Facebook®, wikis, blogs and a host of other technology-based tools are transforming the ways that citizens interact with others and with government. Indeed, technology is transforming our democracy. How do we begin to understand this transformation and to find ways for colleges and universities to use these tools to prepare informed, engaged citizens.
This three-year initiative is a partnership of AASCU and the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University. Still in the beginning phases, the participating thirty-five institutions in this initiative will work together to study how emerging technologies, particularly social networks, support and facilitate civic and political engagement. The main goal of the initiative to provide insights into and strategies for engaging undergraduates in the use of social networks and technology tools for civic purposes. Those strategies can then be broadly employed to prepare undergraduates for lives of engagement and participation.
In September 2009, the campuses participated in an online forum discussion about “Promising Practices In Online Engagement” by Scott Bittle, Chris Haller and Alison Kadlec. In November, the campus coordinators for this initiative attended an inaugural institute to officially launch the eCitizenship initiative. A group of eCitizenship campuses are participating in a sub-initiative focused on online community asset mapping. More information about this sub-initiative can be found on the eCitizenship Wiki.
The Informed Citizen Project is another eCitizenship venture. In the pursuit of greater student engagement, the American Democracy Project has tried to encourage civic participation among students. The eCitizenship initiative focuses ADP’s efforts in the online world. To help build the skills that college students need, the Informed Citizen Project brings campuses together to develop and share efforts towards one of civic engagement’s most important foundational skills: media and information literacy.
Media and information literacy are more important than ever. The fragmented media environment requires that we are more critical of the information we consume than ever. Online text, audio, and video tools all make for new ways to communicate and engage in civic leadership. Web 2.0 tools mean that content consumers are now creators and must be cautious about what we communicate to the whole world. The prevalence of polls mean that today’s voter must understand how survey research works to ensure they maximize the informational value of polls.
The Informed Citizen Project Areas of focus:
ICP seeks to identify and share best practices in college-level media and information literacy and to create new programs to ensure the next generation of graduates have the critical thinking skills necessary to be informed, engaged citizens in our democracy.
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Center for the Study of Citizenship, Wayne State University