Michael G. Sheppard

5 Civic Media Organizations Teaching The Value of The Youth Vote

Michael G. SheppardThe electorate and their voters are absolute cornerstones of democracy. The formal action, whereby the public selects a choice between two or more candidates is a powerful tool that can be used to grant liberty, justice, and freedom.

It’s so important that young people have an awareness of what a vote can do. The onus may be on parents and teachers to teach these things, but some organizations do this as well. Read on to learn the names of some of these organizations:

MassVOTE | MassVOTE promotes active political participation, builds civic coalitions, and eases access to the electoral process, making registration and votes more accessible.

Voto Latino | Voto Latino is a pioneering organization focused on civic media.They’re mainly driven to offer innovative digital campaigns that empower Latino youth. They host 200+ local events each year, and they have volunteers available across 25 college campuses. They’ve identified that there are 27.3 million eligible Latino voters, comprising 11.9 percent of all eligible voters.

Rock the Vote | Rock the Vote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that’s missioned to “to engage and build the political power of young people.” The organization speaks to the political power of young people. For nearly three full decades, Rock the Vote is one of the first organizations to use technology, pop culture, art, music and more to push young people to utilize their collective political power to create change. They register voters online, in community centers, and on campuses, granting access to democracy. They’ve raised awareness for important issues and pioneer innovative ways to register others.

Project Vote | Project Vote’s mission is to build an electorate, which speaks to America’s diverse citizenship. They help eligible citizens to register, vote, and cast a ballot. They use advocacy, technical assistance, and litigation to enable their goals.

Vote Smart | Vote Smart advertises “free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans.” Since 1988, the nonpartisan organization has helped with voter registration, provided insight on political issues, offered a calendar of important election dates, and offered full list offices and government officials.

What are the names of some other organizations that work to educate the public and get them to vote?

from Michael G. Sheppard


Online Constitutional Law Courses through Coursera and MOOCs for FREE

Michael G. SheppardDid you know you could be taking free online Constitutional law courses through Coursera and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), hosted by top colleges and universities?

Constitutional interpretation, analysis, and learning concepts may sound tedious or may look like expensive subjects to explore. However, there are some online classes available, each effectively able to share insight on the federal, legislative, and judicial branches of government, as well as power allocated to the states.

Introduction to Key Constitutional Concepts and Supreme Court Cases | The introductory course provides an understanding of U.S. Constitution and landmark Supreme Court cases. Not only does this course discuss the Constitution’s beginnings, but also changes to it over the years. They browse the structure of individual rights and the federal government. The course additionally explores amendments, the Bill of Rights, Reconstruction, and the Progressive-era Amendments. Hitting on speech, religion, and clauses are done expertly in this course. The syllabus highlights three branches of government, the first amendment, criminal procedure, and modern controversies. The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution, heads this online course.

A Law Student’s Toolkit | Both, advanced law students and as well as those simply interested in constitutional ideas would enjoy this course. The course introduces the public to key terminology, economics, and concepts. Each lesson provides students with the fundamental frameworks of legal procedure and legal analysis. Yale University heads this online course

An Introduction to American Law | The University of Pennsylvania offers the free course, providing a glimpse into six different areas of American law: Tort Law, Contract Law, Property, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Civil Procedure. Many incredible Penn Law professors teach the online course, addressing the unique complexities and applications of the law.

There are many other courses that one might want to consider to understand a bit more about the construction, the shaping, and implementation of the constitution, including:

Chemerinsky on Constitutional Law – The Structure of Government. If you know of any other courses, please be sure to share!


from Michael G. Sheppard

Maryland’s Lawyers Lead The Nation with The Number of Pro Bono Hours Offered

Michael G. SheppardAccording to the American Bar Association Center of Pro Bono, the state of Maryland boasts one of the greatest rates of pro bono activity in the nation.


Lawyers donated approximately 1,150,205 hours of volunteer or pro bono legal services; spending that hour aiding the state’s less fortunate population. The Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, 2016 report was recently submitted to Maryland Court of Appeals.


More than half of all lawyers practicing law full-time in Maryland (53 percent) helped vulnerable populations or those with limited means. This means that countless individuals benefited from free or substantially reduced-fee legal services.


Since 2002, Maryland lawyers have been required to report pro bono legal service hours to the state’s highest court each year. The 2016 report show that lawyers who offered pro-bono services offered anywhere from 10 to more than 50 hours of free legal work. Through polls, it was shown that the longer attorneys practiced, the more likely they were to volunteer their services.


Also, the report showed that small firms and solo practitioners are more likely to donate their time and skills than those from midsize and large firms. There’s a high percentage involvement of those who lend help directly to those who have very little, giving help to non-profits, and adding clients with civil rights matters.

