Civics360: A New Resource for Civic Education

Good morning, friends in Civics. Over the past few years, teachers here in Florida and elsewhere in the United States have made heavy use of the Escambia Civics Review Site. We do believe that the partnership with Escambia County and the willingness of that district to host and share resources for teaching and learning has been beneficial for everyone. Over time, however, requests have been made and ideas contemplated about improvements that could be made to make that site even better. These requests and ideas include more student friendly videos, more helpful assessment tools, and resources for ESOL students and struggling readers. With that in mind, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in partnership with Escambia County Schools,  is excited to announce the launching of a new Civics review site that will, later this summer, replace the currect Escambia Civics Review Site: Civics360. Civics360 is free to all registered users, much like our current Florida Citizen website. This site is now live and available for your use.

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So what are the new features you will find in Civics360? Take a look at the orientation video below, which walks you through the registration process, and read the rest of the post to learn about what we hope will be a useful resource for you and your students.

  • Multiple Student Friendly Readings for each assessed benchmark, available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole

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  • English language reading guides for each Student Friendly Reading, developed with all levels of readers in mind

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  • Vocabulary Practice Worksheets that use Concept Circles to assist students with understanding key words from the benchmark

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  • A Quizlet tool for vocabulary practice and remediation

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  • Continually adding more new narrated student-oriented videos for each benchmark; please note that not every module currently has videos.

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  • Video Viewing Guides for each new video to facilitate engagement

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  • Online quiz practice within each module that reflect best practice in learning and assessment tools that facilitate engagement and retention. We have added clearer explanations and suggestions for reflection for every distractor in each question.

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  • Additional civic resources to facilitate learning and review

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  • Organized into 9 Civics Focus Areas that reflect district pacing guides

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The new site also includes a 60 question practice assessment that reflects the actual EOC in structure and format. We also in the process of developing a version of that practice assessment that breaks the test into the 4 Reporting Categories so that teachers, and students, can use the assessment and their time more effectively.

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Be sure to check out the overview video, and if you have questions, comments, problems, or suggestions about Civics360 or the FJCC, please feel free to email me


Thom Hartmann Gives the Commons Some Rare National Visibility

Yesterday evening, Thom Hartmann, the progressive talk show host, interviewed me on his "Conversations with Great Minds" national TV show.  The first 12-minute video segment can be seen here, and the second one here. I don't think the commons has ever had this much airtime on American (cable) television.

A big salute to Thom for hosting this kind of material on his show. He is a rare creature on American TV and radio -- an intelligent progressive willing to give airtime to ideas from outside the Washington, D.C. echo chamber. Since the retirement of Bill Moyers, there are very few American TV personalities who actually read history, understand how it informs contemporary politics, and give sympathetic exposure to movement struggles seeking social and economic transformation. 

Since I'm sharing links, let me also share the link to my 20-minute presentation yesterday at Ralph Nader's conference, "Breaking Through Power.org" conference, which is being held this week in Washington, D.C.  My talk, "Controlling What We Own -- Defending the Commons," can be seen here at the timemark 5:35:15.

Check out the other presentations on this eight-hour video from Real News Network -- some amazing segments by folks like John Bogle, William Lerach, Ellen Brown and others focused on corporate governance, power and financial abuses.

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The FJCC Is Looking For Script Writers!

So, as you may or may not know, our popular Escambia Civics Review site is going to be undergoing a significant transformation over the next few months as we develop new and more effective resources for both review and instruction. One of these resources will be a set of brand new student friendly videos, one for each of the assessed benchmarks, that are between 5 and 7 minutes long. They will draw on our Student Friendly Readings as a foundation, and include reflection questions throughout the video.

So, here is the thing. We do not have the ability to knock out 35 scripts in two weeks. So we need your help. If you are a current or past quality civics teacher here in Florida, we would love to hire you to write some scripts for us. We are looking for a small group of high quality teachers for this, perhaps ten or so. You would earn 100 dollars per script, and the turn around time for each would be no longer than 3 or 4 days, at most. You will be assigned benchmarks to write for following a brief and required webinar around the process, and we would of course recognize your contribution at the end of the video. We are really looking for some good, student friendly, engaging scripts that can cover the content well while also making viewing enjoyable.

If this is something that interests you, please shoot me an email and let me know of your interest! Please include your name (obviously), your district and school, and how long you have been or taught civics in Florida. We hope to hear from you soon!

UPDATE: If you have experience with Powtoon, we are also looking for video developers!


New Video, “Re-imagine the Future”

When faced with the massive crises of our time, the most logical response is paralysis.  What can an individual possibly do about something so massive and complex?

But what if people could manage to imagine changes that matter within their own lives, and then to grow and federate them? My colleague Anna Grear, a law professor at Cardiff University, and I wanted to focus on some of the positive, practical steps that anyone can take in dealing with the terrible challenges of our time.  

One result is a six-minute video that we are releasing today. The video is based on a series of interviews with participants in a June workshop called “Operationalising Green Governance.”  Held at a lovely retreat center north of Paris, a handful of participants – international law professors, human rights advocates, activists – were interviewed on camera by Ibby Stockdale, Director of a British film production company, Five Foot Four.  Ibby brilliantly distilled hours of interview footage and crafted a succinct, beautifully produced message. 

