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Digital media technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to help young citizens learn to engage with public life. Many young citizens are interested in learning how to advocate for their own causes and to develop more effective public voices. At the same time, they often have uneven experiences with developing effective organization and public voice skills. Learning how to develop public voices and sustainable networks can be enhanced through access to digital public networking, content production, distribution technologies and skills training. Effective and satisfying application of such digital voice and networking technologies requires scholars and practitioners to develop clearer standards about how various tools and online communities actually advance particular civic learning goals. We aim to create a set civic learning standards and tools to help young people develop effective public voices and sustainable advocacy networks. These standards will be useful for youth workers and other online community developers to review and align their practices.

The Civic Learning Online project involves three main research areas:

  1. A review and synthesis of perspectives on youth identity, civiclearning and engagement both online and offline. The outcome willbe a set of standards for defining key civic learning goals and assessing differing approaches to civic learning online.
  2. These civic learning standards will be used to evaluate a broad sample of over 40 predominantly U.S. (also some Canadian and British) online youth engagement sites and programs. This evaluation will take into account differences in civic learning opportunities, the nature of community decision-making and governance, social networking applications, varieties of participatory media content creation, and what these elements suggest about the implicit citizen identity styles being engaged.
  3. An assessment and review of CCCE will bring in outside advisors to review learning goals, participatory media curriculum, site networking features, and youth participation and management practices. This phase of the project will document procedures for building partnerships with youth organizations and service learning, and identify practices that sustain youth governance. We also plan to explore partnerships with libraries as youth access points and as co-sponsors of community games and other civic networking activities.


research reports
              and think pieces

on how participation
in online communities
affects civic learning and
political engagement...

Learn more about
Civic Life Online