The internet is where many young people get their news and express their own perspectives on civic and political issues. So, how can educators prepare them to be heard in an informed and impactful way in today’s digital age? Several new Teaching Channel videos provide some great ideas and examples of what’s possible.
For example, in one video, featuring a lesson on creating digital stories, students in high school English teacher Janelle Bence’s class, share what they learn from the lesson.
One of the students says: “This generation is just a techie generation, you know? Including digital media in our English 1 class is very essential to really get your message out there. It’s relevant to, you know, the kids today, and it makes it, you know, actually worth looking at to other kids who are our future.”
In a second video, Teresa Chin, a designer and producer for Youth Radio, introduces a lesson on writing commentaries.
“Commentaries are a really powerful tool for civic engagement,” she tells a group of Youth Radio interns. “Your story is how you can get people to build empathy and understanding and that can translate into op-eds for a newspaper or it can translate into the way to talk to somebody who disagrees with you or comes from a different perspective.”
The videos are part of a collection developed by Erica Hodgin, associate director of the Civic Engagement Research Group at UC Riverside, and Joseph Kahne, Dutton Presidential Professor of Educational Policy and Politics at UC Riverside, to illustrate educational approaches that can support youth participatory politics and related civic engagement.
In the overview video, Kahne says: “Young people are getting opportunities to create and share media, to enter into dialogues often not structured by elites or formal institutions. They can do this on their own terms and in their own ways. If we want young people to be involved in society and in making the world a better place, digital engagement creates a great opportunity.”
Elisabeth (Lissa) Soep, research director and senior producer at Youth Radio, adds that young people use digital and social media in all sorts of interesting ways to express their civic voice and agency.
For example, “they’re investigating issues that matter to them and circumstances they encounter in their lives,” she says. “They’re producing and spreading content, whether it’s their own original stories or if they’re curating and boosting content that they see from their peers or other resources, and, in some cases, we’re seeing young people mobilize their communities behind specific actions or activities that matter to them.”
Therefore, knowing how to create a meme or a video or infographic is necessary to be as fluent in those skills as it is in writing or speaking. To that end, Soep says, three challenges arise:
- the digital afterlife;
- the tension between free speech and hate speech; and
The video offers these teaching tips:
- Have students analyze and evaluate online information to judge its credibility.
- Provide opportunities for students to dialogue about controversial issues, online and offline.
- Help students to produce and circulate media that is compelling and impactful.
- Understand the strategies and tactics for addressing an issue to create change.
As Hodgin and Kahne note:
While your students may know how to text and tweet, they don’t all know how to take advantage of the opportunities available in the digital age to learn about issues they care about, to understand a range of perspectives, have their voices heard, and create change. By integrating digital civic learning experiences in your classroom, you can play an important role in supporting your students to be thoughtful and effective participants in our democracy. Start small and give it a try!
For more ideas and resources, check out the Educating for Democracy Deep Dive.
Banner image: screenshot from Teaching Channel video.