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What are the opportunities and challenges of in-person vs. online dialogue about civic issues?


Activity: Upsides and Downsides: Face to Face and Online Dialogue

(45 min)

In the following activity, youth consider how features of face-to-face and online dialogue contribute to the quality of discussions.


Ask students to think about a recent, in-person discussion about a civic issue that they were part of or observed. Then have them pair up with a classmate, share stories, and discuss the questions below.


  • Share some factual details: Where did it happen? Who was involved and what were their relationships to each other? What was the issue?


  • Describe the conversation: Who started it? Did people in the discussion disagree at all or offer different perspectives? How were those perspectives shared? Was the discussion emotional or “heated” at any point? What did people do, if anything, to keep things civil? How did it conclude?


  • Now take a step back from these specific experiences and think about how being face-to-face with another person - having to look them in the eye - affects discussions of civic issues. What are the upsides?  What are the downsides? Use the graphic organizer to record your and your partner’s ideas.

Click here to download this exercise as a PDF.

Online Civic Dialogue: Exploring Youth Perspectives


The following quotes are from young people who frequently discuss civic issues on social media.

Ask students to choose two quotes.


Read each quote. As you read, record any notes about the upsides and downsides of online dialogue in the next section of the graphic organizer.

Think & Write: Next, ask students to write their reflections to the following questions:

  • Do you connect in any way with the perspectives shared by these youth? If yes, describe.

  • Can you think of a time when you’ve posted something online and gotten a comment from someone that gave you a new perspective on an issue or pushed your thinking in a new direction?  If yes, describe.

  • Can you think of a time when you’ve posted something about a civic issue and received a negative comment?  Or a time when you decided not to post something because you were concerned about possible push back or conflict?  If yes, describe.

  • Based on these personal experiences - or online discussions you’ve observed  - record any additional Upsides and Downsides in your graphic organizer.


Pair-Share: Ask students to share their reflections with another student.

Click here to download this exercise as a PDF.


Comparing Face-to-Face & Online

As a whole class, distill headlines from students’ reflections about the upsides and downsides of face-to-face and online dialogue.

  • Do you notice any similarities in upsides and downsides between face-to-face and online discussions?

  • What differences do you notice?

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