Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age

September 30, 2016 / by Erica Hodgin & Young Whan Choi

Are you concerned about the health of our democracy? Do you feel like schools aren't doing enough to prepare young people to fully leverage the potential of the digital age or to avoid the pitfalls? Do you wonder how to prepare young people to address the great challenges of our age from climate change to racism?

The Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age (EDDA) Initiative in Oakland, California includes more than 100 teachers who are grappling with how to productively engage their students in today's civic and political world. EDDA is a partnership between Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), Mills College, and the National Writing Project (NWP). Check out an overview video on this Initiative, Civic Engagement in the Digital Age, below.

Preparing Students to be Community Ready

EDDA aims to expand the opportunity structure in OUSD high schools and to develop students' commitments and capacities for meaningful civic action in the 21st century. The Initiative leverages web 2.0 tools and best practices in civic education to provide all high school students with civic learning opportunities that will prepare and motivate them to work for positive change in their communities. In other words, we aim to prepare students to be college, career, AND community ready.

To be Community Ready, today's young people need both civic skills and digital literacies enabling them to fully leverage those civic skills. For example, with the onslaught of information available online today, youth need to learn how to find credible sources, judge whether information is trustworthy, and access multiple perspectives in order to understand the various angles of an issue.

Community Ready means students are prepared for:

  • Issue Analysis: Identifying and analyzing issues that matter to them and their community;
  • Taking Action: Taking informed, thoughtful action in collaboration with others; and
  • Reflection: Analyzing the effectiveness of their actions and reflecting on what they learned.

To read more about the three components we focus on in our work, click here. You can also explore the civic engagement planning tools (accompanying the video above) that include aspects of community readiness.

Examples from the Classroom

Two EDDA teachers -- Matt Colley and Chela Delgado -- invited us into their classrooms to capture this work in action and share it with others. Both teachers worked with students as part of a broader unit on deeply analyzing a civic and political issue, identifying ways to take action in response to an issue, and reflecting on how their action steps may have an impact on the community and others.

Taking Part

Are you wondering how you can go about integrating civic engagement and digital civic learning opportunities into your classroom or school? Here are some things to consider as you get started:

  • Learn From and Tap Into What Youth Are Already Doing: Research shows that youth are at the forefront of utilizing digital tools for civic engagement. Learn about ways that youth are getting involved locally, across your state, or nationally to respond to issues they care about.
  • Engage In Dialogue With Your Colleagues: There is great power in working with your colleagues to think, plan, brainstorm, and innovate around your curriculum, as well as school wide efforts. You can also engage with other educators through online networks and get inspired by efforts happening nationally and internationally.
  • Experiment By Starting Small: Start small and take manageable steps. You can build on that over time in powerful ways. Don't feel like you have to scrap everything and launch a whole new unit. Think about one small, innovative step at a time.
  • Seek Support From Administrators, Families, and Your Community: Find ways that civic engagement supports what your school, district, and/or community are already working on and try to align your work so you can build off one another’s efforts.

More Resources

Here are some other resources that you can reference:

Thanks to the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Thomas J. Long Foundation for their support of the EDDA Initiative.

Topics: Social Justice, Social Studies, Technology in the Classroom, Video Playlist, Educating for Democracy, Civic Engagement

Erica Hodgin & Young Whan Choi

Written by Erica Hodgin & Young Whan Choi

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). She is also Co-Principal Investigator with Joe Kahne of Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age – a district-wide civic education effort in partnership with Oakland Unified School District and the National Writing Project. Her current research focuses on the the educational implications of youth civic and political engagement in the digital age. She has authored articles in Theory and Research in Social Education and the Journal of Digital and Media Literacy, as well as book chapters in Digital Equity and Educational Opportunity and #youthaction: Becoming Political in the Digital Age. Erica received her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Mills College and completed her dissertation on the ways cultural humility can enable teachers to build effective relationships with students across racial and cultural differences. Before joining CERG, Erica taught English and Social Studies and served as an instructional coach at the middle school and high school level. She also coordinated educational programs in several non-profit organizations in California and Maharastra, India. Young Whan Choi is Manager of College, Career, and Community Readiness in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University and has his Master of Arts in Teaching from Teachers College. A desire to serve students of color is at the heart of his work. He has led the development of a national online Ethnic Studies curriculum and co-leads OUSD's Ethnic Studies Leadership Team. Through his work in public schools in New York City, Providence, RI, and Oakland, CA, he has developed expertise in culturally relevant classroom instruction, curriculum design, work-based learning, and teacher professional development.

Read Next

Sign up for the Teaching Channel newsletter to get the latest articles, videos, and resources delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

Recent Blogs

Search Blogs

      2022-July11-12months_300x600 (003)


      We're always looking for new TCHERS' VOICE bloggers! If you're interested in writing an article, please get in touch with us. 

      Learn More