Short Talk Panel 21C: Digital Citizenship: Utilizing Technology to Promote Political Participation

Policy World, The Causal Claim Tutor and Playing Politics: Games and Tutors for teaching policy argumentation

Presenter: Matt Easterday


Civic education standards demand informed citizens but provide little guidance on the specific skills needed for civic reasoning or how to design engaging and effective digital media for teaching these skills.  In response, the Northwestern University (NU) Civic Media Lab is designing online games and intelligent tutors to teach the skills of policy argumentation.  

In the anime-adventure game Policy World, learners play a young policy analyst who makes policy recommendations to a senator.  Learners search for evidence including newspaper articles and scientific studies on topics like global warming, create causal diagrams that represent evidence from multiple conflicting sources, and debate against computer opponents.  Studies of Policy World show that it improves students’ ability to reason about policy, have identified specific skills that are challenging to learn and show how game designers can increase learning without decreasing interest.  

The Policy World studies also show that students have difficulty recognizing causal claims.  As a result, we have developed the Causal Claim Tutor that teaches students to recognize causal claims in prose by identifying variables and complex causal relations.

Policy argumentation also requires reasoning about political values, so we are now designing online, multi-player simulations like State of Nature where students attempt to invest, steal, or cooperate to increase their property under differing forms of government and levels of income to understand how political ideologies favor different government interventions.  

Taken together, these games help us understand policy argumentation and how to design effective and engaging learning technologies that help learners become well-informed citizens.


The MOJO Movement: How Youth Harness Mobile Journalism

Presenter: Alissa Richardson


In the digital age, with the help of mobile devices, youth use citizen journalism to rebel — and the cellular chant is rising. For the last two years, I have launched and led an international iPod journalism experiment that crisscrosses nearly two dozen cities in South Africa, Morocco and the United States. It is called the MOJO Lab. I train youth to become mobile journalists (MOJOs) who use devices such as iPhones, iPods and tablets to tell their stories.

These mobile media production skills are essential to youth participation in the democratic space. As we envision 21st-century civic education, we must arm young people with the technology to tell their stories, the ethics to report this news responsibly and the dissemination savvy to give it reach. This short talk will explain how I built my MOJO Lab project from a $25,000 Knight Foundation seed grant; how I scaled the Lab from a university-based curriculum to an international initiative; and how educators can replicate this pedagogical model to create youth-led MOJO projects of their own.

As new media becomes integral to civic and political life, we best support youth to become active, capable and committed advocates for their communities by harnessing the power of the devices in their pockets. Teaching digital storytelling with a mobile device allows educators to create an individualized learning experience, where students can acquire new media skills at their own pace. At the same time, the mobile device encourages collaborative learning too, when the magic of shooting and editing audio and film documentaries unfolds.

The best part about mobile journalism as a democratic tool is that the technology itself lowers the barrier of entry to participate, for both the educator and the student. Whereas professional journalists in the last century relied on expensive, intricate equipment, which inadvertently created an elitist circle of common voices, the inexpensive, user-friendly mobile device democratizes the process of journalism, making it available to any young person who has a cell phone, MP3 player or tablet. Teachers and mentors can empower these young people to make meaningful, responsible media that adds to the public discourse.

When young people innovate, we learn more about the world we live in and how it is changing. From the HIV-positive girls who participated in my MOJO Lab South Africa academy, I learned what it is like to live with the disease in post-Apartheid Soweto. From the Muslim girls I trained in Morocco, I learned what it is like to live under monarchal rule, in the time of the Arab Spring. Similarly, from young people living elsewhere in the world, we stand to learn how they see our most pressing problems. Their civic engagement and their willingness to tackle these problems correlates directly to our readiness to lift--and hear--their voices.


Down from the top, up from the bottom and making the most of the middle.

Presenters: Cliff Manning, Lucy Neale


“If you could make one law what would it be” The UK Parliament asked 7-16 year olds to answer this question by making their own online films and pitching them to Oscar winner, Lord David Puttnam

In the UK there are over 100,000 young carers looking after families affected by substance misuse and mental or physical illness. Young Carers in Focus connects these young people online, provides media training and gives them a platform to campaign for change.

Digital media can enable large organisations and policy makers to engage with young people, ‘top down’, in new creative ways. At the same time young people can use the same tools to more easily connect with policy makers from the ‘bottom up’. This presentation will explore these two models of civic engagement and youth empowerment, and find out what can happen when they join together.

The presentation will focus in on the story of a group of young carers affected by HIV who were supported by The Elton John Aids Foundation to create a film for the parliament competition. The teens went on to advise Ministers at an all party parliamentary group on the needs of young carers and had their demands discussed in the House of Commons.

What will delegates learn
We will demonstrate practical real world examples of how government can listen to young people in a creative way and how young people can be supported to use web technologies to be heard by policy makers more effectively. We will share the ups and downs of working with both government and youth organisations and showcasing how you don’t need seismic shifts in policy or revolutionary technology to start making real change today.

Lights Camera Parliament

Young Carers in Focus

People Presenting
Cliff Manning @cliffmanning
The presentation will focus in on the story of a group of young carers affected by HIV who were supported by The Elton John Aids Foundation to create a film for the parliament competition. The teens went on to advise Ministers at an all party parliamentary group on the needs of young carers and had their demands discussed in the House of Commons.

Lucy Neale @LucyDMe
Developed and manages many award winning projects giving young people real world experiences to develop 21st century skills. Partners include Youth Sports Trust, Imperial War Museum and The Children’s Society. Lucy is leading DigitalMe’s Open Badge project.

Makewaves (
DigitalMe (

Makewaves delivers online youth projects for government partners including: Ministry of Justice, Parliament Education Service, British Council and US State Department.
DigitalMe works with many non-profits and NGOs to enable young people from underserved communities to use social media to action change. Partners include: The Children’s Society, Youth Sports Trust, Nominet Trust and the Football Foundation.

Makewaves and DigitalMe are winners of DML Badges for Life Long Learning competition and are currently developing Mozilla Open Badges for a sports journalism/literacy programme Supporter To Reporter.

Matt Easterday
Alissa Richardson
Cliff Manning
Lucy Neale
Matt Easterday
Alissa Richardson
Cliff Manning
Lucy Neale