Media Education for the Inclusion of Vulnerable Youth

Mari Pienimäki & Sirkku Kotilainen, University of Tampere

Vulnerable youth, those on the verge of dropping out of school (and eventually society), are of ongoing global concern. However, there is a lack of critical discussion on media education for supporting vulnerable youth. This paper presentation considers how schools and youth institutions can promote media skills and motivation for autonomous digital agency as 21st-century citizenships and proposes media education that uses account-inclusive perspectives through participatory media. Media education here is understood as pedagogies on multiliteracies supporting youth media literacies as understandings of digitalized societies with their public nature and as well supporting expressive media skills as communicative media literacies. An extensive action-based qualitative study was conducted, consisting of eight substudies implemented in 2015–2017 with youth institutions around Finland. Each substudy included a media workshop promoting youth media-making as self-expression for participation through public media cultures. The workshops were attended by nearly 100 young people, mostly ages 15–22. Several kinds of marginalities comprised “youth vulnerabilities,” such as dropping out of school, displaying social and learning difficulties, or encountering challenges in language or life situations. As a result of the study, the paper proposes a model of Inclusive Media Education for supporting vulnerable youth. The model contains five key features of media education as everyday practices: safe spaces, caring interaction, trust in competence, creative media-making and authentic agency. The goals are to advance vulnerable youths’ motivation to participate, communicative media skills, autonomous agency, relatedness and experiences of inclusion in educational settings and in society.