Digital Equity is the Right to Learn

Embrace the controversy. That’s the plan David Bobb, President of the Bill of Rights Institute, takes in this episode. From the death of the textbook to the systematic failure of higher education to the circus that is this election season, David decidedly goes there.

David joined the Bill of Rights Institute as president in 2013 and has worked for twenty years at the intersection of civic engagement and education reform. Having taught courses in American politics and public policy in the history and political science departments of Boston College and Hillsdale College, he was also founding director of a national civic education program for high school teachers at Hillsdale College, as well as the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Studies, in Washington, D.C. David has designed online educational programs used by more than half a million participants and is a nationally-recognized proponent of civic education that engages the hearts and minds of students. Author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue (HarperCollins, 2013), David has written for the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, among many other publications. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from Boston College, where he received fellowships from the Pew, Earhart, and Bradley Foundations.

The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) recently released a new, free U.S. History digital textbook, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the American Experiment.” In a nation grappling with its past, and student learning disrupted by COVID-19, this resource improves access to high-quality curriculum and encourages civil discourse and critical thinking among young people.

The digital resource embeds modular content created by BRI, a leading civics and history education nonprofit, within OpenStax Tutor, a research-based learning platform created by OpenStax at Rice University. OpenStax has saved students nearly a billion dollars in textbook expenses since 2010, and its Tutor homework and assignment platform increases student engagement and provides valuable learning analytics for instructors. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the American Experiment” is the first free, comprehensive open educational resource aligned to the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) standards.

“As our nation reckons with our past and considers our future, ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ challenges students to ask critical questions about what it means to be an American,” said BRI President David Bobb, Ph.D. “Difficult questions of history—and civics—are at its core. Its goal is for students, guided by their teachers, to understand their role in helping the nation live up to our founding ideals. The Bill of Rights Institute is pleased to partner with OpenStax to make this digital resource available free of charge to hundreds of thousands of teachers and more than 15 million secondary school students nationwide.”

“OpenStax is pleased to provide high school teachers and students across the U.S. with a free blended learning tool that aligns to Advanced Placement standards, while including rich content that deepens their critical thinking skills,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax and Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “With the unprecedented shift to online learning this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, free, digital, easy-to-use and effective teaching and learning resources are more critical than ever before.”

Written and edited by nearly 100 distinguished scholars from top universities and historical organizations, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” takes a point-counterpoint, inquiry-based approach to the study of U.S. history. It includes 150 primary source documents that help students learn about perspective, bias, and how to evaluate evidence.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, school budgets are constrained, and teachers throughout the nation are challenged to find appropriate digital resources for teaching their students.

Jessica Culver, a social studies teacher for 17 years at Ozark High School in rural Arkansas, helped pilot “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” She said, “Schools’ finances are tight right now and textbooks are a giant expense, even at a tiny school. So, I think people are hearing about resources like ‘Life, Liberty’ and are realizing that this is the wave of the future and it’s so much more valuable than a physical textbook.”

Click here learn more about “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

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