Civic Education in the Digital Age

In Fall 2019 I had the opportunity to contribute to the design, distribution, and analysis of a landmark survey in the use of digital tools in civic education in the United States, ultimately accepted into the student showcase that the Midwest Political Science Association 2020 Annual Conference. Through the Communication, Culture & Technology program I took an elective in empirical research methods entitled “The Empirical Research Process: A Practicum for Analyzing Civic Education in the Digital Age” with Dr. Diana Owen, a leader in research into the field of civic education and political dispositions.

The course was a practicum that has us learn empirical research methods, design a survey then analyze the results to show the current use of digital tools in classroom environments.

From Chalkboards to Message Boards: Digital Tools and Civic Education in Classrooms

Our paper was accepted to the Midwest Political Science Association 2020 Annual Conference. We, unfortunately, were not able to attend due to the travel restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While this was ultimately disappointing, being part of the research team was an enlightening and

Survey Design


Survey Distribution

Survey Analysis

From Chalkboards to Message Boards: Digital Tools and Civic Education in Classrooms

A Paper accepted to the Midwest Political Science Association 2020 Annual Conference

The use of digital technology has become increasingly prevalent in the elementary and secondary school civics classrooms (Owen, 2017, 2019). According to a recent Gallup study, 65% of teachers use digital technology in the classroom daily, with history and social studies instructors among the most frequent users (Gallup, 2019). However, systematic knowledge of the types of digital technology and tools civics teachers are employing and how they are using them remains superficial. The proposed study will address the following core research questions: What types of digital technology and tools are civics instructors using in the classroom? How are teachers using digital tools to convey civic knowledge, dispositions, and skills? In what ways have digital tools influenced teaching practices in the civics classroom? Our study will begin by exploring what tools—both traditional and digital—are being used in the classroom to teach civic education.

Next, we will examine the level of understanding teachers have of these tools and assess how educators’ knowledge of the technology they use affects their teaching practices. We will consider how unique aspects of these tools are affecting learning outcomes. Finally, we will evaluate which tools are most successful in promoting civic education. The study will address the research questions empirically using survey and interview data of elementary and secondary school teachers. Surveys will be administered online to a sample of teachers in the Center for Civic Education’s network of over 40,000 educators nationwide. Follow-up, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with teachers to gain more detailed insights to supplement the survey data.


  • Gallup. 2019. Education Technology Use in Schools: Student and Educator Perspectives. Research Report. Washington, D.C.:
  • Owen, Diana. 2017. “Teaching Civics in the Digital Age: The Use of Traditional and Innovative Pedagogies.” Paper prepared for presentation at American Political Science Association Teaching and Learning Conference, Long Beach, CA, February 10-12.
  • Owen, Diana. 2019. “Digitalization and Political Science in the USA” in Marianne Kneuer and Helen Milner, eds. Political Science and Digitalization: Global Perspectives. Leverkusen, Germany: Barbara Budrich Publishers.

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