Digital Civics Toolkit

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Bottom Line

For teachers looking to make civics relevant to students, there's nothing else out there as extensive or relevant.

How Can I Teach with This Tool?

Teachers can pick and choose individual Digital Civics Toolkit modules or lessons, or even individual components of lessons (e.g., the Conversation Starters or individual activities), but to maximize learning and the potential for students to truly become engaged in the issues, it’s best to do all of them. This is a thoughtful, reflective approach to big ideas — not a quick fix. It’s an ideal fit in the social studies classroom but could easily fit in an ELA classroom or as part of a media lab or library’s program schedule. You can use these lessons as a complete unit on civic engagement or make them part of a weekly routine.

What Is It?

Digital Civics Toolkit is a free, teacher-facing website with lesson plans for exploring and fostering modern civic engagement and participation. Funded by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, the site’s five modules (Participate, Investigate, Dialogue, Voice, and Action) help students to identify issues that really matter to them and to find ways to become active participants in the political process. Digital Civics Toolkit recognizes the powerful role of social media and digital tools in students’ lives and helps students to use those tools to find reliable information, exchange ideas, and consider how they want to express themselves.

Is It Good for Learning?

This is an outstanding set of resources — many of which are curated from other trusted sites — for teachers who want to empower students to engage in the thoughtful dialogue necessary to make meaningful change in society. Unlike a lot of existing civics curricula, these lessons demonstrate an understanding of social media’s role in shaping discourse around social and political issues. To this end, there’s an important focus on media literacy/digital citizenship in the activities that get students digging deep into the double-edged nature of participating on social media platforms. The lessons will definitely get students talking, pushing them to examine how we should approach controversial issues (as opposed to the way we often do). The many examples of youth-created media offer students healthy models for how to engage in this kind of civic discourse.
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