Are you an educator who may be interested in participating in this wiki learning?

Are you interested in how this project-based learning works for more than one election?

Are you interested to see if students are learning, or merely just watching/reporting the nightly news?


In the interest of transparency and in case anyone would like to replicate or modify this type of assignment for other, upcoming elections (which CAN be done easily with this format), we've provided the following information:




At the beginning of 2008, we didn't yet know that this 2008 Presidential election campaign was going to be the phenomenon that it has turned out to be. Working with middle schoolers who were too young to have really paid attention to the elections of 2004 (they were in 3rd/4th grade) and with this new President being in office potentially all of their high school lives, students weren't really aware that this election could dictate the nation's atmosphere into which they'd be stepping at the outset of their independent lives. Will we still be at war? Will the economic crisis be even worse? Middle school students have had no cause to consider these questions, nor have they considered that they may have the opportunity to "clear their throats" and begin speaking up about what THEY want to see. No, they're not old enough to vote, but they do need to begin noting what is happening in the world before they're on the precipice to make a choice as 18 year olds.

For this reason, the wiki was created. Students needed to follow the campaign trail, no matter how "boring" the individual primary results may be, to see how the campaign unfolds and eventually, in November, be able to look back at the 2008 race from a much broader perspective. They will have been a *participant* and not simply a recipient.

This race has turned out to be historical because of the connectivity available to our population and I hope that not only do students learn lessons for a lifetime, but take away this particular experience as "one for the history books!"



Materials required:


*Computers with internet access
*webcam
*Wikispaces accounts for students and/or class
*Skype or other distance video tools
*Ability to learn from media news sources

Not required, but was added and essential:
*Ustream channel, embeddable in wiki (for student-safety regarding exposure to UStream "junk")
*Twitter accounts for teachers (to stay in touch)


Curriculum areas addressed


SOCIAL STUDIES

1) US history
How and why did elections begin in the US and how have they changed/not changed in 200+ years?
What is the electoral college? Why did it begin?
What was and what is democracy in the United States?

2) geography
How do other nations run their democratic process?

3) citizenship
What does it mean to participate in the democratic process?
What is a primary? What is a caucus? What are the purposes to each?
What does it mean to be "right" or "left," conservative or liberal? Students research the different sides to the elections process and decide which candidates

LANGUAGE ARTS

1) research
Students will learn how to find information needed in both online and print media. Students will learn how to properly cite their learning.

2) writing
Students will learn how to write to communicate both facts and ideas in an online world. Students will learn and utilize persuasive techniques to get their message across to the candidate of their choice.

3) reading
Students will continue to hone their informative reading skills, by being able to interpret charts and other information as it relates to their research.


TECHNOLOGY

1) digital literacy
Students will be exposed to many different pieces of information and they have to decide which best and most accurately fits the informational needs of the network and the project.

2) collaboration and communication across time and distance
Students from very different parts of the world are working on the wiki for a common goal. Trust and communication is key to ensuring that the overall message and goals are achieved. This can be done through real-time collaborations such as Skype and Ustream, but other methods may be employed as required.

3) understanding the efficacy of different types of media
What should I create to most accurately convey my message to the network, as well as to my candidate of choice: video, blog, network or group message, email, newspaper editorial, etc?




To consider for any distance-collaboration project:


Students from very different parts of the world are working on the WikiSpace for a common goal. Trust and communication is key to ensuring that the overall message and goals are achieved. This can be done through real-time collaborations such as Skype and Ustream, but other methods may be employed as required.



Detailed project plan:


Of course, this type of project is "in flux" depending upon the nature of the elections, the amount of time each class has to contribute, and the interest areas/levels of the participating students. Teachers should feel comfortable allowing their students to take full lead in the direction of many areas, if not all, of the learning.

Teachers connect via Classroom 2.0 or Twitter, developing an overall understanding of the wiki's goal and student outcomes. These understandings are dynamic and each participant is able to bring another vision to the project that is incorporated.

After teacher connection, students and classes connect via Skype to do an initial low-stakes greeting (affectionately called a "dog-sniffing" session) where they begin to see one another as people. At that time, the project is briefly discussed and the participating classes get to view the wikispace. After that, teachers facilitate discussion with their groups about how to participate and gather additional ideas. Classes then re-connect to share further ideas and "operations commence!" Many of the steps below occur simultaneously, as different groups of students are working together, each taking their share.

  1. Wiki "shell" is created to house the information
  2. Students research the candidates and their issues (which was difficult because at that time, the candidates were "dropping like flies" and students were simply trying to keep up to date with the active candidates!)
  3. Students looking deeper into issues of Conservative and Liberal. Debate between KS and CT over the issues. KS takes liberal view, CT takes conservative view because that's not the "natural" view of the students. They are learning through the others' words.
  4. Schools abroad come aboard to begin sharing their elections process. First volunteer: Vincent Mespoulet from Manosque, France.
  5. Students begin recording the results of states' Primaries and Caucuses, and noting who's ahead. (this continues nearly ad infinitum)
  6. Students then begin tallying SuperDelegates and what those mean to the convention process
  7. Students begin researching the convention process and the electoral college.
  8. More schools from other countries begin coming aboard. Students begin to dialogue to them the meaning of "democracy" globally and the role the US plays in expanding the vision.
  9. Students begin crafting their messages to the candidates OR to the next President. They learn about persuasive techniques and how to package a message to the media.
  10. Students continue to follow the delegate tally and decide how to help support the candidate of their choice.
  11. Students and schools have the option of continuing the wiki through to November, adding information about the Convention process and happenings, as well as the race and debates coming up to November.


Evaluation:


Survey will be sent out for teachers and students involved regarding their enjoyment and flexibility of the project.

A rubric will be developed regarding the learned objectives (listed above) and measuring the messages created for the candidate.

Students will also self-evaluate and peer-evaluate the final products, sharing ideas for making the messages better and stronger before they're sent.


Overall outcomes:


EXPECTED: Students understand that others across the world have a very different view of what democracy is to their people as well as to the US and that the process can look very different, yet have a similar purpose.

Students will have the added experience of realizing that we can easily learn from others' points of view and that connection is merely a few clicks away.

Students will have a better perspective of what the elections process *can* mean to their futures and realize that direct participation is something easily done.

Teachers will continue to share this learning and information at local, regional, and national conferences, demonstrating how easy and accessible it is for even a novice to plan and implement a project that impacts not only your own students, but also creates ripple effects out to the rest of the world.



I think that learning can be messy and that the wiki does not need to have every loose end tied, knowing that students may have already learned from the first few primaries, and can easier just report out the results as the campaign trail continues.