The Mayans Wrote Books, Too

The manuscript itself is a map of linguistic evolution. Four different languages are represented. It would be only natural to find Latin and Spanish. But two native tongues of the Mayan Empire, K’iche’ and Kaqchikel, are also part of this written record…The existence of this language into the modern age is a testament to a people who vehemently resisted the Catholic Church’s attempts to convert them and the efforts of Europeans to assimilate them.

Source: The Mayans Wrote Books, Too

Great post about the political meaning of the Libro de Sermones Varios en Lengua Quiche (1690).  It’s the oldest manuscript in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives, and has been recently digitized (for more on the book, see the links in the post).  For more information on Mayan culture in general, see WorldView Software’s World History A, Chapter 12 Pre-Columbian Latin America.

Next Generation Civics Education

As Americans gear up to celebrate the 4th of July, we face some unsettling questions about the state of our polity.  One of the most interesting is: What should the next generation of civics education look like?   A recent essay series at The Atlantic offers some ideas about how we can prepare future generations for public participation in a democracy, in particular a democracy that exists in an era of rapid technological change.  This post discusses some of their ideas, and how they can be implemented in the classroom using WorldView Software’s Civics program.In the introduction to the series, Adrienne LaFrance, Irina Raicu, and Eric Goldman write:

Everyone who participated in this series believes there is hope yet—for democracy, and for the institutions that support it. They also believe that technology can help, though it will take time and money to make it so. Democracy can still thrive in this uncertain age, they argue, but not without deliberate and immediate action from the people who believe it is worth protecting.

Debbie Chachra, a professor at Olin College of Engineering, writes in Gratitude for Invisible Systems about the complexity of the systems that undergird modern life, and the need for raising awareness of how systems both physical and regulatory work to fulfill the bottom layers of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; to keep us safe, fed, and housed as well as informed and connected:

When we think about caring for our neighbors, we think about local churches, and charities—systems embedded in our communities. But I see these technological systems [infrastructure] as one of the main ways that we take care of each other at scale…If I were to make a suggestion for how technology could be used to improve our democracy, I would want to make these systems more visible, understandable, and valued by the general public.

Any course of study in civics has to study how national institutions such as the constellation of bureaucracies work, but also how non-government linking institutions such as the media and political parties work.  All of these institutions are complex creatures, worthy of lifetimes devoted to their study.  But a good outline, such as in WorldView Software’s Civics program — with chapters on each national institution — is a good place to start.

Alexander B. Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, makes the point in Protecting the Public Commons that civics education is inherently about active participation:

Every member of civil society and institution has a role in informing communities about how government works. A core component of a high school education should include teaching people how to judge risk, statistical literacy, and how to exercise our rights to access public information.

WorldView’s Civics starts students on the right path with projects requiring students to track down public data, and case studies demonstrating the kind of risks that are easiest to personalize, such as insurance, fraud, and consumer rights.screen capture of civics title page

Finally, in the essay Lessons From Isaac Asimov’s Multivac, Shannon Vallor, a professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University writes that

Technology’s threat to democracy is not, at its root, that of poorly designed systems (though certainly design improvements can be made). The real threat is when technical progress is relied upon as a substitute for moral progress in cultivating the civic virtues, norms, and values that sustain functional democracies.

A related point is made over at The Scholarly Kitchen, where blogger Kent Anderson draws our attention to the algorithms that impact both what information is aggregated and what information we receive.  Filter bubbles are just part of that picture, possibly even worse is the way algorithms act and interact:

…we have helped to create an information space that is controlled in ways we can only guess at. Algorithms that even their creators don’t fully understand are increasingly exerting control over what we know and believe to be true.

Vallor recommends that platforms such as social media stop assuming users possess civic virtues such as “integrity, courage, empathy, perspective, benevolence, and respect for truth” and start trying to cultivate them. Anderson warns us to be careful there as well: reasserting a human moral compass may require some version of Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” updated for algorithms.

Educators can encourage the growth of these traits as well: WorldView’s Civics program has a theme called “Participating in Public Life” which gathers together materials (overview sections, art images, projects, etc.) that illustrate and/or require students to demonstrate civic virtues through active participation in politics and government, whether local or national, virtual or in-real-life.

BulbgraphOnOffUse the outline page in guided essays to spark in-class discussion on using supporting evidence. Click on “Hint” for ideas.

