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.

practiceassessment sample

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


NCDD Member Discount on the Int’l Assoc. of Facilitators’ Regional Conference in FL

If you hadn’t already heard, the International Association of Facilitators – one of our NCDD member organizations – is hosting its 2017 conference for the N. American and Caribbean region this May 8-11, and we encourage our members to consider attending. Even if you’re not an IAF member, dues-paying NCDD members are eligible for a $50 registration discount. NCDD supports the conference’s goal of growing the relevance of facilitation, and it will be a great way to make international connections with other D&D practitioners. You can learn more about this great opportunity in the IAF’s invitation below or learn more at the conference site here.


IAF 2017 N. American & Caribbean Conference: The Relevance of Facilitation

Where will you be May 8 to 11, 2017?

Hopefully at the 2017 International Association of Facilitators North America & Caribbean Conference (IAFNAC) – The Relevance of Facilitation – in West Palm Beach, Florida which takes place this May 8 through 11. As a facilitation practitioner in the IAF’s network, you can register for a $50 discount off of the conference workshops being offered on May 10 & 11.

Here is an opportunity to experience leading facilitators from the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, Sweden, France, Russia, and Australia, sharing their best practices across a wide spectrum of hard and soft skills and topics. These sessions are designed to give you proven strategies that you can use right away.

Session topics cover not only facilitator tools and techniques, but also the business of facilitation and ways for non-facilitators to use facilitation skills. It is ideal for anyone who works as a leader, coach, member, or professional advisor to teams and communities wanting to deliver change.

The Relevance of Facilitation offers 12 pre-conference training workshops and 25 conference breakout sessions. Review theConference Programme and register now by clicking here. Use the promotional code “[iafnt]” (lower case) to receive the $50 discount.

In between the power-packed sessions are plenty of times for networking and holding one-on-one conversations with other facilitators with interests similar to yours.

We are looking forward to a great conference, and hope to see you in West Palm Beach!

You can learn much more about the conference agenda, sessions, and registration details at the IAF conference website at www.cvent.com/events/iaf-north-america-caribbean-conference/event-summary-ace9b9b8604b490aa5894d43413abef2.aspx.

Axelrod’s Cognitive Networks

Before introducing the cultural diffusion model he is now better known for, Axelrod proposed mapping individuals’ reasoning process as a causal network.

“A person’s beliefs can be regarded as a complex system,” he argued, and, “given a person’s concepts and beliefs, and given certain rules for deducing other beliefs from them” it is therefore possible to model how “a person would make a choice among alternatives” (Axelrod, 1976).

Axelrod called these networks of beliefs and causal relationships “cognitive maps,” and he engaged other scholars in deriving cognitive maps for select political elites using a detailed hand-coding procedure of a subject’s existing documents.

For Axelrod, the representation of beliefs as a network was a natural and obvious extension of how individuals reason. “People do evaluate complex policy alternatives in terms of the consequences of a particular choice would cause, and ultimately of what the sum of these effects would be,” he argued. “Indeed, such cause analysis is built into our language, and it would be very difficult for us to think complete in other terms, even if we tried” (Axelrod, 1976).

Axelrod takes the nodes of these networks to be concepts, with directed edges between them indicating causal links. Importantly, the nodal concepts are not things but rather “variables that can take on different values.” This makes the cognitive map “an algebraic rather than a logical system.”

Axelrod saw great value in the approach of cognitive mapping – seeing them as tools to understand decision-making, resources capable of meaningful policy suggestions, and imagining how individuals’ maps could aggregate into a collective.

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European Summer Institute of Civic Studies, this August in Chernivtsi, Ukraine

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, from July, 31st to August, 12th 2017 (at the Chernivtsi Yuri-Fedkovych-University). The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is organized by a team from Tufts University (Prof. Peter Levine), the University of Maryland (Prof. Karol Soltan) and the University of Augsburg (Prof. Tetyana Kloubert).

The total number of participants will be limited to 20. Ukrainian scholars and practitioners are strongly encouraged to apply. We will also consider the applications from Germany, Belarus, Poland and Moldova. We are especially interested in applicants who have a long term interest in developing the civic potential of Ukraine and the region.
The working language of the Summer Institute will be English. Your mastery of the English language must be sufficient to read and understand complex texts from multiple disciplines, and to take part in a lively discussion.

Objectives and topics

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar bringing together advanced graduate students, faculty, and practitioners from diverse fields of study.

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies deals with issues of development of civil society, the role of an individual/citizen in society, the role of education in promoting democracy, the role of institutions in the development of a civil society and questions related to the ethical foundation of civic issues in a (democratic) society. These topics will be examined in international and comparative perspectives, considering European (especially German) and US-American civic traditions. International examples will be discussed in the context of consolidation of democracy in Eastern Europe, particularly in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova und Belarus.

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • What kinds of citizens (if any) do good regimes need?
  • What should such citizens know, believe, and do?
  • What practices and institutional structures promote the right kinds of citizen-ship
  • What ought to be the relationships among empirical evidence, ethics, and
    strategy?

Summer Institutes of Civic Studies were annually organized by Peter Levine and Karol So?tan at Tufts University since 2009. Read about the summer institutes.

How to apply

All application materials must be submitted in English. The application must include the following:

  • A cover letter telling us why you want to participate in the summer institute and what you would contribute (maximum 2 pages)
  • A curriculum vitae

All application material can be sent as an email attachment in DOC or PDF format to
tetyana.kloubert@phil.uni-augsburg.de.

Decisions will be announced before the end of May 2017. For best consideration apply by May 20, 2017.

Expenditures: Selected participants will be provided with accommodation, meals and full event access (in some urgent cases also with travel costs).

Contact: For more information about the Summer Institute of Civic Studies please contact tetyana.kloubert@phil.uni-augsburg.de

We encourage you to share this message with your networks of people who might be interested by the Summer Institute of Civic Studies.

“Expanding College Opportunity in Our Nation’s Prisons”

For more than five years now, “expanding college opportunity in [one of] our nation’s prisons” has been my part time job, and it’s been my full-time job for the past year, since the JCI Scholars Program partnered with the University of Baltimore to offer courses towards a Bachelor’s degree in Community Studies and Civic Engagement as a part of the US Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative.

I visited the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor last week to participate on a panel with this title. I learned a lot from my co-panelists Erin Castro and Fred Patrick, but each of us were asked to prepare answers to the questions below so I thought I’d share those answers here.

If you had to describe the current relationship between higher education and prisons in one phrase, what would it be?

“Low hanging fruit:” College in prisons is the easiest and most obvious of a host of criminal justice reforms that we absolutely must be making and for which there is bipartisan support. We incarcerate 2.3 million people in the US, at a rate more than seven times higher than the global average. We’re not seven times more violent or larcenous than the rest of the world–perhaps we are seven times more racist, but even that isn’t clear any longer–so we need to fix this over-incarceration crisis. But for the time being, educating the people we incarcerate is almost literally the least we can do.

There is an eternal tension in higher education between the liberal arts and practical arts. Prison education programs often face this same tension. Based on your experiences, how has this divide manifested in prison education programs? Are there certain curricula that tend to receive broader support? How has this influenced your own work?

In the background here is that we don’t stop punishing people when they are released from prison. We continue to subject returning citizens to legal discrimination in employment, merely because of their status as previously-incarcerated.

There’s certainly good evidence that starting one’s own business is a good way to avoid employment discrimination. But most small businesses fail, and returning citizens face problems with raising startup capital that are just as onerous as their problems finding a job. 

In general, you can think of entrepreneurship as evidence that the ordinary labor market is absorbing workers too slowly: there is not sufficient labor market absorption for those currently unemployed, so they must instead go out and start small businesses of their own, taking considerably more risk with high rates of failure. We have not found meaningful work for many men and women, and we’re not willing to suspend our biases, and so we ask them instead to make their own.

Still, even in that context I see the liberal arts degree as superior. I think the data suggest that even for people who want a vocation, a liberal arts degree is the best investment. I’m partial to the philosophy major, myself: employment prospects and pay are better for the modal philosophy major than for the modal business administration major, because the liberal arts are techniques for problem solving, clear communication, and understanding difficult texts and situations. To achieve that, students need to learn to read hard books and write long papers for demanding professors.

Of course, the liberal arts are also–literally–techniques for freedom and for free people. So they’ve got that going for them, too, which is nice.

What are some of the ways in which prisoner education programs help prisoners identify and pursue educational opportunities upon reentry?

In some sense I think colleges have mastered a lot of the fundamentals of reentry because they are already basically institutions of ENTRY: colleges are pretty good at taking high school students and turning them into workers, and they’re also pretty good at preparing people who are accustomed to being dependents to live more independent lives. 

Our program at the University of Baltimore was built from the ground up with the ideal of having students transition from inside to outside while finishing their degree. Thus they’ll be able to use what is already a good transitional space, the university, to help accomplish that other kind of transition: reentry and return.

The audience today is full of current and future educators that may be considering how they can get involved with a prison education program. As you reflect on your own experiences, are there moments that stand out to you as particularly informative for those in the audience?

I started teaching a philosophy class and ended up running a program. There’s tremendous unmet demand among those 2.3 million incarcerated men and women for a college education. Be patient and persistent, recognizing the work comes before your ego, and find and cultivate collaborators.

We also have a lot of people here interested in research and policies that can shape prison education programs. What are the types of research questions the next generation of researchers should consider?

The GED test was once an important distinction, but it was basically devalued because it came to be associated with returning citizens, which is why they decided to raise the standards (to make it much more difficult and specifically to lower the pass rate) in 2014. Will something similar happen with our programs? Can we prevent that? 

Another important question has to do with selection effects. How much are we just finding the men and women who would have gone to university, if we didn’t live in a mass incarceration society? How much are we actually changing lives, adding value,” or changing the course of these men’s lives?

There’s very good reason–as Erin Castro reminded us during the panel–to look past the recidivism question: “We don’t evaluate a University of Michigan degree based on how likely its graduates are to later become incarcerated.” And while I do think that the recidivism statistics are awesome trump cards for the public policy debate, I would like to see my own program evaluated on other metrics, like student satisfaction, just as programs on the outside are evaluated.

Given the change in administration, should we be concerned about the future of the Second Chance Pell pilot program?

Of course we should be concerned! Yet Betsy DeVos has not, to my knowledge, commented on the Second Chance Pell experiment. It’s notable that she is also primarily devoted to school choice in K-12, which is literally modeled on Pell, a grant program that supplies school choice for higher education.

If this becomes a partisan issue, I don’t expect it to survive. But I’d like to think it won’t become partisan, that there’s still enough bipartisan support for this because it’s such low-hanging fruit, because the evidence makes it common-sense. If you’re committed to small government, you like prison education. If you’re committed to social justice, you like prison education. What else can you think of that the Koch brothers agree with George Soros about?

Computational Models of Belief Systems & Cultural Systems

Work on belief systems is similar to the research on cultural systems – both use agent-based models to explore how complex systems evolve given a simple set of actor rules and interactions – there are important conceptual differences between the two lines of work.

Research on cultural systems takes a maco-level approach, seeking to explain if, when, and how, distinctive communities of similar traits emerge, while research on belief systems uses comparable methods to understand if, when, and how distinctive individuals come to agree on a given point.

The difference between these approaches is subtle but notable. The cultural systems approach begins with the observation that distinctive cultures do exist, despite local tendencies for convergence, while research on belief systems begins from the observation that groups of people are capable of working together, despite heterogeneous opinions and interests.

In his foundational work on cultural systems, Axelrod begins, “despite tendencies towards convergence, differences between individuals and groups continue to exist in beliefs, attitudes, and behavior” (Axelrod, 1997).

Compare this to how DeGroot begins his exploration of belief systems: “consider a group of individuals who must act together as a team or committee, and suppose that each individual in the group has his own subjective probability distribution for the unknown value of some parameter. A model is presented which describes how the group might reach agreement on a common subjective probability distribution parameter by pooling their individual opinions” (DeGroot, 1974).

In other words, while cultural models seek to explain the presence of homophily and other system-level traits, belief systems more properly seek to capture deliberative exchange. The important methodological difference here is that cultural systems model agent change as function of similarity, while belief systems model agent change as a process of reasoning.

 

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Join NCDD Confab on Non-Hierarchical Orgs with Loomio, May 4th

We are excited to invite the NCDD network to register to join us for our next Confab Call on Thursday, May 4th from 3-4pm Eastern/12-1pm Pacific. This one-hour webinar event will feature a conversation with staff of Loomio, a collaborative online decision making tool and a worker-owned cooperative based in New Zealand.

Some of you may remember that NCDD hosted a Tech Tuesday webinar on Loomio a couple years ago where we showcased the features of Loomio’s decision making tool. But during this Confab, the discussion will focus on Loomio’s organizational dynamics, philosophy, and what lessons the dialogue and deliberation field can learn from – and offer to – non-hierarchical cooperatives like theirs.

Loomio is part of Enspiral – a global network that is also a lab for new ways distributed innovators can collaborate. Their team recognizes that there’s a need and opportunity for new ways of working for diverse groups to become more nimble, creative and productive. Loomio recently made an open source handbook that teaches others to use their cooperative work processes, and a few of their staff have been on a US tour this month to host discussions with different organizations who want to share and reflect on “the challenges and delights of non-hierarchical, inclusive, intersectional, collaborative, horizontal organising.” We are inviting Loomio to share and reflect with the NCDD network as a “virtual stop” on their tour, and we hope you will join us!

We will be joined on the Confab by Rich Bartlett, one of the co-founders of both Loomio and Enspiral, and NCDD member MJ Kaplan, also a Loomio co-founder and social innovator in her own right. Rich and MJ will help us learn more about the unconventional, non-hierarchical approaches that their networks apply to shared work and collaborative workplaces, and engage in dialogue with participants about how these approaches apply to, intersect with, and diverge from the work of the D&D field.

You won’t want to miss this great discussion, so to register today to be part of it!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk withand hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

About Our Guests

Rich Bartlett is co-founder and Director of Autonomy at Loomio, as well asa software developer, activist, and open source hardware hacker. He is also a co-founder of the Enspiral Network, a “DIY” social enterprise support network of companies and professionals brought together by a set of shared values and a passion for positive social impact. Rich believes in the boundless potential of small self-organising groups to reshape society in a way that works for the planet.

MJ Kaplan is a social entrepreneur and consultant who weaves across sectors and industries to enable groups to align purpose and operationalize innovative collaborative practices. She splits her time working with Loomio, Kaplan Consulting, teaching/coaching at Brown University and serving on Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Commerce RI boards. She founded Kaplan Consulting in 2000, a networked consulting group that works globally with groups to gain clarity about shared purpose and to design innovative approaches to work that are deeply human-centered, agile and adaptive. In 2013, MJ was Ian Axford Fulbright Fellow in New Zealand. MJ was awarded the Cordes Innovation Fellowship by Ashoka U and honored as The Outstanding Mentor for RI Business Women Awards. MJ earned her M.Ed. from Harvard University and B.A. Brown University.

Habermas, Ostrom, Gandhi (II)

(Santa Monica, CA) On Monday, I posted an argument that three traditions of theory and practice provide what we need for a civic theory, which is a theory of what we should do. It is different from a political theory that asks what should be done or how things should be.

I can elaborate by suggesting what it would mean to put the three traditions together, using each to compensate for the limitations of the others.

We might begin with a classic situation for the Bloomington School: a group of people is trying to manage a common-pool resource, which may be as traditional and tangible as a fishery or as current and abstract as protocols for the Internet. They should consider the whole list of design principles enumerated by Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues, including clear boundaries, graduated sanctions, shared monitoring, rules congruent with the context, and efficient mechanisms for conflict-resolution.

However, inspired by Habermas, we will elevate one design principle above the rest–participation–and will define it to be basically synonymous with public deliberation. People should deliberate about which of the other principles to employ, and how. This is because deliberation is our best mechanism for deciding what is right and wrong. Further, talking and listening with other people about public matters is an important aspect of the good life for human beings; it enriches our inner lives. While deliberating, people should strive for an ideal speech situation, one that is devoid of coercion and constraint, so that the only power is the power of the best argument.

Now the theory is beginning to sound fully Habermasian, but the Bloomington School puts deliberation in an essential context. After all, it is easier not to attend a discussion in the first place and let others do the work of governance. Thus the very existence of a discussion implies at least a partial prior solution to a free-rider problem. What’s more, the fact that the group has something to manage implies that they have already done some work together. To be sure, they may have taken the resource that they govern from others or exploited others’ labor. The founders of the United States, for example, governed a commonwealth that had been seized from indigenous nations and enriched by enslaved people’s labor. This was fundamentally unjust and evil. Nevertheless, it had taken common action to achieve this dominance; the colonists had to form local governments, create and enroll in militias, and sustain the Continental Army that wrested control from the British Crown. The general point is that a group that is in a position to govern a resource has usually managed to coordinate its members’ work already. Discussion rarely precedes governance; it is more typically a moment in an ongoing process of governance.

Moreover, the norms that allow groups to approach an ideal speech situation–norms like civility, reasonable trust, and openness–are fragile common resources that groups must build and sustain. Almost all real discussions are imperfect, by these criteria: some people are missing because they chose to free-ride, some participants undermine civility and trust in the way they talk, and time usually runs out before consensus can be reached, necessitating a vote. Thus the degree to which groups meet the Habermasian ideal of reasonable discourse depends on how well they have addressed core collective-action problems.

And not everything can be thrown open to discussion. The Bloomington School advises that boundaries must be clear and rules must be congruent with local circumstances and traditions in order for people to coordinate. In theory, boundaries and traditions could be freely discussed. Citizens could deliberate about who should be included in the group and what norms they should hold dear. But since a discussion already requires a reasonably functional group, and forming a group requires boundaries and congruence with local traditions, it is not literally possible to start from a neutral place. Instead, a group with some kind of boundary and set of traditions can consider modifying them in the interests of justice or practicality. They can rebuild their ship at sea, but they cannot start from scratch. The group comes first; then the discussion.

Although moments of explicit deliberation have special normative value, they need not be frequent. Ostrom analyzes a water management regime near Valencia, Spain, that was last deliberated almost six centuries ago and still functions today. Discourse should not be allowed to overshadow other kinds of contribution to the commons; people also contribute with their emotions, their labor, and their bodies.

In this combination of Habermas plus Ostrom, we have the nucleus of a satisfactory theory, but it doesn’t tell us what to do when some other group feels itself fundamentally different and sees no obligation to join a deliberation or share resources fairly. That is when we need the distinctive contributions of nonviolent social movements.They can force changes in the underlying rules and norms that govern a situation. They can force people to deliberate and to cooperate.

However, nonviolent social movements need insights from the schools of Habermas and of Ostrom, for three important reasons.

First, not every nonviolent social movement has desirable or worthy ends. The only way for human beings to test and reconsider whether their own values are worthy is to deliberate with people who do not agree with them (see Habermas).

Second a successful social movement requires people to coordinate their sacrifices, and that happens only when they already belong to, or can create, functional self-governing entities (see Ostrom).

Finally, a social movement cannot move forever. It must pursue a relatively stable or even permanent outcome as its objective. Participants in the Civil Rights Movement did not imagine that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would remove racism from the United States, but they pursued that legislation as a meaningful target during the early 1960s. An objective such as the Civil Rights Act should incorporate good institutional design (see Ostrom) and should allow or even require ongoing deliberation (see Habermas).

This does not mean that citizens are only fully active and responsible when they’re participating in a nonviolent social movement that urges a reform like the Voting Rights Act. But that example does bring out the main dimensions of citizenship, which can be combined in many other ways.