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

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January162009

Students Use Social Media to Cover the Inauguration

A group of students from Massachusetts will make the journey to DC to take part in President-elect Obama’s inauguration ceremony. And they’ll be more than mere spectators, as they’re going to use Web 2.0 tools to teach students back home about the experience.

With possibly millions of people descending on DC this weekend, it’s no surprise that some teachers will be bringing groups of students to participate in the inauguration. But when I heard about WAinauguration.org, I was amazed at how some of them would be using social media tools to document it. David Bill, director of academic technology at the Worcester Academy, is leading a group of middle school students to DC and arming them with the tools and skills to serve as citizen journalists.

“My co-organizer, Pete Smith, and I initially just saw the trip as simply an opportunity for our students to experience this historic event first hand,” Bill told me. “But because of our technology background, we soon realized that with the use of social media, the trip could be about so much more.”

Not surprisingly, a number of students were interested in attending, so Bill and Smith set up an application process that utilized social media as part of the screening. Students had to submit a brief YouTube video discussing social media and the election, as well as write three short responses on the topic. They even used Google Docs as the application form. In the end, they picked 11 students who would make the journey to DC.

While attending the inauguration, students will be expected to create content addressing five topics:

  • Why are you attending the Inauguration?
  • What is the historical significance of the election of Barack Obama and how will his election change the viability of a minority being elected in other countries?
  • How did social media influence the election?
  • Regarding the current world view of the United States, what changes does Obama need to implement to rebuild this nation and why?
  • Considering the goals he has set, what will America be like under the Obama administration?

“Social media will play a large role in this trip,” Bill continued. “Each after being broken up into groups for each theme, the students will report on their chosen theme using Flip cameras and iTalks (iPod recorders). Their interviews will be posted via YouTube and Podcast and embedded in our blog. The students will be taking pictures on their cell phones and uploading them to Flickr as well as Twittering during the entire trip. We will be using Skype to report back to Worcester Academy as well as anyone else who wants to connect with our group.”

All of this, no doubt, will be a lot for them to juggle - even I’m wondering how I personally am going to manage creating content from the middle of the National Mall that morning - but Bill says the effort will be well worth it.

“Our goal for this trip is to provide an learning opportunity that extends beyond the classroom,” he continued. “As technology administrators, we also saw the trip as an opportunity to highlight the role that social media can play in equalizing the production of quality content. We wanted our students to understand how the technologies they may take for granted can add a different perspective to the conversation.”

Meanwhile, there are many other ways for the rest of you and your students to get involved in the inauguration. PBS Newshour has created a student voice project in which students are invited to record podcasts about the inauguration. And over at NPR, I’m running a project called Inauguration Report, in conjunction with CBS News and American University. As we did on election day, we’re inviting the public - students and teachers included - to upload original content via text messaging, tweets, Flickr, Youtube and even an iPhone app, which we’ll then plot on a map and stream on our site. I’ll be a great way to get a sense of what everyone is doing as our new president takes the oath of office. -andy

Filed under : Youth Media

Responses

It’s so exciting that there are schools and teachers who really get the impact of social media and can provide experiences like this to their students.

I’ll be watching. Even if you don’t agree with the elect it’s still history in the making.

My heart is in Washington D.C.today! I am a third grade teacher in Maine and here is what my students have said about the responsibility that our new leader has:

He has to be nice to people. Andrew S.
He has to try and stop the war. Sadie P.
He has to keep charge of the United States. Gavin P.
The President has to make speeches. Sierra L.
He must keep our country safe. Connor H.
He has to change a lot of things. Miranda W.
The President has to fill out papers and be respectful to everyone. Samantha G.

Michele Aronson
Woodside Eementary School
3rd grade
Topsham, MAINE

Hi Andy - A group of student from Thomas Jefferson School of Science & Technology also blogged about the inaugural at the LINK-live Gala. The Net Generation is certainly setting the pace for how social media can move public policy.

-Jodie

How exciting! I am glad to see teachers utilizing technology to connect their students with social issues and historic moments for our country. What a great idea to incorporate the rest of the students who were not able to go.

Not only does this technology connect the students across the country, but it gives the students in attendance a sense of purpose. Instead of letting them witness the moment in Washington and asking them to write a paper, they were granted the opportunity and responsibility to report and share it with their classmates.

How exciting! I am glad to see teachers utilizing technology to connect their students with social issues and historic moments for our country. What a great idea to incorporate the rest of the students who were not able to go.

Not only does this technology connect the students across the country, but it gives the students in attendance a sense of purpose. Instead of letting them witness the moment in Washington and asking them to write a paper, they were granted the opportunity and responsibility to report and share it with their classmates.

I think this is a great idea and a tremendous way to ‘plug students in’ to government and history. It also seems very appropriate that our new president, so technologically savvy himself, should be the focus of an exercise that provides students with an opportunity to report upon his inauguration with tools and technologies available to us.

I was very impressed with the way my school made a whole day out of the inauguration. For the entire day, they projected the news coverage onto the huge screen in the auditorium. All classes were welcome to come and watch at any time, and students who were in lunch were allowed to go to the auditorium if they wished. Of course, during the actual swearing in, the room was the most full, but it was interesting to see kids really being interested in the event as a whole. There were tons of kids watching the parade and festivities throughout the day. Now as a math teacher, I did not give an assignment, but I know that the social studies department made a specific sheet of questions similar to some of the questions mentioned in the article above. All in all, it was a very exciting day at my school.

I think that is great to use this type of technology to connect students to the outside world. This was a historical moment and to have students use social media is an amazing experience. Throughout my school, teachers were setting up all different ways to view the Inauguration. Many of the classes had discussions, wrote letters, etc. To directly connect students with tools to report on the Inauguration would have definately involved the students to feel that they were actually there.

As a teacher myself, it is so satisfying to hear that fellow teachers are doing things that are way beyond the traditional classroom of the “teacher telling” and the the “student writing”. We need more of these types of lessons to keep up with the changes in our society and to keep the students attentive.

For that event the use of technology was extremely important. I enjoyed reading how you and your coworker got your students involved in such a historic event. They participated in recording history not just recording the event itself but recording the feelings of the citizens. These recordings can be used during history lesson, black history month discussions, and as a remembrance to miniorities at how far we have come! I think these recordings will also help remind us all, Americans, that we are unitied.

It is truly exciting new technology deeply involved in school calssroom and our kids. The only concern is that if it’s not going too far, how will we block them from playing nintendo WII for 3 hours a day?

I agree with the some of the previous comments in this post. It’s great to see teachers embracing online technology as an important medium in communicating with students and vice versa.

I’m about a year late with this comment, but…it’s encouraging to see teachers use technology in a way that excites students. It helps to make current events relevant to them and how youth today communicate.

As with anything being taught, the more interested and excited the teacher is about something the more it rubs off on the students. If only we could find more ways to make science and calculus so exciting.

Web 2.0 sites are growing by the day, making it easy for anyone with computer and internet knowledge to voice their opinions on matters. I wonder how web 2.0 will be in a year from now? Will web 3.0 begin to surface? Only time will tell…
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