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Data Visualization

The featured image is an example of first-rate data visualization. It depicts the totality of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with a column for the number of people who embarked in a given year, and a column for the number of people who disembarked.  Not only is it clear and easy to read, but the use of a lighter color to denote “embarked” vs. a darker color for “disembarked” means that the difference — those who died during the Middle Passage — looks ghostly.

The graph is part of an interactive timeline from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.  The database is an incredible compendium of information from shipping manifests, logs, and so on for over 27,000 voyages.

Learn more about the trans-Atlantic slave trade in WorldView Software’s World History A, particularly Chapter 20: The Age of New World Exploration, and Internet Project: Triangular Trade.

BulbgraphOnOffGuided essays lead students step-by-step through the essay writing process, from selecting the main idea to writing the conclusion.

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PROGRAM UPDATE: Judicial Decision-Making

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has new resources for learning more about how judges and justices makes decisions.

The overview of Chapter 11: The Judiciary contains a new discussion of the doctrine of originalism, along with ancillary factual and conceptual questions and glossary terms that support learning and assessment:

Screenshot of Chapter 11: The Judiciary
Screenshot of new factual question

BulbgraphOnOffUse a video capture tool like Recap for formative assessment: have students describe the readings in their own words, using the Questions for Thought as prompts.

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PROGRAM UPDATE: Presidential Powers

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has new resources for learning more about the president of the United States.

Chapter 9: The Presidency has a new image with introduction and questions called Graph: Executive Orders, which shows the use of these orders in comparison by president from FDR through Obama:

Screenshot of Graph: Executive Orders

Chapter 9: The Presidency also has an updated overview and revised conceptual questions that reflect President Trump’s use of social media, and new glossary terms (which are linked from their context in the overview).

Screenshot of Chapter 9: The Presidency overview showing linked terms that are defined in the glossary.

BulbgraphOnOffUse our databank of study questions in a polling service such as in Google Classroom to do quick mid-stream assessments.

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PROGRAM UPDATE: Evaluating Fake News

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has resources for learning about how to distinguish real news from fake.

Chapter 5: The Media overview section “Newer Media” has been updated to discuss the propaganda phenomenon, with corresponding factual and conceptual questions for assessment as well as additional vocabulary terms in the glossary.

Screenshot of the updated Chapter 5: The Media.

And that’s not all!  The Tutorial: Social Media has been updated to include information on how to evaluate news articles, including the handy flowchart from the Featured Image for instant appraisal (this updated tutorial is also available in American History II: Reconstruction to the Present).

Finally, the Graph: Primary Sources of News has been updated to show how online news sources overtook other mediums:

Screenshot of the updated Graph: Primary Sources of News

BulbgraphOnOffArt images can be used to discuss the differences between visual and textual sources.

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Spring Equinox

The March equinox is when the days and nights are of equal length as the days get longer and the nights get shorter in the northern hemisphere and vice versa in the southern hemisphere.  This change in the angle of the sun is the result of the earth’s orbit, which causes its tilting axis to point in a different direction.  And it means that spring is starting in the northern hemisphere and fall is starting in the southern hemisphere.  In 2017, the vernal equinox falls on Monday, March 20th.

Learn more about how the earth’s orbit and axis tilt work in WorldView Software’s World Geography Chapter 2: The Earth.  For example, you can use this graphic (with introduction and questions) to spark class discussion, or as a starting point for a demonstration:

Screen grab from World Geography

The equinoxes (like the solstices) are events that have huge impacts on life on earth (think: growing food).  And given that importance, they’ve had a tremendous impact on the development of methods to keep track of and predict their occurrence: mathematics.  For example, it’s thought that Stonehenge’s purpose is tracking solar and lunar movements:

Screen grab from World History A

WorldView Software’s World History A also has a terrific series of tutorials explaining how mathematics based on observance of astronomical phenomena developed in different civilizations:

  • Ancient Chinese Science, Technology, and Mathematics
  • Ancient Indian Science and Mathematics
  • Greek Accomplishments in Science, Technology, and Mathematics
  • Math and Technology in the River Valley Civilizations
  • Science, Mathematics, and Technology in the Islamic Caliphates
  • Technical Trends in Pre-Columbian Latin America

Use the equinox as a springboard into history!

BulbgraphOnOffUse the chronology entries to gain context for an event or an era, or as a starting point for further research.

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