While media literacy is now widely considered an essential contemporary skill, visual literacy – a complex and challenging part of media education – still lacks in depth and quality tools. Convinced that, in a world overwhelmed with images, visual literacy is of crucial importance, we engaged in a reflection on relevant educational methodologies.
Soon after, in 2012, we initiated a partnership with LE BAL, the acclaimed research and exhibition space in Paris dedicated to visual studies, founded by Les Amis de l’Agence Magnum and photographer Raymond Depardon.
Ersilia is a strong example of a key principle in our working strategy: commitment to experimentation. After five years of intense research and trials, led by the educational team of LE BAL, two prototypes and numerous real-life tests, Ersilia got its final shape. Created in close collaboration with its actual users – artists, teachers and students – Ersilia is a collaborative platform that invents new ways of learning, teaching and sharing knowledge.
The platform offers a rigorously curated selection of images, critical texts, and games, as well as methodologies and concrete ideas for projects in the classroom and beyond. Its specificity can be resumed in the unique combination of:
- experiential learning through sensitive discoveries;
- transversal analyses drawing on a variety of expertise (semiology, aesthetics, history, politics, sociology, media studies);
- horizontal collaborations between teachers, students and artists;
- emancipatory and non-didactic approach enabling the users to create their own projects in the classroom.
Considering images as “political territories” rather than neutral objects, Ersilia fosters a critical understanding of the conditions in which images are produced, circulated and assimilated. It encourages participants to become not only observers but also active players in the world submerged by images.
Launched in 2017, Ersilia has received critical acclaim from teachers and educators - several thousands of them are registered and active members of the platform. The platform is constantly growing with new themes and resources and is accompanied in this process by LE BAL Labo - a group of volunteer teachers who try out and feedback on new content. The platform has been successfully used for history and social sciences, visual arts, literature, languages and civic education classes.
The project received support from the French Ministry of Culture and was included in Eduthèque, the Ministry of Education's platform for recommended pedagogical resources. In 2016, Ersilia received the French governmental award La France s’engage for most inspiring social innovation projects.