The short film, “Re-imagine the Future,” is now posted online and can be watched here.

In six minutes, it’s difficult to cover too much ground – so in the closing frames of the film, we provide links to two dedicated webpages – Anna’s  and mine -- to provide resources, organizations, essays, books, etc. for those interested in exploring the film’s themes more deeply. 

We hope you like the film – and would welcome whatever pass-along visibility you can give it.

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Recent Radio Interviews, French Translations & More

Every few weeks, I seem to give extended radio and pocast interviews about the commons, and write occasional talks and essays that find their way to the Web. Here is a quick round-up of some of my more notable recent media appearances.

Writer’s Voice on Patterns of Commoning. One of my favorite interviewers is the skilled and sophisticated Francesca Rheannon of the syndicated radio show Writer’s Voice.  In early August, she aired our half-hour conversation about Patterns of Commoning,  the book that I co-edited with Silke Helfrich that profiles dozens of successful commons around the world.

Progressive philanthropy and system change.  In June, I had an extended interview with Steve Boland, host of the podcast Next in Nonprofits. We talked about progressive philanthropy and system change, a dialogue prompted by my April essay prepared for EDGE Funders Alliance on this same topic.

The importance of public squares.  The Hartford, Connecticut, public radio show, The Colin McEnroe Show, featured me and two other guests talking about “Democracy in the Public Square," on April 28, 2016. I focused on the tension between the government as the lawful guardian of public spaces, and the moral authority and human rights of the people to congregate in public spaces.

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Seven Short Films on the Commons in Seven Minutes

People constantly ask me for a definition of the commons as if a short sentence or two could begin to encapsulate the vastness and variety represented by the term “commons.”  So as a quick introduction to the many dimensions of the commons -- the inner and outer worlds to which "the commons" merely points to -- let me recommend this seven-minute film, “Seven Short Films on the Commons,”  (A thanks to Silke Helfrich for bringing this to my attention!)

The film(s) were produced by Amar Kanwar and the Foundation for Ecological Security, a leading advocacy group for the commons in India. The vignettes of each film are a lovely evocation of what the commons truly means to commoners in India. This is an important task -- naming and evoking the commons -- because governments and businesses of the modern world cannot see or generally refuse to recognize the commons. They are too focused on individuals shorn of social community, private property rights, and market growth.  

Here are the seven succinct declarations made by each short film:

1. Recognize the signature of our commons!  The film flashes words on the screen referring to things we depend upon and share without realizing it:  the air, folk dances, butterflies, playgrounds, the wind, grandma’s cure, the Internet.  The list goes on.

2. Recognize the Reciprocity of Our Commons!  The film notes how different elements of nature of which we are a part are interdependent....which leads to another point:

3. Recognize that Our Commons are a Web of Life!  

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Better, Not More — aka Buen Vivir

Here is an inspiring five-minute video about the quest for a new post-growth economic system.  "Better, Not More," was produced by Kontent Films for the Edge Funders Alliance, and was released last week at a conference in Baltimore. The video is a beautiful set of statements from activists around the world describing what they aspire to achieve, especially by way of commons.

The vocabularies and focus for the idea of "better, not more," obviously differ among people in one country to another. Buen vivir is the term that is more familiar to the peoples of Latin America, for example. But as the growth economy continues its assault on the planetary ecosystem, cultivating an ethic of sufficiency -- and developing the policies and politics to make that real -- is an urgent challenge.

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IASC Commons Releases Six Short Animated Videos

The IASC Commons (International Association for the Study of Commons) has released a series of six short, artfully produced videos, “Commons in Action," that amount to short advertisements for important commons projects. 

Each begins with the words:  “Commons are forms of governance and governance strategies for resources created and owned collectively.  Commons are a reality today.”

The longest video, at four-and-a-half minutes, focuses on the newly created Workshop on Governing Knowledge Commons, which bills itself as “a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project based on studying cases of commons governance for knowledge and information resources. The Workshop and its methods are inspired by the work of The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.” 

Professor Michael Madison of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law is the host of the website.  The Workshop is a collaboration among prominent academic scholars of the knowledge commons such as Brett Frischmann (Cardozo School of Law), Charlotte Hess (Syracuse University), Charles Schweik (UMass Amherst), among others.

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The Psychology of Negotiations in Commons

The Leuphana Digital School in Lüneberg, Germany, has announced the start of an online course on the psychology of negotiations in commons, which will run from May 20 to August 20.  “Psychology of Negotiations:  Reaching Sustainable Agreements in Negotiations on Commons” will be led by Professor Dr. Roman Trötschel, and introduce participants to a psychological approach to negotiations in the context of commons. 

Anyone with an Internet connection can participate.  After successful completion of the course, participants may obtain a university certificate for a nominal fee of 20 euros, which grants participants five credit points that they can transfer towards their own degree program.  Here is a short video outlining the scope of the course.