DIGITAL AND PAPER TOOLS FOR FOOD SAFETY EDUCATION: EXPLORING ADOLESCENTS’ PREFERENCE
Web based applications are already widely used in health promotion campaign, thanks to their potential in spreading information and involving the audience. These tools, increasing the level of interactivity, facilitate the sharing of experience creating new learning contexts. However the effectiveness of digital tools in the learning process and their ability of arousing curiosity and appreciation of the target group need to be investigated.
Over the last few years the internet has fostered an important space for the creation of narratives. The digital storytelling has now become a social phenomenon, generated by the personal need to tell one’s one story through self-produced digital videos uploaded on video sharing channels such as You Tube and Vimeo. Storytelling is nowadays successfully used in school setting and workplace as a mean of discussion and contextualization of knowledge thanks to the formative and educational meaning of narration highlighted by numerous pedagogical studies.
The research project “Chemical risks in food: comparing web and paper communication tools”, promoted by Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, aims to experiment this approach with high school students in the specific field of education related to food chemical risks.
The study had a dual purpose: on the one hand to test a participatory process for the creation of communication campaigns in which storytelling technique could be applied to issues of psychosocial impact such as food safety; on the other hand to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of digital media in comparison with more conventional communication intervention.
A communicative message on chemical risks in food was developed with the involvement of 50 adolescent aged between 16 and 18. Students actively worked on the production of a story, used to develop two different communication tools: a video interpreted by the students themselves and a comic strip in which characters were drawn from photos of the actors in the video.
Students’ participation was pivotal to develop a message and to design tools according to the target expectations, preferences and social setting. Furthermore, psychological studies suggest that the active role of the recipients of the message in realizing educational intervention appears to improve the understanding of issues related to health risk prevention, increasing the effectiveness in positively modifying attitudes and behaviours.
Both the communication tools were evaluated by a sample of 393 high school students from 5 provinces of the North East Italy. The efficacy and the level of appreciation were assessed by means of a structured face-to-face questionnaire.
The results show a difference in the level of approval of the two tools. The video received lower approval scores compared to the comics. Several studies confirmed that digital media and videos can be suitable tools to improve learning and scientific communication to adolescent. Therefore it is essential to deepen the understanding of the tools specific features preferred by the target goup before developing an online health communication intervention.
This research provides useful data to enhancing knowledge, methods and tools for the implementation of effective communication campaign on food risks and the design of innovative strategies for the promotion of public health.