learners can become agents of change who recognise and challenge stereotypes and transform social structures. But in order to develop such approaches, learners must be capable of critically analysing information from various sources and formats, including data. Capabilities in analysing and interpreting raw data are becoming understood as increasingly important both in and out of the workplace, contributing to a person’s range of transversal skills, which are defined by UNESCO[4] (2015) as “critical and innovative thinking, interpersonal skills; intrapersonal skills, and global citizenship”. Data literacy is therefore understood as growing in importance, alongside but certainly not displacing much-needed information, digital and media literacies.

Students, researchers and academics, along with fellow citizens, are exposed to a wide range of ostensibly factual information from the media amongst other sources. Recent global political events and their links to notions of fake news and social media filter bubbles have highlighted the question of the degree to which citizens are able to evaluate this information in a critical manner. According to Kellner & Share (2009)[5], media education has transformative potential to become a powerful instrument to challenge oppression and strengthen democracy; and for Kahne, Lee & Feezell (2012)[6], media literacies assist learners to construct their political views by critically assessing the information presented in the press and in social media.

Media literacies have been described as providing “a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacies build an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy”[7].

Our presentation will showcase how the use of journalistic techniques in civic and data-led research such as fact-checking[8] and data-expeditions[9], can support learners to understand socio-political phenomena such as the refugee crisis. Our focus will be a case study of Open Migration[10], an Italian project, which supports learners’ understanding of migration data with the aim of challenging stereotypes and influencing the direction of public opinion and policy. By providing data, and developing competences and knowledge of migrants and migration issues, the project has trained students, researchers and citizens to understand the real numbers and issues of refugees in Italy, with the aim of supporting their integration in the community. Open Migration is therefore an Open Data-led project which demonstrates a replicable pedagogical pathway to improved media and data literacy.

[1] Open Knowledge International: Open Data Definition:
[2] Atenas, J & Havemann, L (Eds.), Open Data As Open Educational Resources: Case Studies of Emerging Practice. London: Open Knowledge, Open Education Working Group.
[3] Zembylas, M. (2013). Critical Pedagogy and Emotion: Working Through ‘Troubled Knowledge’ in Posttraumatic Contexts. Critical Studies in Education, (54)2, 176-189. DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2012.743468
[4] UNESCO: Transversal Skills
[5] Kellner, A. D., & Share, J. (2009). Critical Media Literacy , Democracy , and the Reconstruction of Education. Media Literacy: A Reader, 3–23. Retrieved from
[6] Kahne, J., Lee, N.-J. N., & Feezell, J. T. (2012). Digital media literacy education and online civic and political participation. International Journal of Communication, 6(1), 1–24. Retrieved from
[7]Media literacies definition
[8] Fact-checking:
[9] School of Data, Data expeditions:
[10] Open Migration

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions