Composer Helps Teachers To String Together Citizenship Learning Experiences

citizenship learning experiences

Citizenship education–it’s the most important work of schools especially now as the country struggles to address inequities inherent in society and the innovation economy.

Best case scenario, citizenship education shows up as a civics curriculum, as a commitment to global competence and social emotional learning, and in a culture that values social justice.

A new bay area nonprofit, Composer, has developed a platform that seeks to be a place for educators to access the world’s best citizenship education resources from more than 30 content providers. The digital platform uses learning science to curate and sequence this content and to guide educators through curriculum planning that they believe can work for every individual classroom or informal learning environment. Its founders believe that they have created a platform that is a one-stop shop for curricula and resources in citizenship education that enables educators to receive guidance/support in crafting individually tailored, high quality remote learning experiences.

Launched through a partnership of five leading organizations — High Resolves, Facing History and Ourselves, iCivics, Generation Citizen, and Peace First — Composer is now a collaborative effort between 32 organizations to create and disseminate content that covers topics in civic learning, social emotional learning, global competence, and social justice.

After teaching in Houston, Alexandra Berry managed operations at Relay Graduate School, spent two years as a product manager in ed tech, then served as chief of staff at XQ Institute making grants to America’s most innovative schools before founding Composer

“In today’s ever-changing world, educators are looking for solutions to better support young people in their holistic development as citizens,” said Berry. “Composer is just that tool.”

Composer has curated nearly 1,000 individual learning experiences available for schools to design the most powerful learning experiences called strings. These include web lessons, interactive simulations, experiential games, and guides for discussion and reflection. For example, schools can search for “racism” and find all strings designed by providers or used by schools to inoculate against racism.

The Composer design studio allows users to string together three types of elements:

peak experiences such as simulations and immersions,  repeated practice, and collaboration on real world application. A sample “string” for COVID-19 is highlighted below.

“Composer gives educators in any educational setting access to best-in-class content across a wide range of topics in citizenship education,” explained Berry. “An educator can search for a term such as ‘media literacy’ and find learning experiences on topics such as discerning fact from fiction in the news, accounting for bias in the interpretation of historical events, and how social media misuse can impact well-being and school climate.”

Composer has recently formed a partnership with the Learning Collaborative of Kansas City (a network of 100 teachers and 12+ museums), Got History, and Explorable Places to give stipends to museum educators that will enable them to create a community-centric toolkit for civic learning that is aligned with the local Missouri standards. This toolkit will consist of the strings in Composer’s platform. The toolkit could then be accessible on Composer to educators across the state — and a pilot/model that could be replicated across Missouri, Kansas and Massachusetts (where the Nat’l Learning Collaborative has activity) and beyond.

In Fall of 2019, 455 users from 113 schools across North America and Australia participated in a private beta of the platform. Since launching in April 2020, Composer is publicly available as a free tool for educators. This initiative is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Imaginable Futures, a venture of the Omidyar Group.

Check out some of the Composer courses on the most complex challenges of our current moment.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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