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Friday, October 7 • 9:00am - 10:30am
Talking Politics Online: Youth engagement with civic and political dialogue in the digital age

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Civic and political dialogue increasingly occurs online in the digital age. In 2012, fifty-four percent of those who used the Internet engaged in dialogue related to politics online (Smith, 2013). These new opportunities for civic participation are particularly salient for youth. Yet, online contexts also pose unique challenges. Kushin and Kitchener (2009) found that 30% of discussions in Facebook political groups contained personal insults and offensive language. Therefore, supporting youth to engage in productive online civic and political dialogue is increasingly critical. And, yet, there is a lack of research focused on how youth are seizing these opportunities and the ways educators can support them.

In this session, we will explore both research and practice that highlights the ways youth and educators are utilizing the affordances of social and digital media toward productive civic and political dialogue. The session will begin by asking participants to reflect on and discuss an example of an online exchange about a contentious political issue in order to frame the current landscape. Following this, we will share findings from two research studies. The first study by the Good Participation Project explores the strategies of online civic dialoguers - youth who regularly engage online peers in conversations about public issues. The study reveals the strategic moves and tactics youth use to talk politics online, the anxieties and feelings of uncertainty they struggle with, and the supports they turn to - or wish they had - for their online activism.

The second research study by the Civic Engagement Research Group draws on the tactics of high school teachers engaging their students in online dialogue. Analysis revealed that teachers promoted five key stages of opportunity that have the potential to provide youth with foundational skills, build young people's capacity for civic voice, and build bridges toward efficacious civic and political participation in the digital age.

As a means of connecting research to practice, participants will then talk with a partner about the implications of the research studies for the field and their work specifically.

Next, a high school English teacher from Oakland, CA will share her experiences engaging students in researching and blogging about critical issues in their community. By connecting with an authentic audience and going public with their perspectives, students were motivated to expand their research, strengthen their arguments, and engage with one another across differing points of view.

After that the Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Oakland Unified School District will share emerging themes of practice from a year-long professional learning community (PLC) of teachers that engaged students in online dialogue. Teachers from across the District met to reflect on the integration of blogging, the impact on student learning, and ways their classes could be an audience for one another. The successes and challenges of this PLC highlight the different levels of support that enable teachers to do this work effectively in school settings.

Finally, the session will end with an interactive activity where participants post their thoughts about the concepts shared and discuss concluding comments.

avatar for Erica Hodgin

Erica Hodgin

Associate Director, Civic Engagement Research Group
Erica Hodgin is the Associate Director of the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at Mills College and the Research Director of the Educating for Participatory Politics project -- an action group of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP... Read More →

Friday October 7, 2016 9:00am - 10:30am PDT
Emerald Bay E