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How do you engage millennials in civic discourse and promote community engagement?

| July 25, 2014 | 1 Comment
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How do you engage millennials in civic discourse and promote community engagement?

Introduction

We know that millennials are online. All. The. Time. Students are simultaneously engaged in multiple conversations in person and across a variety of media. They are reading, they are creating, they are sharing and resharing, they are liking, they are commenting – they are participating at a variety of levels. As educators, how do we take the energy and engagement associated with this participation and use it to promote positive thinking, discourse and action around issues that matter to our communities, states, and nations?

In the working paper Youth, New Media, and the Rise of Participatory Politics, the authors set the stage for our current #TeachDoNow discussion,

“New media” periodically transform the nature of communication with broad consequences for civic and political engagement. Franklin Roosevelt’s use of radio for fireside chats and the television broadcast of the Nixon-Kennedy debates are widely recognized as landmark moments. Commentators are in general agreement that the ascendancy of today’s new media (e.g., social network sites, blogs, video games, YouTube, and smart phones) represents another transformative period. Yet the challenge is not merely to recognize the transformation but to understand it, both in itself and also as a context for evolutions in civic and political engagement.

Research on learning and participatory culture has highlighted four core sets of practice within the current digital mediascape. Young people are using media to:

  • circulate (by blogging, podcasting, or forwarding links)
  • collaborate (by working together with others to produce and share information via projects, such as Wikipedia)
  • create (by producing and exchanging media via platforms like YouTube and Flickr)
  • connect (through social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, or through online communities, such as game clans or fandoms).

What makes participatory culture unique is not the existence of these individual acts; instead, the increasing access to tools supporting circulation, collaboration, creation, and connection and the consequent increase in the prevalence of these acts is changing the cultural context in which people operate. Being part of a participatory culture opens up new opportunities and changes participants’ expectations about how to approach a range of activities, including creative work, learning, and, we would now add, civic and political engagement.

Participatory politics in the digital age create many possibilities for civic and political participation in the public sphere. They enable individuals to tap vast stores of information, consider diverse views, communicate with potentially large audiences, mobilize others, and work collaboratively for social change, all outside of formal civic and political organizations.

Our driving design questions:

  • What changes in students and the culture of your learning environments have you witnessed over the past several years?
  • What role do civic discourse and community concerns play in your learning environment?
  • What strategies have you used that are successful at promoting civic engagement? (or have outright failed?)
  • What strategies have you employed to engage the larger community in your learning environment?
  • How can social media be leveraged to promote greater engagement with, and connection to, your community, state, or nation?

Resources

Video Joseph Kahn on New Media and Political Participation
Joseph Kahne, Professor of Education at Mills College, and leading researcher on youth’s connections to participatory politics, discusses the affect of digital and new media practices on political participation.


You can respond to this Do Now using Twitter, G+, Instagram, or Vine. Be sure to include #TeachDoNow in your response.

Follow us on Twitter at @KQEDedspace and join our Google+ Community. For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage participants to reply to other people’s tweets and posts to foster more of a conversation. We also value community generated media that can be linked to tweets or posts. You can visit our video tutorials that showcase how to use several web-based production tools. 

Click here to go back to the #TeachDoNow course


More Resources

Kiran Sethi TED video Kids, Take Charge
Kiran Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents.

Working Paper Youth, Media and the Rise of Participatory Politics by J. Kahn, E. Middaugh & D. Allen
This paper provides excellent context for this discussion by exploring the prominent role new media have come to play in the lives of youths. The paper presents evidence suggesting new media are providing new opportunities for political voice and discussion, thus increasing the role of participatory politics in the public life of youths by highlighting some benefits as well as risks associated with this form of political engagement.

Emily Pilloton TED video Teaching Design for Change
Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She’s teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.

#TeachDoNow webinar Episode 4: Engaging millennials in civic discourse and community engagement?
Scholars as well as innovative K-12 practitioners led an inquiry into how to best use participatory media to promote positive student engagement in their communities – both online and offline. Join Paul Oh, Ellen Middaugh, Diane Laufenberg, Shawn McCusker, Leah Clapman and Chris Sloan in this conversation. This was the fourth webinar in the #TeachDoNow MOOC series.


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