Election Day 2008 – Planning for the Fall

In Illinois, it is hard to get away from politics. Tonight was President Bush’s final State of the Union address and in eight days, on February 5th, I will be participating in the primary during Super Tuesday. It is hard not to think about the upcoming campaign.

During my weekly planning meeting with our Lower School Head (Lower School Principal), our agenda switched to continued planning for the upcoming 2008-2009 Academic Year. I mentioned that one of the items we needed to add to the list was what plans our 4th and 5th grade classes had for the upcoming fall election. I helped the team plan for their unit during the last major presidential election in 2004 and it was invigorating. “Funny you should mention that, since I had a lunch meeting with the team and we brought that topic up,” replied our Lower School Head.

Last election, our students became journalists, researching the platforms of the various parties and then went out to canvas and poll local citizens to get their feedback. They then took the data and analyzed it looking at the demographics. It was a rich, cross-disciplinary project that everyone got excited about.

Over the next few month, the 4th and 5th grade team will be reviewing the unit using the principles of Wiggin’s Understanding by Design. During this backwards design process, they will be determining the essential questions and goals that they will employ for this unit.

What really excites me is the possibilities that the new technology tools will have on their coverage of this unit. Now, they will be able to create a blog to share their thoughts, they will be able to use digital voice recorders and cell phones to record podcasts that I am hoping that they will begin to share with the world.

My ultimate goal would be to create a syndicate of other classroom journalists who would be doing the project in parallel with everyone sharing their data via Google Maps, wikis, Google Spreadsheets, and swapping audio files of interviews so that each classroom will now have a richer data set, extending their data set to compare and contrast to our own local set. It could enable a conversations and debates about differences that would be interesting, showing how different parts of the country have different needs.

So, I think that I have an idea for a new project that I am going to pursue over the next few months, to see if I can create a syndicate of other teachers and classrooms who would be willing to share their data. Who knows, this may turn into something big.

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