Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tech in an Election Year

I'm all about integrating the real world into the classroom. As we enter November, politics and the election are on everyone's mind -- especially in the year of a presidential election. Usually my students are doing all kinds of cool stuff with the presidential race to make the experience real and engaging. And while you may want to back off getting overly political(especially in the current political climate), the themes of the election are still very robust opportunities for engaging instruction.

So what CAN you do this year to "tech" up your election year lessons? Since elections are all about the dissemination of information and the analysis of numbers, it's not too much of a stretch to make these themes work in the classroom. Check out these four tech integration ideas to help you get started.

1. Online Polls

Use a tool like Polleverywhere or Google Forms to to have students anonymously vote on political issues. Compare and contrast the class results with national results. Have students explore these similarities or differences with an online blog. While it's easy to do paper ballots or voting by raising hands, technology provides immediate responses and allows for truly anonymous voting.
Live polling with Polleverywhere

2. Discussion and Debate

Break students into groups and have them research each candidate to prepare for a debate. Students can either take turns debating or the teacher can assign roles (researcher, writer, debater). To save time, create a custom Google Search Engine of election sites. You could also use an online chat tool such as Today’s Meet to moderate a dialogue on an election topic. This kind of debate or dialogue can even extend beyond the school walls by coordinating with another teacher so that students across two schools (or more) are able to discuss an election topic.
Setting up a custom search

Abe talkin' sense with Blabberize

3. Persuasion and Rhetoric

Maybe you don't want to get into the issues, but you want to use the election as a jumping off point to discuss campaigning and persuasion in the political process. Have students create a candidate and try to get them elected. Create commercials with Animoto, Stupeflix, or Magisto. Have them do quick campaign speeches with Blabberize,Vocaroo, or Voki. Or have them record radio commercials or podcasts with Beautiful Audio, Spreaker, or MicNote. A lot of possibilities here.

270 to win electoral simulations

4. Election by the Numbers

Many of these activities focus on social science and language arts. What if you want to integrate some other content areas, such as math and science? A tool like 270 To Win might be a good place to have students do some number analysis. Have them analyze the likelihood of victory for a particular candidate. Or they could develop the different pathways to win the election with the votes needed. Take it a step further and have students use numbers to justify campaign strategy. "If this candidate needs to get to 270, what numbers do they need in each state? Which issues should they focus on.

Maybe you could have a student design an infographic on how the electoral college works, or paths to presidency. Integrate your polling activities to talk about probability of victory.

When you start the think about the parts of our brain we use during the election season, it's easy to see why it integrates so well with the ideas and concepts we are already teaching. So go ahead and bring the election into your classrooms. Tech tools make it easy, but remember to be discerning about how you approach this very hot topic with your students.

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