As a first year teacher in the fall of 2008, I was EXTREMELY excited to teach American Government classes during an election season. We were even able to turn on a classroom television to watch President Obama’s first inaugural address. Wow! Fast forward 8 years to the election of 2016. The availability of educational technology in my classroom and completely changed how I teach all subjects, but definitely, how I teach the election process.
If you would have told “2008 me” that I would not only have a Twitter account or an Instagram account for that matter, and that I would be using social media to view updates AND INTERACT with elected leaders, I probably would have said, “hmm, ok,” and continued to sip my coffee. Seriously, though! Think about how much has changed in the political arena in just 8 years. If an elected government official does not have or doesn’t use a social media account he or she is considered to be out of the loop. One of my favorite questions to use as I preview my Executive Branch unit with my students is “Ronald Reagan was called the Great Communicator for which of the following reasons? a. because of his effective use of television, b. because of his effective use of radio, c. because of his effective use of a megaphone, d. because of his effective use of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).” The number of “d’s” I receive on this question is astounding! This is always an age check for me … President Obama is the only president to use social media to communicate! It’s strange to think of a time before Facebook was available for everyone – remember it debuted as a platform for college students? – or before Twitter was downloaded on every iPhone. These tools have become such an integral part of our daily lives over a very short time period!
Great tools, such as Countable and iCitizen, make staying up-to-date with how our elected representatives are voting so incredibly easy. Students can create FREE accounts with these tools, follow issues and government officials, and receive updates when a new opinion or vote is posted. The availability of these tools provides the modern student with an amazing opportunity to participate in and be informed about the political process. Gaming websites, such as iCivics encourage students to get involved in the political process – through simulation – in a way that is actually FUN! Educational games have certainly come a long way from the days of the Oregon Trail – I always died of dysentery …
Please tell me that I’m not the only person who was initially quite confused at the following acronyms: #POTUS, #FLOTUS, #SCOTUS. Seriously. It took way too long for me to figure out these social media “terms.” In a world where hashtags and abbreviations are part of the vernacular, it’s hard to keep up! Not so long ago, I warned my students against using “texting lingo” on assignments, and now I REQUIRED it on this Tweet it Out activity!
What will the future bring?
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