Since the Presidential campaign is heating up and the school year has officially begun there is no better time than the present to blog about online election resources for students. Before we know it November 4th with roll around and we will all witness history as either an African-American is elected President or a woman is elected Vice-President. Even if this were a run of the mill Presidential election it would still provide rare teachable moments about our electoral process, government, and American democracy that cannot be provided in any other non-Presidential election year. The following list should not be considered the end-all-be-all election resources list, rather it is what I have found during my time surfing the net. Many of the resources I found via an excellent blog post by Larry Ferlazzo entitled The Best Sites to Learn About Presidential Elections from his Websites of the Day blog. So, here is my newest top 10 list--The top ten Election 2008 online resources for students and teachers:
10-The New York Times interactive timelines for John McCain and Barack Obama.
9-Google's Power Reader in Politics shows us what online articles and blogposts the candidates (or more precisely their campaigns) have shared from their Google Reader. It's an interesting way to see what type of information each campaign wants to put before the public. It also includes the shared readings of various national syndicated columnists.
How about getting students their own Google Reader accounts and having them share what they are reading?
8-YouTube's You Choose '08 campaign channel hosts the official Obama and McCain YouTube channel, as well as videos showing the candidates on various issues and the latest campaign video news.
7-PBS's The Savvy Voter may be a holdover from the 2004 Presidential election, but it provides a nice overview of how citizens can become critical consumers of political information. The topics covered include: how to dissect an ad; how to interpret a debate; how to analyze a poll; how to evaluate a platform; how to assess a web site; and finally, how to view news critically.
6- Check out everything that PBS Vote 2008 Access, Analyze, Act: A Blueprint for 21st century Civic Engagement has to offer. There are loads of resources from lesson plans and interactives, to election rss feeds to podcasts. The lesson plans cover topics such as campaign finance, the campaign trail, civic engagement, the electoral college, political advertising, political humor, and polling (to name just a few of the topics). This site is really worth checking out.
5-The National Student/Parent Mock Election is another great resource with loads of lesson plans. However, the best feature is the national mock election on October 30th, 2008 that NSPME sponsors. Having students vote in a Presidential mock election before they turn 18 is an experience that demonstrates the importance of voting and civic participation.
4-If you want to find out about where all of the candidates stand on a whole slew of issues then you must go to the Pro/Con Election '08 website. Pro/Con goes beyond the major candidates to profile the political stances of all the primary candidates and the major 3rd party candidates. Oh, but there is much more...Other resources include: candidate summary chart, step-by-step guide to becoming a U.S. President, candidate videos, candidate speeches, candidate finances, and contact information for the candidate (to name just a few of the more interesting resources). The main Pro/Con site is a great debate/discussion starter, although it does not shy away from controversial issues.
3-The Living Room Candidate is an excellent collection of historic campaign television advertisements. This website is produced by the Museum of the Moving Image. Teaching students to be critical viewers of campaign rhetoric in tv ads is one of the most important things we should be teaching during the election season. What a great way to teach media literacy and critical mindedness that is so important for all citizens. The extensive collection includes such classic campaign ads like Lyndon Johnson's Daisy ad; George Bush's Dukakis Tank Ride ad; and, the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad. The videos are searchable by year (beginning with the 1952 campaign and including the 2004 campaign), type of commercial (biographical, children, commander-in-chief, documentary, fear, real people), and Issues (civil rights, corruption, cost of living, taxes, war, welfare). The collection also includes 2004 web ads and partisan ads, like the Swiftboat Veterans and MoveOn.org ads. The Living Room Candidate also features lesson plans that focus on the influence of campaign ads, and the use of images and words for persuasion, among others.
2-eLECTIONS is an interactive game students play that demonstrates the electoral process. Students choose a platform to run on by choosing positions on a variety of issues. The game progresses in a game board-like style through a Presidential campaign with students having to make strategic decisions, like determining which fundraising events to attend to determining which states to campaign in. As the students progress through the primaries into the general election the decisions they make help to determine whether they are elected. This interactive game is a fun way to introduce topics related to the election that otherwise could be a challenge to make interesting for the average student (campaign finance, for example). There is also a teachers section that include lessons and resource videos. eLECTIONS is a creation of Cable in the Classrooms in partnership with CNN Student News, C-SPAN, and the History channel.
1-I love what C-Span Classroom has done to support our teaching of the election. There are 8 election resources that contain lessons aligned with C-SPAN video clips. The lessons include printable charts, graphic organizers, and discussion questions. The 8 resources are: Elections, Electoral College, Candidates, Debates, Campaign issues, Finances, Campaign ads, and polls. Again, each of these resources include lessons aligned with video clips--very nice!
Another nice feature is the StudentCam competition open to secondary students working in teams of 3. The topic is A message to the new President, where students create a short documentary explaining to the new President what the most important issue we face as a nation. The documentary must show multiple perspectives on the issue, while including C-SPAN content. Deadline for submission is 5 pm on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. Here is the FAQ for the competition.