Civic Engagement

Hacking Higher Education

Friday, March 18, 2011 Comment green graphic of shot injecting brain representing hacking higher education

Times of crisis are times of change and provide an opportunity to imagine alternative educational futures. Following the UK’s winter of protests about cuts to education budgets and rising tuition fees, students and staff are raising questions about what kind of education they are fighting for. Even before tuition fees were introduced, access to higher education was exclusive, with young people from well off backgrounds disproportionately represented. With the value of higher education increasingly framed as a financial investment that pays off against future earnings, there is much about the current system that many would not


Is the Virtual World Good for the ‘Real’ One?

Thursday, March 10, 2011 Comment person sitting on the ground using flip phone

In a cartoon depicting the evolution of Good Samaritanism in the digital age, a man walks by a homeless person lying on the street and does nothing. In the next frame, he is at his computer — “What’s this?!! Sally needs a bag of fertilizer for her Farmville farm? I better get right on it!” Many are struck by the amount of time some people spend in online communities — and concerns have been raised that our attention to virtual communities may be distracting us from the tangible needs of those around us. Frankly, when it


Social Learning, Literacies and Recommended Resources

Thursday, January 13, 2011 Comment teaching helping students with art project in classroom

Paleontologist from American Museum of Natural History shows I Dig Brazil kids images of ancient animals. Editor’s note: Global Kids does a great job each month pointing us to excellent new resources. Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan for Action (report)This report by media literacy scholar Renee Hobbs for The Aspen Institute and the Knight Foundation is a call to arms. It begins with the declaration that “the time to bring digital and media literacy into the mainstream of American communities is now.” These literacies include the ability to make responsible choices, analyze messages, create content,


UK Student Protests: Democratic Participation, Digital Age

Monday, January 10, 2011 Comment screenshot of google maps and icons representing student protest

The stereotypical characterization of young people as politically apathetic, interested only in using digital media for socializing and gaming, has been punctured by recent events in the UK. University and high school students took to the streets to protest against the tripling of tuition fees for higher education, reductions to grants for 16-18 year olds, and cuts in government university funding. During November and December, students, staff, parents and the wider public marched in London and other UK cities and many universities had buildings occupied, with University of Kent staying in occupation over the Christmas and


Student-led Curriculum: Demanding, Digital, Compelling

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 Comment students and teacher sitting in college classroom smiling at the camera

At November’s University of California Institute for Research in the Arts conference, the emphasis was on college courses that couldn’t be planned out according to set syllabi and fixed course objectives, because students were expected to be co-creators of the classes in which they often found themselves enrolled. Whether capitalizing on emergent interactions with online or offline communities, such courses defy predictability, because the students on the class roster aren’t the only participants in a new generation of service learning courses that take advantage of social media technologies. For example, at the Otis College of Art


Teaching, Texting, and Twittering with Obama

Monday, February 01, 2010 Comment screen shots of barack obama social media banners

With the first year of the Obama administration officially coming to a close, educators have been thinking about how the president’s online presence could be used for both civic education and media literacy purposes.  Obama came into office with the promise of delivering web-based participatory democracy or “Government 2.0” to citizens.  But I have found myself arguing that Obama’s “embrace” of online practices was actually quite limited, when it came to the messages he was promulgating.  I am also not alone in wondering if online commenting and voting really constitutes democratic engagement. Many educators have visited


Social Networks and Civic Mobilization in Latin America

Monday, January 11, 2010 Comment christalk tweet #projectoenchentes

Translation of the Tweet: “People with more than one thousand followers: RT (Retweet) is a good way to contribute with #projetoenchentes (flood relief in Brazil).” Access to the Internet as well as social networking sites has been growing steadily and rapidly in Latin American countries, despite economic impediments. It is increasingly common to hear discussion of the growth of social network sites such as Facebook in Argentina. In one month, between October and November of 2009, the number of Facebook users in Argentina grew 10 percent, by 3.9 million users, to a total of 39.3 million,


On Gaming, Politics, and Reform

Tuesday, December 08, 2009 Comment educators working meeting around conference table

As the new year rolls around, like many political science professors, Kareem Crayton is thinking about the possible repercussions of next year’s 2010 census and what he calls the “opening skirmishes” of the partisan fight over “who’s going to be counted” and where the boundaries of congressional districts should be drawn for the next decade.  However, since working on the civic education website, The Redistricting Game, with a team of interactive media designers at the University of Southern California, Crayton’s attitudes about collaboration within the academy and participation in broader political conversations probably differ somewhat from


Digital Media and Democracy: Early Returns

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 Comment colorful picture of man holding megaphone

The relationship between digital media and democracy is complicated, because it is difficult for researchers to draw causal connections between adopting new social computing technologies and promoting what Joseph Kahne, Mills College professor and head of the Civic Engagement Research Group, has characterized as behaviors and values consistent with an “effective, just, and humane democratic society.” Kahne asserts that there is “no doubt” that multimedia literacies can promote civic participation, because “looking up information,” “having access to networked communities,” and “communicating and sharing perspectives” depends on having developed those literacies, but having basic literacies with computational