Civic Engagement

Gaming the System

Thursday, November 08, 2012 Comment shadow of man working at computer

Before the presidential election took place this week, many teachers used attention to the political drama unfolding across the nation as a way to draw students into classroom discussions and assignments.  Lesson plans that focus on elections have been around for decades to promote civic education and other learning goals.  However, the idea that video games are a way to promote civic engagement and an understanding of democratic systems is a newer idea, although role-playing activities and strategic games around mock elections have long been used in K-12 classes about government.  And, as Joseph Kahne pointed


Facebook, Public Education and Equity: A 13-year-old Fights for a “Better School”

Monday, October 08, 2012 Comment diario de classe facebook group page

Last April, 9-year-old Martha Payne created a blog to discuss the quality of the food served in her school called “Never Seconds.” In the blog, she discussed the quality (and quantity) of food available in her school using terms such as “food-o-meter” and “healthness.” The blog become an international hit and attracted the attention of several celebrities, including Jamie Oliver. Martha’s blog also increased awareness about the quality and quantity of food served in the UK’s (and the world’s) public schools, leading to several changes, including in Martha’s school. Inspired by Martha Payne’s case, Isadora Faber,


Understanding Digital Civics

Monday, September 03, 2012 Comment group of students working on their laptops individually

Last week, I gave a lecture titled “The Emergence of Digital Civics” at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. I was in South Australia to give another lecture, a joint lecture with Dr. Genevieve Bell of Intel in memory of her friend James Tizard. I hope to write up the talks Genevieve and I gave, but since I had detailed notes for my civics lecture, I’ve worked them into a blog post. In Kansas City, a young man named Jase Wilson is trying to build a trolley system. Kansas City applied to the US department of transportation


How Do We Make Civic Crowdfunding Awesome?

Monday, August 13, 2012 Comment thousands of hands in the air

Ten people each contribute $100 a month into a pool. They meet once a month and discuss possible projects to support. Each month, they give a grant of $1000 to a project that meets a simple criterion: it’s awesome. That’s the logic behind the Awesome Foundation, founded by Tim Hwang and friends, brilliantly built and managed by Christia Xu. Awesome Foundation now has 50 chapters in 10 countries and has given 252 grants, sponsoring awesome projects like Float, which attaches air pollution sensors to kites to report on air quality, and Free the Billboards, which invites


Learning from Kony 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012 Comment large group of student at science fair

In March of this year, as I taught my winter lecture class that focuses on Public Rhetoric and Practical Communication Online, I began to receive urgent e-mails from students about a viral video produced by a group called Invisible Children, which my undergraduates implored me to watch.  A number of the messages came with warnings that it would require thirty minutes of my time and attention.  A typical cautionary message read as follows: “you should really watch the whole thing in one go, so set up a good chunk of time.” So I made sure to


PortoAlegre.cc: Giving A City Back to Its Citizens

Monday, June 11, 2012 Comment girl in sound booth working on laptop with headphones on

Several new projects are trying to use cyberspace as a platform to help citizens build an information network and share information about their cities. One effort that has achieved significant traction is PortoAlegre.cc, a platform for the citizens of Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil to interact, share information about their city, and mobilize for cause. The idea is to provide an online space for people to discuss the city’s problems and to collectively think about solutions. It was the fruit of a smaller project created by Rio dos Sinos


Worthy Reads: Mobile Learning, Flipped Lessons, New Media Literacies

Thursday, June 07, 2012 Comment global kids working at table together eating snacks

Fast Company magazine recently featured this article, from design studio Frog’s Fabio Sergio, on how mobile devices will provide learning opportunities for people across age and income spectrums. It offers a nice overview, from a design perspective, on how mobile is opening new opportunities for learning. He details the following: 1. Continuous learning2. Educational leapfrogging3. A new crop of older, lifelong learners (and educators)4. Breaking gender boundaries, reducing physical burdens5. A new literacy emerges: software literacy6. Education’s long tail7. Teachers and pupils trade roles8. Synergies with mobile banking and mobile health initiatives9. New opportunities for traditional


Social Media and Public Sphere: The #VetaDilma Movement and Brazil’s Forests

Friday, May 25, 2012 Comment people filming interview in large art studio graffiti on the walls

Today Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vetoed several parts of a controversial forest bill that had been approved by Brazil’s Congress and promoted by powerful agricultural interests. Until today, it was unclear how President Rousseff would decide and she did not opt for a full veto, which is what environmentalists had pushed for. But in recent weeks millions of Brazilians protested the bill, both online and offline. Given today’s actions by President Rousseff, this is a situation and outcome comparable to the online campaign mounted against the controversial SOPA legislation in the U.S. that was also backed


Why Critical Design Literacy is Needed Now More Than Ever

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 Comment 3 students conducting video interview and holding script

One thing is clear in our work at Texas City High School (TCHS) this year: students like to create their own media.  Students at TCHS create their own YouTube channels, compose original music, comics, games, Tumblr pages, art work, and fashion designs.  As young people’s use of social and digital media applications continues to evolve they are developing what I call a “design disposition.”  This is a reference to a distinct generational view that they expect to not only consume media content but create content, too.  Throughout the year we have sought out ways to both


Recommended Resources: Mobile Learning, Digital Activism, Multitasking

Thursday, December 29, 2011 Comment teachers holding ipads instructing students outside

Professor of urban planning, Amy Hillier, recently spoke at TEDxPhilly to talk about how data visualization technology can map a city’s emotions and memories. Geographic Information System (G.I.S.) technology has become more commonplace and allows statistics to be easily mapped, but in this article, “Mobile Technology: Mapping a City’s Emotions, Memories,” Hillier argues that we can go one step further. By using data visualization to map the city that isn’t visible to the eye (i.e. sewage system, water pipes, and other underlying infrastructure), it can be used as an experiential tool. She gives an example of