Mobile Learning for Social Change: Democratizing Education and Civic Engagement

Mobile Learning for Social Change: Democratizing Education and Civic Engagement

Tseday Alehegn (Columbia University, USA) and Dominic Mentor (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0251-7.ch018
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This chapter focuses on how mobile apps and smartphones can be used to enhance democratic education in schools and society at large, why such opportunities need to be more seriously considered as integral to the school learning environment, and how it can empower citizens for civic engagement. Using Dewey's philosophy of democratic education this chapter provides examples of mobile apps designed through classroom, community-based or after school programs that provide youth with coding training opportunities as well as macro-level highlights of civic engagement for social change. Reviewing theories of technology – from determinism to social embeddedness – this chapter reflects on the inherent “democratic” design of mobile technologies, as well as the challenge to embrace the interest that youth and society in general have for mobile app use. It is a call to promote mobile-driven democratic education in an environment encouraging continuous learning as well as cultivating and leveraging mobile technologies to develop an informed public voice and participatory agency.
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Background: Theories Of Technology And Democratic Education

What is meant by democratic education? For philosopher and activist John Dewey the concept of democratic education centered on nurturing students’ abilities to observe their environment as well as to encourage their development of creativity. Dewey staunchly supported the designing of educational spaces that linked the students’ life experiences with the classroom curriculum. School for Dewey was not a place for rote memorization and lecture-based instruction, but rather a place where what is taught is directly relevant to the current social circumstance and experience of the student. Dewey sought to connect the social life of the school with that outside of school walls with the intention that students learn to become aware of how their actions affect their peers and others in the larger society (Dewey, 1916). In his seminal work Democracy and Education, Dewey noted that “in the final account, then not only does social life demand teaching and learning for its own permanence, but the very process of living together educates” (Dewey, 1916, p6). In essence one critical purpose of formal schooling is to develop informed citizens who can thrive and contribute to a democratic society.

Building on Dewey’s vision of developing informed and active citizens in a democratic society Westheimer & Kahne (2004) describe three ways that individuals can become civically involved. First, there is the personally responsible citizen who volunteers, and takes seriously his/her role as a law-abiding individual. Secondly, the participatory citizen is active at the local, state or national levels. In schools, for example, students are taught how government works and are provided with opportunities to train and take part in community-based initiatives. Finally, the justice-oriented citizen practices democracy by studying the socio-economic and political structure of society and mobilizing solutions to effect systemic change. The justice-oriented citizen inquires about the root causes of social problems and creates opportunities in community to address challenges and find long-term solutions. Both the participatory and the justice-oriented citizen move beyond the responsibilities of the individual to engage with their communities, and both encourage a certain level of discussion and deliberation to solve problems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Activism: Addressing social justice issues through the utilization of mobile technologies through various means including dissemination of information, gathering of data, and promoting social networks to bring about social change.

Mobile Application: An application developed to typically run on smartphones and tablets.

Justice-Oriented Citizen: A citizen that inquires about social justice issues by reflecting and acting upon structural issues to promote systemic change.

Participatory Citizen: A citizen that is active at local, state, or national levels in addressing social issues relevant to the community by learning how government systems work and taking part in community-based initiatives.

Democratic Education: A method of education where democratic values are taught as well as experienced within the instructional environment.

Civic Education: Education about how government and how self-governance works.

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