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Civics 4.0: Practical ideas for civic education in the digital age

On July 20th, UNIMED organised a 30 minutes webinar on practical ideas and tools for civic education in the digital age showing the results of the project NEXUS “Promoting the nexus of migrants through active citizenship”. A diverse range of experts and practitioners from the project partners took the floor addressing specific questions on the topic of young people and active participation, young people and democracy, and also more specifically young people with a migrant background.

Elisa Lironi, Programme Director for European Democracy at the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), reported the results of a research conducted a few years ago to understand why young people seem to be very disengaged in mainstream politics which is in Europe in their representative democracies. She mentioned three assumptions about why this is happening. All social-economic factors heavily contribute to the sense of distrust of young people towards their governments seeing that everything that they are trying to build (families or having a stable job) becomes more and more difficult. Besides, there is a tendency of young people to be more focused on self-development and a tendency to be more individualistic in their thinking of society because they have more possibilities to travel, to access better higher education paths, for example, compared to the previous generations. They seem to show an interest in specific topics more than on traditional politics. The third element is technology. This is used by young people to get across the things that they care about the most. Results of some research, such as the research of the European Youth Forum or some millennials dialogues showed that political parties and government representatives have to truly exploit technologies in order to communicate to young people. Because of these three assumptions and stressing more the part concerning technology aspects it is clear that the traditional ways of active citizenship shown through participation through the traditional way of representative democracy based on elections is not working anymore.

The event tackled as well the rationale for the NEXUS project, mainly targeting migrants and students with different backgrounds. In this respect, Romana Zajec, Researcher and Programme Director, Institute APIS / Zavod APIS (APIS), in regard to the question: How is it different for migrants? pointed out that the NEXUS project from the very beginning decided to not only focus on the migrant population but, the consortium widened the scope from migrants and refugees population to students from different backgrounds, ethnicities, lifestyles, and so on. She mentioned one of the interviews that she did with Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, who is a human rights activist, feminist and migrant, in which Jovana said:” that if you are an activist because you believe in certain values and you want to change something it means that if you have an inner drive you will this whenever you go”. (Links to the interviews can be found below)

Romana paved the way for the next intervention of Beatriz Sedano, Research Associate, with the National Distance Education University (UNED), who commented on open and online courses. Beatriz thinks that MOOCs are themselves an example of the democratisation of learning. They were born to open up education, and the setting of knowledge. So they can be a good tool to reach diverse backgrounds, including migrants such as in NEXUS MOOC. Emphasizing that participation and democracy are adequate topics for a MOOC. However, these MOOCs need to be designed engagingly. In this aspect, Beatriz talked about the NEXUS MOOC which was oriented to make participants reflect and engage. (You can take the MOOC on the UNIMED learning space or on the UNED platform)

In her keynote speech about Service Learning and how it can help increase the level of democratic participation of young people, Ana Skledar Matijević, Higher Education Project Manager, the Institute for the Development of Education (IDE), talked about Service Learning Guidelines, saying that service learning is a teaching method which combines the community engagement of higher education institutions with achieving the learning outcomes of students. 

The meeting ended by talking about the Inventory of civic-tech tools, of which Ivana Stanojev, Project and Communications Associate, the Knowledge Innovation Centre (KIC), showcased some of the very interesting ones that address different problems. These initiatives and more were included in a toolbox, available here (link).

“So that we travel backward in time I think it’s given us the opportunity to advance the state of knowledge and skills in training active citizenship for young people I think if we can contextualise life in terms of lifelong learning we are all students and we are all definitely from diverse backgrounds so it seems to be a lot more inclusive doing things that way.”

These were the concluding remarks from the NEXUS project partner coordinator, Timothy Read, Senior Lecturer in Computer Languages and Systems, National Distance Education University (UNED).

Acknowledging the question: What would have happened if NEXUS did not occur?

” I think in a nutshell what this project actually provides is a wealth of resources for people wanting to find out about active citizenship but also wanting to engage with their students in this way.” 

This webinar, representing the final event of the NEXUS project, was an opportunity for the partners to showcase not only the project’s key results to the participants but also, to build on these results and discuss practical ideas to further strengthen Civic education in the Digital Age.

The webinar recording is available here.

Want to know more about NEXUS key results and publications? Read more here.

If you are interested in the different interviews you can check the below links:

JOVANA Mihajlović Trbovc interviews: