This fall semester, my dad and I will once again be teaching the course, Education for International Development. Each semester teaching this course (and this is our third), we are trying to find new ways to better engage the students with the subject, explore new teaching methods, and experiment with new online learning platforms.
In past semesters we have used the social networking service, Ning, which served our purposes pretty well, especially since it creates a Facebook type experience with which most students are familiar. However, Ning got rid of its free service, so we decided to use a different online platform to host our course discussions and materials and we chose wordpress. Check out the class website to see how we set it up.
This week I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation at the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship on Democracy and Development program at Stanford University. Every year, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict gives a series of presentations looking at the role of nonviolent conflict and civil resistance in mobilizing civil society to establish democratic self-rule, strengthen democratic institutions, and hold governments accountable. I was joined by two of my colleagues at ICNC – Dr. Peter Ackerman (Founder) and Hardy Merriman (Senior Advisor).
My presentation looked at a new, teaching and strategic planning tool ICNC has designed in partnership with York/Zimmerman, INC. People Power: The Game of Civil Resistance is a serious, turn-based, strategy game that engages the user in the mental contest of organizing and waging a nonviolent movement.
Each year, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict holds a week long course on nonviolent conflict and civil resistance at the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Participants come from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds. This year we had participants from 5 continents, 25 countries, speaking 18 different languages, and professionals and/or organizers involved in various nonviolent struggles around the globe in places like West Papua, Palestine, Egypt, Nepal, India, Burma, Russia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mexico, and several other places.
I attended the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) last year, but only for a couple days, so it was a real treat to be able to experience the program in its entirety. Also, being a staff member this year, as opposed to an observer last year, I had a lot more responsibility in helping develop, organize, plan, and facilitate the institute (during the week of the Institute, I put in 96 hours of work!).
This past week I spent three days in Atlanta, GA meeting and working with scholars, academics, and educators interested in teaching courses on civil resistance.
ICNC put together a two day workshop on the study and teaching of civil resistance with the input of some of the world’s top scholars in the field. Dr. Kurt Schock from Rutgers University presented his research on civil resistance movements for land reform in countries like India and Brazil. Dr. Cynthia Boaz from Sonoma State University presented on the role of women in civil resistance movements and looked specifically at the women’s movement in Iran among other struggles. Tom Hastings from Portland State University and blogger presented on the historiography of teaching and pedagogy of civil resistance. Howard Clark, Chair of War Resisters International, presented on the conceptual foundations of disobedience and protest. Stephen Zunes from San Fransisco University presented on current issues and controversies associated with civil resistance and looked at several cases, past and present, and some of the lessons learned from studying these movements. And Les Kurtz from George Mason University presented on various ways educators could structure syllabi for courses on civil resistance.
Today I delivered a presentation at my Alma Mater, Middlebury College. The presentation was titled, “The Digital Duel: Resistance and Repression in an Online World.” It looked at the role of digital tools and social media in aiding and advancing nonviolent struggles around the world in places like Egypt, Colombia, Iran, Burma, and Ukraine. It also looked at how repressive governments are finding their own ways to clamp down on the use of these tools.
I was invited to speak by the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, the Geography Department, and a former professor of mine, Guntram Herb. The whole experience was very cool because I actually took Guntram Herb’s Geography of Peace class back in 2002 when I was an undergrad. It was in that class where I first read the book, A Force More Powerful, which chronicles this history of nonviolent struggles throughout the 20th century looking at movements like the Danish resistance of the Nazis during WWII, India’s Independence Movement, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, and several others. That class, and that book more specifically, introduced me to the strategic elements of nonviolent action as a way to affect political and social change. The book was written by Jack DuVall and Peter Ackerman, who are the two gentleman that founded the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, where I now work. So, to go back to Middlebury to speak with students who are in Guntram Herb’s class and talk about the importance of the subject and how it inspired me to work in this field was amazing on a number of different levels.
Prior to the presentation I conducted some person-on-the-street interviews asking students for their thoughts on how they view digital tools and social media impacting social and political change. The whole exercise was designed to not only promote my presentation, but also demonstrate how easy it is to create and self-publish your own work, spread it through different networks online, and solicit increased participation from people in generating conversation about a particular topic. The video was shot using a Flip video camera and edited on iMovie.
Today, ICNC launched a brand new website.
When I came on board with ICNC in July 2009, one of my primary responsibilities was to help them finalize the development of a new website and get it launched. The site was built on the open source content management system (CMS), Joomla. In the process of putting this site together I learned a lot about this CMS and the thousands of extensions available for Joomla that can add to the functionality of the site. Joomla is a real testament to the innovation the is generated using open-source platforms and software.
Today I agreed to serve on the advisory board of a great, new organization, the Institute for Technology and Social Change.
In this capacity I will assist an excellent team of social and technological entrepreneurs in developing online classes designed to train people in the use of digital tools, online applications, and social media to advance and enhance work in the field around issues of human rights, peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and disaster relief.
Leading up to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Fair Elections Now Act, Common Cause wanted to spread the word about why the bill was important and why people have been working so hard to get it passed.
I made a short video highlighting some of the folks who have been working on passing the legislation. This video was shot on a Sony mini DV handicam and edited on Windows Moviemaker. Take a look.
As we approach one of the most historic elections in American history, it is essential that voters across the country – particularly first-time voters – are aware of the rights, procedures, and responsibilities that come with voting.
One of the major campaigns I am leading at Common Cause is our Protect the Student Vote campaign, which is designed to educated student voters about how and when they can register, where their polling places are located, during what hours are the polling places open in their state, and what to do if they feel they have been illegally barred from voting.
Watch the short promotional video I made during my road trip. This short video was shot on a Sony mini DV camera and editing on Windows Moviemaker.