Teens in Virtual Worlds Learn Civic Lessons

A December Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning blog post, featured how using digital media and virtual worlds to engage you in education of civics issues.

Say the word “civics,” and most people will likely conjure images of well-meaning citizens trudging to the polls to do their democratic duty, soberly pulling levers behind dim curtains for city council members on local election days.

Civics, that is to say, rarely inspires rapture.

But that may be changing as kids, thanks to digital media, are first encountering civic issues in engaging and, yes, dynamic ways, both through school curriculums and on their own.

The article goes on to highlight Global Kids civics based Witnessing History project.

High school kids from Washington, D.C., involved in the Witnessing History project, certainly appeared motivated by the immersive aspects of working in the virtual space of Teen Second Life. The project was produced in conjunction with Global Kids and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

It was there that a handful of students curated an exhibit where visitors assumed the role of reporters–replete with fedoras and notepads–to learn how bystanders reacted to the horrors of the 1938 Night of Broken Glass pogrom at the outset of the Holocaust.

The visitor-reporters traveled virtual Berlin streets designed with scanned materials and documents from the museum’s archives and artifacts. They walked past a burned-down synagogue modeled on an actual place of worship. At the end of the exhibit, visitors entered a reflection room—a quiet, uncluttered area, where they could post notes for all to read.

The exhibit was created in part to underscore awareness of contemporary instances of genocide, and to prompt conversations about what it means to be a global citizen. As reporters, the students effectively revisited the critical civics lesson handed down by the bard himself: The past is indeed prologue.

Rafi Santo, a senior program associate with Global Kids who worked closely on the project, said the students remained motivated and engaged while working on Witnessing History, inspired by the idea that what they’d created would be accessible to millions of their peers.

“They had the opportunity to create something that would not just go on a shelf,” Santo says. “The students got what it meant to have a sense of agency.”

Santo suggests that new technologies have an innate advantage over other forms of education when it comes to provocative conversations about civics for the simple reason that they allow an increasingly globally minded generation to connect with youth beyond their local communities.

Read the full article here.