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Comunicar Journal 40: Interactive Youth (Vol. 20 - 2013)

New media as a tool for civic learning


Service-Learning, a popular approach to citizenship education in the US, provides youth with opportunities to define and address public needs while reflecting on the knowledge, skills, and relationships needed to do such work. This approach assumes education for democratic citizenship must help youth understand themselves as part of a larger community, increase their sense of agency and efficacy as civic actors, and increase their ability to analyze social and political issues. It also assumes that these outcomes are best learned through experience. Creating these conditions can be quite challenging in the context of schools, where students are typically separated from the community, highly controlled in their activities, and have limited time to grasp the complexities of a given topic. This piece responds to the growing role of new media in civic and political activity. Specifically, it examines how the integration of new media into service learning may facilitate or challenge the core pedagogical goals of this approach to civic education and the implications for the practice of supporting youth civic engagement in school settings. Based on a review of existing programs and research, the authors illustrate how new media can be used to support four primary goals of service learning – designing authentic learning environments, connecting to community, supporting youth voice, and encouraging engagement with issues of social justice.