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Want to be a human rights electronic activist

Someone once observed that Human Rights activism must be a minority interest, otherwise the world would be a much better place ! Blackboard may be an effective way to access this minority and engage more people in this important extra-curricular activity.

This next academic term sees the launch of City of Sunderland College’s Human Rights Organisation on Blackboard. With 30,000 part-time and 4,000 full-time students, if only a half-of one percent show interest the number of activists will swell by nearly two hundred.

Many organisations involved in world development/human rights are now using on-line petitions, or even mobile phone text petitions to spread awareness of issues. Okay, a petition may not change the world overnight, but it is a useful “Trojan horse” to introduce novices to the basics of human rights activism, and the many organisations working for development. The petition is blissfully easy to complete and forward to friends, and is hopefully just the start of the new supporter’s involvement.

The next stage might see the novice accessing Amnesty International resources from the Useful Websites page and downloading an application form for the Urgent Action network, where they can send letters to campaign for the release of prisoners of conscience. On the same page, they might wander to find the sister organisation Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and be moved to organise a fundraising activity. Maybe they want to contact their MP over a shocking case of deportation of a local asylum seeker: this is easily done online using the link.

At present a small group of students meet weekly at College and it may be that the next step sees the budding activist establishing contact via email and then attending a meeting.

In sum, this Blackboard Organisation has great potential for students to contact each other, publish their own materials, advertise campaigns and charity band nights, discuss topics or recruit others to the weekly group - although one could still be a supporter without ever meeting anyone!

It is not envisaged that this resource will change the world – but it should allow more students to engage in positive activities, in the spirit of, “Better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.”

It is also an example of how Blackboard can be utilised to enrich the wider student experience, and, of course, the skills that the students acquire in engaging in Human Rights campaigning via Blackboard, such as critical thinking, on-line discussion, on-line research skills and so on, are transferable to their courses of study and a good grounding for future possible study in Higher Education.

The use of an Organisation site, rather than a Course site, also indicates that Blackboard can be used to differentiate between access to formal (qualification-related) and informal learning materials and activities.

If you would like to see the site and download any materials please visit this guest user account on Blackboard:
username:  human.rights
password: amnesty

Access will be available for one month.

Alternatively, you can simply ask your Bb System Administrator to upload the entire organization site to your own Bb installation from the accompanying zip file.

Download zip file

Any suggestions or enquiries to:

Author: Peter Mulligan

05 October 2004

VLE: Blackboard



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