Legal service assistance can help to empower local communities. Lawyers who financially support and active volunteer is vital. Unfortunately, specialties don’t’ always align with needs in a particular area, such as consumer law, housing law, family law, and public benefits.


Judiciary’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service and Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC) collaborate to make volunteer opportunities more accessible for lawyers throughout the state of lawyers.


Lawyers who’d like to know more about pro bono work can contact PBRC at Lawyers based in Tennessee who’d like to know more about pro bono work can contact the Tennessee Bar Association.


from Mike Sheppard

Low-income, Underserved, & Veterans Gain Educational Opportunities in Seattle

Low-income, Underserved, & Veterans Gain Educational Opportunities in Seattle | Michael G. SheppardLow-income individuals, the underserved, and veterans in Seattle now have access to many more enriching opportunities.

Seattle, Washington’s South Seattle College recently opened the Education Opportunity Center (EOC). The development of the program is an example of efforts being made across the board to better the circumstances of those who served, as well those requiring assistance to become better servants to their community.

Our nation’s veterans require support after they’ve faced countless assaults on the battlefield and personal challenges on the home front, whether it being isolation, trauma, or illness. Likewise, low-income individuals and first-time college students require opportunities, such as those offered to those who’ve recently departed from military culture, due to economic strife and lack of access.  

A small staff has been assembled to assist those positioned to benefit from the federally funded education support program. The staff can work with students, helping them with career guidance, financial aid, and registration, and they can also connect participants with invaluable resources. The EOC, which falls under the purview of a federal program known as TRiO,  is designed to remove barriers experienced by disadvantaged individuals and veterans transitioning back to civilian life.

Please visit read the rest of this blog post. 

from Mike Sheppard

The Polk Foundation Launches The Tennessee Star Constitution Project Featuring September 23 Constitution Bee for Students

FRANKLIN, Tennessee – The Polk Foundation today announced the launch of their initiative to teach secondary school students the cornerstones of American liberty: the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and all the amendments.

Dubbed The Tennessee Star Constitution Project, the effort includes:

  1. The publication and free distribution of an original book, The Tennessee Star Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students to teachers and secondary school students anywhere in the state who sign up to participate in the 2017-2018 academic year Pilot Project for use as supplementary material for eighth grade Social Studies, high school U.S. Government and Civics, American History, and political elective classes.
  2. The development and distribution of support materials based on the popular Constitution Series by The Tennessee Star for teachers, students, and adult volunteers.
  3. Training on its implementation in the classroom by teachers and in review sessions by adult volunteers.
  4. The first-of-its-kind Constitution Bee for Tennessee secondary school students, to be held in Pleasant View on September 23.

Details about the unique project – including two full chapters of the book – are available for review at the Polk Foundation website:

“For years, educators have struggled to fulfill curriculum requirements to teach our founding documents,” said Mike Sheppard, president of the Polk Foundation. “Often, teachers resort to a patchwork of texts – a solution that is not only costly, but it is also inconsistent, resulting in an unbalanced presentation of the material.”

Secondary school students from across the state are invited to sign up for the September 23 Constitution Bee, which will be held at Sycamore High School, located at 1021 Old Clarksville Pike in Pleasant View, Tennessee from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. here at the Polk Foundation website:

“We selected September 23 as the date for the first ever Constitution Bee in Tennessee because it’s Constitution Week—September 17 marks the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in Philadelphia,” Sheppard said.

More details about the event, which will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, including the format for the competition, and the prize for the winners, will be announced in the coming weeks.

As part of the Pilot Project, any teacher in the state who asks will receive 25 to 50 copies of The Tennessee Star Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students for free.


Please visit Tennessee Star to read on. 

from Mike Sheppard

4 Ways E-Learning Emboldens Learners, Educates Beyond the Classroom

Education and the nature of learning have changed thanks to new technology. What was once systematic instruction within the four walls of an educational institution has becomes so much more. Education and the facilitation of education does a bit more than explore values, beliefs, knowledge, and habits, it embraces numerous methods, including research, training, and discussion.

Guided learners begin their journey as preschoolers or kindergarteners, and they go on to primary school, secondary school, college, and university. In today’s world, education doesn’t stop there. Continued education is compulsory and often required to compete in today’s competitive workforce.

All this is to say that education has moved beyond the classroom. The future of education isn’t exclusively written on chalkboards, but on the screens watched by millions of millions of young students who move in and out of classrooms each day. To facilitate this transition are a few important applications and tools, which help both students and teachers to understand that e-learning is here and where it’s headed

Data Tracking: For a very long time, the best measure of success for a student was testing and grades. However, it’s become more crucial to track students as they excel and struggle. Likewise, it’s necessary to document how students spend their time, how they learn, and how they interact. Those interested in e-learning understand the importance of dissecting how learners digest new information and how they identify their problem areas.

