This toolkit includes collections of digital content tools and resources to use; examples and links to proven lesson plans. We hope that you will dig into the ideas and examples shared by educators like you.
When it comes to civic education, educators across the country have entered into a world of new possibilities. As with most things, technology and digital media have transformed what it means to be a citizen in the twenty-first century. The ways youth and other citizens in communities across the country access information, participate in the public sphere, and demonstrate civic skills have changed forever.
Today, more and more people access news instantly on their smart phones through blogs and online newspapers. Today, technology can provide new opportunities to walk in someone else’s shoes anywhere in the world through simulations and then provide opportunities to act on what is learned. For example, in early 2012, the viral KONY 2012campaign demonstrated to youth and others across the country and world that there are additional ways to discuss and organize important issues through YouTube, Facebook, and other forms of social media. These opportunities give the twenty-first-century citizen a chance to flatten hierarchical structures that have prevented youth and others from participating in the public sphere.
Not only do youth have new opportunities to consume media through digital content but they also have new ways to create it. Blogs, chat rooms, YouTube videos, and other technology have given young people opportunities to engage in the creation of media and contribute more fully and publicly on important issues.
In addition to providing opportunities to participate in civics in the virtual world, digital learning also provides youth with opportunities to engage in hands-on civic learning opportunities organized through digital content. Many of these programs offer youth civic missions that are tied to specific academic content. By facilitating service learning through digital learning, teachers can help provide their students with structured academic learning opportunities, development of deeper learning skills, and greater opportunities for youth to take ownership of learning.
One of the greatest barriers for youth—and all citizens—in participating in civic life is an inability to relate to the experience of those whose lives might be very different from their own, including some who hang out in different social circles; live in different communities or parts of the world; or have a different life experience due to differences in race, income, age, gender, sexual orientation, or a variety of other factors. Digital simulations provide youth with new ways to observe decisionmaking processes and challenges faced by those with different experiences, such as a disabled person in an urban community, an African mother who must feed her family, or an elected official having to make tradeoffs in decisions on what to fun.
Join the conversation about the use of technology for learning through Speak Up, a National Research Project. The online survey is open to students, educators and parents. It's quick and easy to get involved. Take it now!