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Practice Stories from the Field

Vol. 18 No. 4

Grounding Service-Learning in the Digital Age: Exploring a Virtual Sense of Geographic Place Through Online Collaborative Mapping and Mixed Media

December 24, 2014


A sense of place has been an integral part of service-learning since the field’s inception; it describes one’s attachment to a particular geographic place and is often a precursor to engaging in action to care for localities and their inhabitants. But practicing service-learning in online environments requires reconsidering this core value. Should the field celebrate the “liberation” of service-learning from geographical constraints, as some authors suggest, or reclaim a geographically bounded sense of place as an essential part of service-learning? The authors recommend finding ways to cultivate a virtual sense of geographic place in online learning environments to enhance a critical understanding of physical localities, better prepare service-learners to enter service sites, and deepen connections among participating students. By providing examples of online collaborative mapping and virtual community projects, this paper considers some implications for theorizing sense of place for online and face-to-face service-learning in the digital age.