Mobile Learning: Young people are always on the go, and often you’ll find they have their phones or handheld devices in the palms as they venture through the world. A great way to ensure that they keep learning and keep engaging is to take advantage of the fact that mobile usage is continuously on the rise. It’s a prime medium for delivering learning materials. This small, readable screen is perfect for sharing digestible and shareable bits of information. Infographics, quotes, photos, and short passages feed the need for brevity while continuing to supply valuable knowledge to interested students.

Personalization: E-learning’s most brilliant feature is its ability to provide customizable student-focused curriculum and courses. Students respond to customizable products. The more customizable, the better for students. The data that’s collected after a student has taken control of their own education provides educators with a real-time understanding of what contributes to a student’s successes, struggles, failures, and other experiences with learning.

Educational Entertainment: Edutainment isn’t exactly new. It arrived in homes and classrooms more than three decades ago in the form of ‘Carmen Sandiego’. Actually, it dates back as far back as the 1940s with ‘Private Snafu’. In recent times, it’s been further developed to better benefit students through aesthetic appeal and various context. Gamification helps to motivate children, setting achievable goals through active learning and engagement. According to ‘Cone of Experience,’ just 10 percent of learners remember what they read, just 20 percent remember what they hear, and just 30 percent will remember what they say and hear. However, an incredible 90 percent will remember a task that they’ve done themselves –this being the case even when a simulation is concerned.

Automation, big data, augmented learning, clouds, gamification, m-learning, and personalization are among the numerous trends that enhance education in traditional and nontraditional classrooms. Teachers will use these tool to incorporate technology and better improve the methodologies for teaching students in a digital age.

from Mike Sheppard

The Benefits of Embracing Personalized Educational Philosophies

The Benefits of Embracing Personalized Educational PhilosophiesCanyon Lake Elementary, a public school located in Rapid City, South Dakota, is always looking to adjust to the times.

Since the 1980s, the institution has embraced technology and forward-thinking systems, thus the delivery of education to their students has ongoingly changed, drastically. Most recently, Canyon Lake Elementary will be first to adopt the educational philosophy, Mass Customized Learning (MCL) or Personalized Learning.

MCL is an information age learning-based system, which endeavors to connect students with experts from around the world. Contrarily, most public schools within the U.S. utilize the antiquated Industrial Age model, where teachers focus on a particular subject, classroom, or schedule. The newer model offers children choices. They have a decided role in the what they will learn, and they’re able to choose from a catalog of options, with regards to group size, collaboration, and independent, innovative technology.

Canyon Lake Elementary received a $90,000 grant to launch the pilot program. The new teaching method will be able to curate a personalized “playlist” of learning experiences while being supported by teachers. The grant will fund new learning tools, teacher training and development, and access to virtual education, which all goes to create customizable learning spaces that will beneficial to students.

Each member of the staff participates in implementing the MCL program, which is expected to be a reality for all students at Canyon Lake Elementary by the end of 2018. It’s expected that other schools in the district will adopt MCL programming. MCL caters to highly diverse students with learning needs that are equally diverse. According to Education Dive, “it typically focuses on pedagogical opportunities and technologies that modularize, tailor, and pace learning experiences at scale within and across student cohorts. Personalized learning, therefore, contrasts sharply with traditional “one-size-fits-all,” “sink-or-swim” approaches, which often fail to reflect individual student needs.”

The concept of MCL was developed through the understanding that the industrial age learning method yields an assembly line education, rather than a universal notion of the information age, where students can learn anything, from anyone, from anyone, from any time. In a world where coffee and home pages can be customizable, many believe that customizable learning can present information to children in a way that’s desirable. More than that MCL is said to meet children at his or her learning level, granting students relevant skills and concepts and providing opportunities through technology that enables educational success.

If you’re interested in learning more about personalized learning, consider reaching out to schools that implemented the educational style in their classrooms, and seek out presents who offer a variety of information on the benefits of blended and personalized education. While some worry that the transition will be a difficult one, others realize that adopting MCL requires that you embrace the idea of not knowing, co-design educational experiences with students, cultivate early innovators, communicate an open door policy, rethink traditional roles, and make time seek out creative ways for adopting new tools and new techniques.

Check out the report published by the Clayton Christensen Institute, “From the Frontlines: Takeaways from the 2016 Blended and Personalized Learning Conference.”

from Mike Sheppard

A Millennial’s Take on Emerging Higher Education Policy Issues in the 21st Century

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences presents:
“A Millennial’s Take on Emerging Higher Education Policy Issues in the 21st Century”
Zakiya W. Smith, Strategy Director, Lumina Foundation. In her presentation, she discusses the overarching problems found within education and various possible solutions that can help alleviate the success of our future leaders for tomorrow.

Sir Ken Robinson- The Role of Policy in Education

Sir Ken Robinson discusses the importance and value of education. He highlights the objective of education policy and its role in creating and establishing innovation.

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