The personal value that is important to me professionally and that relates to ISTE standard 7a is service. When I think of civic engagement to address challenges and improvement of community, I envision school leaders, teachers, and students involved in meaningful hands-on projects that involve research and service work in the community.
Because of the importance of state testing, many teachers focus on activities that will prepare students for standardized tests. There are so many standards to cover, and so little time that often activities that involve civic engagement, volunteering and/or community work are hard to find in our K-12 schools.
Rebecca Winthrop wrote, in the article The need for civic education in 21st-century schools, “seventy percent of 12th graders say they have never written a letter to give an opinion or solve a problem” (p. 2) https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/the-need-for-civic-education-in-21st-century-schools/.
In an interview Neal Selwyn (2020) presents a rather critical view on education when he points that it “often feels to be much less than the sum of its parts.” (p. 7). Despite his criticism and pessimistic views on education, at the end of his interview, he calls educators to take action by speaking up about the current problems and actively help to shape the future, rather than conform to a pre-destined one (Postdigital living in the age of covid-19: Unsettling what we see as possible, 2020).
How can schools, teachers and students be engaged in their communities?
A simple answer to this question is for teachers to incorporate digital citizenship in the curriculum. But, how? Kristen Mattson writes in her ISTE blog Embedded digital citizenship in all subject areas that “42 percent said the biggest barrier to teaching digital citizenship in schools is a lack of an integrated curriculum.” Mattson explains how teachers can enhance learning standards by using wording such as “digital and digital communities” in order to add the digital citizenship component, just as it is modeled in her example: “Students in a middle school social studies class brainstorm and explain the specific roles people play in digital communities, such as contributors, consumers, moderators and tech companies (D2.Civ. 2.6-8. Explain specific roles played by citizens, such as voters, jurors, taxpayers, etc.)” Educators do not need to teach digital citizenship in isolation, rather include it in the learning standards and current curricula.
There are many institutes and organizations that have education programs and free curriculum resources that support schools, teachers, and students to engage in educational activities that foster civic involvement.
One example is presented by ISTE blog on Project Citizen: Bring civic engagement to your classroom, by Jennifer Snelling (2018) describes how a Middle School History teacher implemented a project-based unit from the Classroom Law Project. The Classroom Law Project offers step by step guides, materials, handouts and lesson plans that are ready to use with elementary, middle school and high school students. These inquiry-based projects are focused on civics in action with the vision to change the community, and the world through real and relevant involvement.
Another example is ISTE blog on 5 ways to crowdsource ideas for choosing the right technology, by Carl Hooker (2016), which explains how one school formed a Digital Learning Task Force that included teachers, students, parents, administrators and community members in a project intended to select a technological device for their school through active learning experiences.
These educational programs that combine learning targets with community service fall under the terminology that Vanderbilt University defines as service-learning. Nonetheless, Joan Clifford warns that there is a negative impact when service-learning is associated with products and reciprocity because it does not create structural change in society as it perpetuates a charity model, and suggests to emphasize the concepts of process and solidarity instead (Talking About Service-Learning: Product or Process? Reciprocity or Solidarity? 2017).
The international school, where my colleague Vivian Li works, has been working to integrate Sustainable Development Take Action Goals by integrating projects into core class curricula. She expressed that she has observed the tendencies addressed by Clifford regarding the perpetuation of a charitable model that does not equate to social change. If we focus on the process rather than the goal, we can see the intended results. For example, ISTE standard 7a uses crowdfunding as a way to make a socially responsible contribution. Students can raise money by using technology in order to reach a wider audience, but rather than donating the money directly to an organization, they can use the money to fund their own class project that is focused on the creation of digital educational activities from a specific subject, which can be shared with other students. Instead of focusing on the collection and donation of money, which is a product, we should focus on the process of the project.
An example that supports civic engagement while focusing on process was shared by professor Halbert. Texas Young Lawyers Association provides resources and ready to use material for K-12 students. Several of the resources from this site include videos and documents shared as pdfs with a detailed list of activities that can be used, such is the case of Vote America. This one particular project is about the history of voting in the U.S., and serves as a reminder of this important civic duty, and educates not only students but invites the members of the community to participate in a “Constitution Day/Week.” While it is reasonable to understand that many members of the community have busy schedules that would not allow them to participate in person, the use of digital resources can be used to break those barriers in order to reach a wider audience if Constitution Day/Week is held virtually, or a combination of both.
Another site that promotes civic involvement is Youth Service America. This organization promotes campaigns, provides grants, resources and training. A project from this organization that got my attention is “Protect the Environment with E-waste Drives” as it exemplifies how the use of digital technology can enhance and transform civic engagement. I could not have said it better than educator Christy Boas, who stated that “was humbled at the many ways people are providing for youth to help and reach their communities.”
As evidence shows, the digital era has helped surface many aspects of inequity that existed, but it also has provided ways to help restore and improve our communities in ways that were impossible and unimaginable without the use of technology. The internet has broken down geographical boundaries, and facilitates companies, corporations, organizations, schools, and individuals to collaborate in many ways. The resources that are available today can help educators integrate engaging, meaningful and life changing hands-on projects into the curriculum.
A word of caution. While we can get excited about the possibilities, it is important to document and practice action research as we are carrying out civic projects, and ask ourselves: What evidence do we have that we are making a positive impact?
Bandy, J. (2019, November 6). What is service learning or community engagement? Center for Teaching. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-through-community-engagement/
Classroom Law Project. (n.d). Project citizen: Civics in action! Retrieved October 17, 2020. https://classroomlaw.org/student-programs/project-citizen/
Clifford, Joan (2017). Talking about service-learning: Product or process? Reciprocity or solidarity? Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 21(4), 1-13. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1163945
Hooker, C. (2016, October 14). 5 ways to crowdsource ideas for choosing the right technology. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/Lead-the-way/5-ways-to-crowdsource-ideas-for-choosing-the-right-technology
Loyola University New Orleans. Image. Retrieved on October 25, 2020 from http://www.loyno.edu/engage/sites/loyno.edu.engage/files/images/SL%20vs%20CS%20vs%20Int%20Snip.JPG
ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
National Center for Education Statistics (1999). Service-learning and community service in K-12 public school. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/frss/publications/1999043/index.asp?sectionid=5
Selwyn, N., Jandrić, P. (2020). Postdigital living in the age of covid-19: Unsettling what we see as possible. Postdigital Science Education 2, 989–1005. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00166-9
Snelling, J. (2018). Project citizen: Bring civic engagement to your classroom. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/Digital-citizenship/Project-Citizen%3A-Bring-civic-engagement-to-your-classroom
Texas Young Layers Association. Resources: For educators and students. (2019, November 26). Retrieved from https://tyla.org/educators/
United Nations. Sustainable Development Goals, Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
Winthrop, R. (2020). The need for civic education in 21st-century schools. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/the-need-for-civic-education-in-21st-century-schools/
Youth Service America. (n.d.). Youth Changing the World. Retrieved from https://ysa.org/