Gerrymandering Academy


The Gerrymandering Academy (GMA) is a project under development by FDPA (Fair Districts PA), a non-partisan, all-volunteer group dedicated to amending the Pennsylvania Constitution in order to eliminate gerrymandering (GM) in the Commonwealth by establishing an independent commission tasked with redistricting legislative and congressional districts following the decennial US Census.

While FDPA works strictly in Pennsylvania, we realize the national scope of GM and the benefits of collaborating with citizens throughout the US. Therefore it is our intention to develop GMA courses that inform and educate about the means of eliminating GM nationwide as an inaugural project under Fair Districts US (FDUS). The purpose of this blog entry is to explain how anyone interested in this effort can get involved.

Joe McLaughlin (jfmclaugh at the project leader, states: I’m a retired secondary public school physics teacher, so I have a bit of tech ability, and I have taken a number of online courses over the years, although I’ve never written one, nor administered an online school. I’m also a public speaker for FDPA, so I’m reasonably knowledgeable about GM, although I claim no expertise beyond the generalities.

Tina Suzanne, a professor from California who develops and teaches online courses, is the technical consultant for the project.

Moodle: If you have taken any online courses, especially at the university level, you may be familiar with Blackboard. We use Moodle instead for 2 reasons: it’s open source, and therefore free, compared to big $$ for BB, and it’s considered by many to be at least as good as BB. But like so much of the digital world, it’s a challenging to learn. These are referred to as Learning Management Systems (See LMS in Wikipedia)

Collaboration: We seek help and collaboration particularly administering the school and writing/teaching courses. The school will serve 2 kinds of participants on a national level:

  • The first is a public component,  “Gerrymandering 101”. This course will be free, open, and “snappy”, interjecting humor and graphics/videos where possible in order to give an overview. An example of excellent use of video is “The Value of Coffee” offered by The Open University (see the reference below).
  • The main part of the academy will be directed to volunteers who are interested in working on the gerrymandering problem. Two courses we are exploring, for instance, are advocacy and mapping.

Another level of involvement is design. Moodle has a wide range of themes, some of which allow a wide range of customization. Someone with design abilities could create a professional appearance for the school.

However, whatever your level of interest and ability, don’t hesitate to get in touch to see how you can help.

Some additional references:

  • siteground Moodle tutorials
  • 2 Moodle demos, Mt. Orange School and the Sandbox. You can’t “break” either since they are reset every hour.
  • The Value of Coffee: this is a free course from The Open University. It takes maybe 2 hours to complete, and shows how Moodle is used in a real course (all video based). Sort of an interesting subject too.
  • View a short video showing screen shots from “Gerrymandering 101” (no audio)
  • Communications and planning will be handled through Trello and Slack. Invitations will be sent to those who are interested in participation.
  • A presentation concerning gerrymandering in Pennsylvania in PDF form.

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