An important dialogue has started at Facing History about ways to use Facing History online tools to nurture civic behavior in the digital age. More and more our online tools are allowing for students to engage with one another all over the world. This has been especially important in trying out new resources such as Reporter, Bully and Freedom Riders, as well as Facing History online courses, have brought together international classrooms to share a common core of knowledge.
Yet the challenge that is central to these efforts is for participants to feel that they are interacting with one another and not just responding to a prompt from facilitators or a message from other participants.
Creating that interaction demands creative ways of bringing participants together around certain questions and sources. For example, in one session of the Holocaust and Human Behavior online course, participants are divided into pairs and each pair works on a response together by phone and email before reporting back to the whole group online. This allows for some small group interaction and a certain bonding that does not necessarily occur when the whole group responds to prompts online. Also valuable is the activity in the online seminar dealing with A Convenient Hatred where participants in small groups study different forms of antisemitic propaganda and return to share with the entire group.
I would like to propose an activity that encourages participants to apply the knowledge they have gained during an online course or seminar into their own practice. For instance, if they have studied Fundamental Freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, participants could be challenged to think of specific ways they can encourage respect for others in their school or community. These could then be added to the Facing History module Choosing to Participate along with the exciting Not in Our Schools projects.
Essential for any such activities will be participants coming to consensus on the meaning of online citizenship. Are there special rules for citizenship online that are not needed in face to face situations? Do there need to be introductory sessions on how to respect one another online?