learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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Learning.now is a weblog that explores how new technology and Internet culture affect how educators teach and children learn. It will offer a continuing look at how new technology such as wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, podcasts, social networking sites, and the always-on culture of the Internet are impacting teacher and students' lives both inside and out of the classroom.
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A Blueprint for 21st Century Engagement

This week, PBS Teachers rolled out its curricular guide for the 2008 election. It offers teachers a range of online tools created by the public broadcasting community to encourage civic engagement, embracing social media with each lesson plan.

Access, Analyze, Act: A Blueprint for 21st Century Engagement is the educational culmination of a project a number of us in public radio and television begin more than a year ago, pulling together our collective digital resources to create a suite of online services related to the election. A group of organizations, including PBS, NPR and other public media entities, each committed to creating election tools and making them available to each other. While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s unusual for public broadcasters to collaborate editorially on this kind of scale. Meanwhile, many of these tools embraced social media as well, which for many of our organizations was relatively uncharted waters.

As part of this collaboration, PBS Teachers worked with Temple University’s Media Education Lab to explore all the tools we created to design the Access, Analyze, Act curricular guide. Along with it being available on the PBS Teachers website, print copies are being distributed to every PBS station so they can share it with local schools.

The online version of the curricular guide is broken down into three main sections, each containing a video overview hosted by edtech guru Joyce Valenza, along with downloadable lesson plans. The first section, Access, begins with a lesson in which students create their own blogs, which they can use to articulate their political views, critique the campaign and journal their experiences as they complete each lesson. Students then go on to explore what politicians do at the local and national level, culminating with an online quiz used to generate further classroom discussion:

As is the case with each lesson plan, the ACT lesson plan includes information on how it relates to a number of education standards, including the ISTE National Education Technology Standards (NETS), McREL’s language arts standards and the NCSS social studies standards.

In the second section, Analyze, students examine the role that the media plays in the political process, as well as rhetorical techniques used by politicians to persuade the public. Student teams get to visit campaign websites and dissect their rhetorical strategy to entice prospective voters. The lesson concludes with students experimenting with several interactive tools. KQED’s You Decide tool, for example, serves as a virtual devil’s advocate, asking users to state their position on a particular issue, then forcing them to explore the opposite perspective. Students then get to organize a classroom debate, utilizing information gleaned from American Public Media’s Engage 08 site, including their Select A Candidate tool, which students can use to see which candidates match their own political beliefs.

The final set of lesson plans, Act, embrace social media tools to get students involved directly in the political process. It begins with students learning more about social media, the role it’s playing in the election and how it’s helping re-engage young people in the political process. From there, students learn how to ask probing questions to politicians by participating in Capitol News Connection’s Ask Your Lawmaker project, with invites the public to submit questions and vote on the best ones. CNC’s journalists then bring the questions directly to politicians and post their answers on their website for discussion. Students can even display a widget of the most popular questions on their blogs:

Next, students create videos or audio recordings in which they articulate their core political beliefs. These recordings can then be posted on NPR’s Get My Vote site - which I’m proud to say is something I worked on for much of the last year. Get My Vote includes hundreds of personal commentaries from people talking about their own political litmus tests. Along with having students create their own commentaries, the lesson plans has them dissect and debate a commentary from a Virginia college student who articulates a vision for smaller government:

In the final lesson plan, students make another video - this time, an advocacy video that attempts to persuade viewers on a particular policy issue. They prepare by examining online libraries of advocacy videos, then apply the rhetorical techniques they’ve developed in previous lesson plans. The videos get posted to a student-friendly video site like Youth Media Exchange to continue the discussion online.

Having known since last year that these curricular materials were in development, I’m very excited they’re now online and ready for use, just in time for the new school year. Please let me know what you think - we’d love to get your feedback. And if you use any of the lessons this fall, please share links with us so we can see what your students developed. -andy

Filed under : Blogging, Cool Tools, Media Literacy, Video, Youth Media

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