education | MIT Center for Civic Media

Education in the context of civic media work refers to the process and product of learning skills, acquiring information, and understanding ourselves and our communities. Healthy communities need informed members and they need skills and understanding of complex issues to continue to solve their local issues.

Data Therapy

Project Status: 
Active

As part of our larger effort to build out a suite of tools for community organizers, we are helping to build their capacity to do their own creative data visualization and presentation.

#bpswalkout

This past March, 3,500 students walked out of Boston Public Schools (BPS) in a well organized action to protest a proposed $50 million budget cut to BPS which would result in the closure of schools, layoff of teachers, and diminished services in extracurricular spaces, AP classes and support for special-needs students. Young organizers began to mobilize weeks prior, beginning when a group of students reached out to the youth-led Boston Area Youth Organizing Project. In an interview published last week in The Nation, young organizers from the movement expressed pleasant surprise with the number of youth who participated, articulated the process of organizing the walkout as well as the disastrous effects such budget cuts would have on the lives of young people throughout Boston and made sophisticated links between budget policies and institutional racism.

Educating for Democracy

Despite spending the last few years of my work in conversations around creative community engagement and participatory projects, the idea of “civic education” still conjured images of my high school government teacher, a white-haired man with a love of golf who teased me for being the lone liberal in a sea of farmers more than he taught me about government. It was a surprise then when my colleagues at the Harvard Ed. School (HGSE) pushed me toward civic education conversations like those convened by the Civic and Moral Education Initiative; it was an even bigger surprise when I began to find resonances in the new civics dialogue unfolding at HGSE and the conversations I’ve entered through the Introduction to Civic Media course.

Media, Stories, and Boston youth

"Those who do not have the power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts." - Salman Rushdie

Story is powerful. Whether the his-stories ingested through schooling, the discourses given voice in the news or the identities composed in popular culture, we make the world and are made by the world, through narrative. Politicians get this, media scholars get this, the youth get this.

Introducing DataBasic.io

We're pleased to announce the launch of DataBasic.io - a suite of simple web-based tools and hands-on activities that help you get started learning to work with data. The tools are geared towards journalists, non-profits, activist groups and students. Rather than just building data tools to make a pretty charts, we've designed these with learners in mind and we made them fun!

We’ve got three tools for you to start playing with – WTFcsv, WordCounter, and SameDiff. Pop on over to https://databasic.io and give them a try. Right now we’re supporting Spanish or English, and it is accessible to visually impaired via screen-readering software.

Don’t forget to watch the short intro videos on each homepage, and check out the activity guides.

Making Together with Jeff Sturges

Live notes taken at Jeff Sturges's Director's Fellow workshop on January 22, 2015.

Jeff Sturges
ML Director's fellow and Founder, Mount Elliott Makerspace @jeffsturges

Jeff has many years making and participating and makerspaces. He's had both successes and failures he'd like to share with us. He sees makerspaces as a big category that includes things like fab labs, grant-funded community spaces, member-run hackerspaces, and commercial/hierarchical groups like TechShop.

When Jeff first started, he tried to do it alone to keep things cheap. He blames his gray hairs on this and suggests working with others. He admires the model used by Maker Works in Ann Arbor, MI. He wishes he'd gone to something like the makerspace bootcamp they offer before he had started.

Creating Learning Guides for Community Makers

On Saturday, October 26, 2014, Nathan Matias and I co-facilitated a session at Mozilla Festival on creating "Learning Guides for Community Makers" along with Gabriela Rodriguez, Janet Gunter (@JanetGunter), Linda Sandvik, Vanessa Gennarelli.

The main goal of the session was to help participants create a learning guides for other community-focused makers based on initiatives, projects, and workshops they have already organized, hosting them here:

youthcivictech.mit.edu

We are also interested in connecting practitioners together who are working at the intersection of code/data literacy, civic technology, and youth development. The effort was inspired in part by MIT Media Lab alumni projects like Young Activists Network (Leo Burd) and ScratchEd (Karen Brennan).

We kicked off the session by discussing "What do we mean by civic and community-focused making?" This proved an engaging topic, especially as we dug into my own definition and goals. I offered the idea that there are changes we would like to see in the world, and we would like more people to be in the business of making change, so its important to support the growth of an inclusive Civic Tech movement. We debated whether a sense of membership in some kind of "civic tech movement" was a necessary part of community-focused making. We agreed that community-focus was both about working in existing communities as well as building new communities through collaboration, forming and strengthening relationships with others.

Lasers, Food & Data (Telling a Story About Food Security)

Can a vegetable tell a story about food access in Somerville?  Yep.

"70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch" - laser-cut onto a cucumber

“70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch” – laser-cut onto a cucumber

In public settings, it can be quite hard to get folks walking by interested in a data-driven argument about your cause.  We often argue that a creative data sculpture can grab their attention… like maybe a vegetable laser cut with some data about food security!

Gratitude and its Dangers in Social Technologies

How do our designs change when we start emphasizing people and community and not just the things they do for us? Over the next year of my research, I'm exploring acknowledgment and gratitude, basic parts of online relationships that designers often set aside to focus on the tasks people do online.

In May of last year, Wikipedia added a "thanks" feature to its history page, enabling readers to thank contributors for helpful edits on a topic:

Thanks on Wikipedia July 28-30, 2014

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