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Using Digital Media to Engage Young Citizens. ~ Lance Bennett Center for Communication and Civic Engagement University of Washington, Seattle, USA ~ Prepared for OECD - INDIRE New Millennial Learners Conference Florence March 5-7, 2007. Civic Engagement -Learning .

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Using digital media to engage young citizens l.jpg

Using Digital Media to Engage Young Citizens


Lance Bennett

Center for Communication and Civic Engagement

University of Washington, Seattle, USA


Prepared for OECD - INDIRE

New Millennial Learners Conference

Florence March 5-7, 2007

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Civic Engagement -Learning

  • Cognitive skills: -- political reasoning - develop/express public voice

  • Social value-lifestyle: NML effective personal expression - identity

  • Learning outcomes: knowledge about government - how to participate

  • Educational achievements: informed citizens who participate in public life

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What are the challenges?

  • What schools do best -- (teaching textbook knowledge about government) is the least effective/ motivating for NMLs

  • What appeals to NML personal identity and digital lifestyles is hard to introduce into schools

  • Solution

  • A) understand the generational changes in citizen identities among NMLs (1980--)

  • B) understand how to use technologies to motivate a change from private to public life

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Electoral Activity Low Participation

DotNets born 1977-1987

Source: PEW U.S. Civic Health Survey

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Generational ParticipationCitizen IdentityDifferences

Youth: Actualizing Citizen (AC) Older: Dutiful Citizen (DC)

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Research and Education Policy: Competing Views of Citizenship

  • Two paradigms or schools of thought

    • Disengaged youth? -- yes, if focus is on voting, knowledge about politics & government

      • (emphasizes DC citizen identity)

    • Engaged youth? -- yes, if focus on community work, consumer politics -- online communities

      • (emphasizes AC citizen identity)

  • Result -- conflicting & poorly developed approaches to civic engagement & education

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The Policy Challenge offering little for ACs

  • Civic Engagement Programs that

    • Appeal to AC citizens -- active/personal contact with real problems and issues

    • Support DC values, but …

      • avoid textbook government

      • avoid presenting citizenship as duty

      • Offer personal paths to government

      • Using familiar social networking media

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~ offering little for ACs Use Interactive Technologies to Bring Democracy into the Classroom~

  • Use interactive technologies to help young citizens:

    • Communicate with each other

    • Build a political agenda

    • Organize and act effectively

    • Communicate with government

    • Learn public communication skills

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Create Communication Environments offering little for ACs

  • In public space -- outside of schools

  • Link both schools and personal life to those spaces via networking IT

  • Build curriculum to help students discover community issues

  • Teach digital media literacy in schools - to develop PUBLIC VOICE

  • Make it fun -- produce & share content

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But How to Motivate Gen Next? offering little for ACs

  • I. Recognize citizen identity shifts

    • less collective responsibility/civic duty

    • strong interest in making a difference in society

  • II. Use new learning & comm. preferences

    • make learning: interactive, experiential, group

    • use digital media to personalize information

    • use online tools to link political info & action

  • III. Link classroom to government & society

    • Use media to engage students in public spheres

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Center for Communication & Civic Engagement offering little for ACs

Lance Bennett, Director

Information ~ Technology ~ Community