The toolkit — which is free — is designed for high school students, but its creators say that it can be adapted for younger students, as well. It’s made up of five modules, organized as follows:
- Participate. In this module, students explore their identities and communities, identify issues that matter to them, and consider how they could use digital media to act.
- Investigate. Students learn to analyze civic information online and consider what information they can trust.
- Dialogue. Here, students practice strategies for navigating diverse perspectives and exchanging ideas about civic issues.
- Voice. Students explore how and why they might create, remix, and share civic or political content in online spaces.
- Action. Here, students consider a broad range of tactics and strategies for acting on civic issues — everything from civil disobedience to Facebook likes.
The toolkit was developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers, educators, and media producers working under the umbrella of the MacArthur Research Network on Youth Participatory Politics (YPP). The team includes Carrie James, a principal investigator for the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero; Erica Hodgin, from the Civic Engagement Research Group at the University of California, Riverside; and Sangita Shresthova, from the Civic Imagination Project at the University of Southern California.
Using Digital Media — For Impact
Digital media are central in the lives of today’s young people, of course — and the Internet is key to the ways in which they participate civically, says Joseph Kahne, the chair of the YPP network and a faculty member at the University of California, Riverside. “It's where young people get their information and news. It's often where they can express their own perspectives about civic or political issues,” he says in this Teaching Channel video.
But that doesn’t mean that digitally acclimated young people are prepared to participate. Many young people don’t know how to engage in productive dialogue across digital spaces and platforms, or how to create media that represents their authentic views, or how to manage their online lives — including their privacy — in a way that is safe and comfortable for them. That’s where educators can step in.
Educators can promote digital literacy and effective civic participation by:
- Asking students to analyze and evaluate online information and judge the credibility of that information.
- Providing opportunities and supports for young people to dialogue about pressing and controversial issues, on and offline.
- Helping young people learn to produce compelling and impactful media, and circulate that media, and also understand the strategies and tactics for responding to an issue to create change.