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December 15, 2015

How has technology changed the way candidates run for president? – Lesson Plan


Social studies, U.S. Government, Civics

Estimated Time:

Two to three 45-minute class periods

Grade Level



Students will:

  • Examine the role of the Internet as a political campaign tool using reason, facts and examples in class discussion activities.
  • Work in small groups to brainstorm reasons why they agree or disagree with a statement related to the role of technology as an election tool.
  • Draw conclusions from the content of a news article and use this information and the conclusions they have drawn as part of a class discussion activity.
  • Utilize content from the Internet and determine the effectiveness of a specific presidential candidate’s use of technology as a campaign tool by recording specific data and opinions on a worksheet.
  • Collect examples of non-traditional campaigning and the impact of technology on the presidential race and share these with the class by discussing the items and posting them on a classroom bulletin board.


  1. Before class begins, place a piece of scrap paper or index card on each student’s desk. Post two signs on opposite sides of the classroom. One should say “Agree,” the other “Disagree.” Write the following statement on the board or overhead.

“Technology such as the Internet plays an important role in the political process and a candidate’s ability to connect with voters on a personal level, increasing the candidate’s chance of getting elected.”

  1. Read the statement out loud for the class. Tell students to think about the statement carefully and decide whether they agree or disagree with it. Give students 20-30 seconds to decide how they feel, then direct them to write the word “agree” or “disagree” on their scrap paper/index card.
  2. Have all students who wrote “agree” on their paper/card meet under the “Agree” sign. Those who wrote “disagree” should gather under the “Disagree” sign.
  3. Instruct each group to take 2-3 minutes to brainstorm a list of reasons why they either agreed or disagreed with the statement. These should be recorded on the large piece of chart paper. At the end of brainstorming, both sheets of paper should be brought to the front of the classroom as posted. Be sure to label each accordingly as “agree” or “disagree” for clarity.
  4. Facilitate a class discussion related to the statement about technology using the brainstormed ideas. Call on volunteers to explain the ideas presented by the two different groups, encouraging students to provide specific reasons, facts and examples to illustrate their point of view.
  5. Distribute and/or share the article, “The next political battleground: your phone.”

Discuss the article using questions such as:

  • Why are cell phones going to be an important tool for the 2016 campaign?
  • What percentage of the population owns smartphones?
  • Where do you think young voters (age 18-25) fit in to the mobile device campaigning strategies?
  • What role will the cell phones play in fundraising for candidates, and why is this important to the candidates?
  • Do you think interactive campaign tactics such as text messaging by the candidates or creating short videos using Instagram or Vine will be effective campaign tools? Why or why not?
  • As a voter, would you read a candidate’s website or participate in live candidate Twitter chats using your cell phone or computer? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the Internet and the types of campaign options it offers will add a higher level of accountability for candidates to deliver on their promises? Why or why not?
  1. Have students access various candidates’ homepage, Facebook or Twitter accounts using the following website: http://www.politics1.com/p2016.htm.

Distribute the Role of Technology in the Election Process handout and have students use the questions on the guide to see how the candidate is using the Internet as part of the campaign process.

  1. After students have completed the Role of Technology in the Election Process handout, take a few minutes to discuss student answers to the various questions.
  2. Start a classroom bulletin board related to the role of technology in the election process. These stories pop up in the news all of the time, including this article about Ted Cruz’s campaign team using psychological data and analytics to reach potential supporters. Have students bring in copies of nontraditional campaigning including emails, blogs, summaries of podcasts, etc. along with newspaper or magazine articles that address the use of technology on the campaign trail. Encourage students to bring in and share these examples of nontraditional campaigning. Post on the bulletin board and revisit the initial discussion questions from step 6 periodically throughout the election to analyze the impact of technology as a campaign tool.

Extension Activities

  • Have students create their own blogs, podcasts or websites related to their favorite 2016 presidential candidate. Allow students time to share this information with classmates monthly or quarterly as part of an ongoing discussion of the candidates and campaign issues.
  • Work as a class to create a set of survey questions related to the use of technology-based campaign tools. Assign each student to survey 20 people in a variety of age groups using the questions created by the class. Have each student tabulate and graph the responses s/he had to the survey questions and draw conclusions about how the use of technology as a campaign tool is impacting various groups of voters as they decide who to elect for the next president.
  • Check out WIRED’s article, “Getting Americans Online Will Be a Big Election Issue in 2016,” for those 55 million Americans who don’t have access to the Internet. Discuss how different candidates plan to bring Internet access to more members of the public. It’s also worth checking out the article, “USC Annenberg study points to Internet’s growing political influence.” Discuss with students the increasing role the Internet has come to play in political campaigns even in the last few years.

About the author: Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant and instructional design specialist. She taught middle school and high school social studies, English and technology courses for twelve years. This lesson has been adapted to include materials on Election 2016.


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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1.A Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.A Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1.A Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.A Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
    • McRel Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:

    • Standard 17: Understands issues concerning the relationship between state and local governments and the national government and issues pertaining to representation at all three levels of government
    • Standard 19; Understands what is meant by “the public agenda,” hot it is set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media
    • Standard 27: Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens’ ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities
    • Standard 3: Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

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