Educating youth for online civic engagement
Associate Director of the Civic Engagement Research Group, attached to Mills College, Hodgin is Research Director at the Educating for Participatory Politics project, supported by the MacArthur Foundation. Her article – published in the Journal of Digital and Media Literacy – draws from the activities of four high school teachers on a participatory academic platform to illustrate five stages of opportunity that nurture youth civic engagement – and engages with the challenges faced by the teachers. The research uses these opportunities and challenges to generate a conceptual framework for education practitioners and policymakers.
Hodgin’s new research recognizes that digital civic participation can be shaped by such dynamics as access, literacy, technological affordances, supports gaps – and that digital civic learning opportunities needs to be equitable. Three of the teachers in the study were involved with Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age (EDDA), a digital civics initiative enabled by the Oakland Unified Schools District (OUSD), the National Writing Project (NWP), and Mills College. The fourth teacher connected with the group through Youth Voices, an educational social network platform and dialogic community. Apart from teacher interviews, the study also employed student interviews, classroom observations, and a focus group.
On analysis of the sample group’s experiences on the Youth Voices platform, the research finds five opportunities that build on each other. The initial step for students was to join an online dialogic community where, as a next step, they could safely and meaningfully navigate diverse perspectives and gain a multi-faceted understanding of civic issues. Then, students could engage in productive and respectful civic dialogue to practice meaningful conversational strategies. The next stage of opportunity would involve publishing and defending their reflections, and finally, leveraging media to create change. The research identifies the following challenges: maintaining the quality of discourse, time and space limitations, and access to the digital technologies and literacies for online dialogue. To conclude, Hodgin discusses the implications and offers recommendations to close the support gap for productive and equitable participatory opportunities.