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Bill of Rights B'Day: Using Google Docs as An Inclusive Collaboration Tool to Draft, Edit History

Today is the 224th birthday of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Recently, international scholars came together in Philadelphia to experiment with technology in order to write today's constitutions. That process, comprised of principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), is immediately more efficient, but also more inclusive of potential constitution writers who struggle with print. These are learners with known and invisible disabilities who otherwise would be excluded from the writing process of their forefathers.

Constitute!  In the video above, document drafters take a modern approach to an historic task. In so doing, doors to participation open in a broad sense. The use of technology tools helps writers from around the world find and copy excerpts in existing constitutions, manipulate text, and come up with a document that reflects the views of their country. Collaboration of this kind could happen at a distance; but, the process also holds promise for the diversity of writers who can be part of the work. 

The Other IDEA  Around the world, about five new constitutions are written and another 20 to 30 are amended or revised every year, according to the National Constitution Center (NCC) and the "other IDEA"—not the federal special education disability law—but the international Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

The video above (2:12 min.) shows that using technology, in this case Google Docs, overhauls a process that has barely changed over the last couple hundred years. At the “Constitution Building Tech Fair” in Philadelphia viewers can watch (with captions) as leading constitutional experts convene for purposeful writing aimed at meeting a challenge. Their approach can be replicated by general and special educators not only during history but during learning opportunities across the curriclum. Notice how this process could be inclusive of struggling students including those with learning disabilities and dyslexia, and vision and physical impairment, who work best with digital alternatives to traditional source documents and books in print. 

Two Tools  Leading the group experience is Zach Elkins, a professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas. He moderates in real time a one of a kind experiment with 7 constitutional designers from Ukraine, Kenya, Iceland, Liberia, South Africa, Argentina, and the United States. He explains the exercise of using two tools--Constitute (www.constituteproject.org) and Google Docs to craft a new mock amendment on campaign finance. Each participant had their own Chromebook, researched related clauses in Constitute, and then exported them into a shared document where they worked together to craft their amendment. 

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