The virtual campus of the future: stimulating and simulating civic actions in a virtual world
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This paper presents a pre-orientation program for incoming college students, Active Citizenship through Technology (ACT), that engaged students in civic dialogue early in their academic experience while fostering a long-term peer support network. It leveraged youth’s interest in Internet technologies to engage them in civic discussions and activities. In this 3-day program, thirty-six participants used the Zora 3-D virtual environment to design and inhabit a Virtual Campus of the Future to express concerns and ideas about community issues that interested them. In addition, they participated in face-to-face activities to promote civic skills and learned about their college community. We describe the ACT pre-orientation program and provide results from two consecutive cohorts of participants. Participants reported experiencing new ideas about civic life and learning new skills during the program. At the end of their freshman year, program participants were more likely than control participants to report engagement in activities to express their political and social viewpoints.
KeywordsVirtual environments Civic engagement Youth participation Internet Orientation
We are grateful to the following organizations that funded different aspects of the work presented in this paper through fellowships and grants to the authors: Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, Academic Technologies at Tufts University, and the National Science Foundation (NSF Career award “Communities of learning and care: Multi-user virtual environments that promote positive youth development” NSF IIS-0447166”). The authors are also thankful to members of the DevTech research group at Tufts University, and to Ashima Mathur, Daniela Mesalles and Keiko Satoh, for their work on ACT.
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