Sunday, September 14, 2008

Social Digital Tools with an Election Theme

Although your students may be too young to vote, they are never too young to become engaged in local, regional, and national politics. Whatever your content area or grade level, adding an election theme to your lessons is an ideal way to create high interest, add fresh content, and increase the level of critical thinking skills in your classroom.

A great place to start exploring the possibilities of using social digital tools with an election theme is by exploring Googlitics (a site filled with links and lessons to help students participate and learn about American politics with online tools from Google for Educators). Not only have Cheryl Davis and Kathlen Ferenz compiled a wealth of resources that will help educators infuse 21st Century tools in their classroom, they've also modeled a real 21st century approach to organize these resources - sharing these resources via an I-Google Tabs.

If you don't already have an I-Google account - this would be a great oppotunity to experiment with the power this tool has for sharing resources amongst educators. Create and I-Google Account and log in. Then

This will automatically add two new tabs in your IGoogle page that Cheryl and Kathy have created and shared with you using I-Google's ability to share Tabs with others. You and your students are now equipped with a compilation of election data for some higher order thinking (such as a gadget from the interactive website from 270toWin which provides the history of the electoral vote of your state from 1782 - 2008 and much more).

Check out Googlitics Lesson ideas for instruction on how to add your own gadgets, or other check out Googles Election Tools for Your Classroom for more tools and ideas that will engage your students in exploring the candidates and issues.

Google's Elections '08 Map Gallery and Google's Elections 2008 Gadget can keep you up-to-date on the 2008 election. These maps and gadgets can even be embedded in your own wiki, blog, or school web page.

Chris Pirillo provides a great tutorial (both print and video) on how to use Google Doc's new Form Feature to create your own polls or mock election.

Perhaps this would be an ideal opportunity to experiment with cellphones in your classroom by using Poll Everywhere Voting and Polling Website. You can set up polls and allows students to use either texting on their cellphones or any Internet enabled computer to vote. The results can be displayed on a Website or using Powerpoint.

How about getting your students involved in Letters to the Next President -- a writing and publishing opportunity co-sponsored by Google and the National Writing Project? Perhaps you can help your students experience the process and power of the voting process by getting involved in the National Parent/Student Mock Election Project.

Check out the wealth of Interactive Games, Gadgets, and Tools at PBS Vote 2008 or use the full multmedia curriculum Election 2008: ACCESS, ANALYZE, ACT: A Blueprint for 21st Century Civic Engagement, developed in partnership with PBS Teachers and Temple University’s Media Education Lab to help educators develop middle school and high school students' understanding of the Presidential campaign process by harnessing the power of Web 2.0 for teaching media and information literacy, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and technology skills.

And there has never been such an abundance of primary source videos from the campagin trail on video sharing sites like You Tube and Google Videos. Adding Google's speech recognition technology makes for a powerful tool in differentiating instruction.

Even the well-respected Common Craft video series added its Simple and Plain English Style to help us understand the Election with this 3 minute video (Electing a US President in Plain English). You can even encourage your students to create similar videos on a wide variety of topics with these 'behind the scenes" instructions. And news programs like NBC have made their videos available with accompanying education materials through sites like Hot Chalk.

Whatever your content areas or grade level, the resources are as plentiful as the lesson ideas which you can find at sites like:

Or for a real global perspectives lesson, check out the You Tube tutorial on using The US Election 2008 Web Monitor which provides weekly snapshots of global Web coverage with results that reflect attention and sentiment towards the US presidential candidates from several different countries.

But don't limit your use of digital social tools to helping your students understand the U.S. Election, continue to use these tools to help students gain an increased global awareness by following similar elections and political events from around the world.

And please, please, please share your favorite tools and ideas on how to use these tools with other readers by adding them in the comments section. I can't wait to read them.