The Librarian Lists: 5 Resources for the Upcoming Presidential Election
I had never been a list maker. However, my tune changed when I started my first job as a library media specialist. I realized just how much multitasking was involved and began making lists as an organizational strategy. Each month, in this online space, I will create a list as a way to organize my thoughts as I share my experiences as a middle school library media specialist.
5 Resources for the Upcoming Presidential Election
The role of the school librarian is constantly being redefined, shifted, expanded, and sometimes narrowed. A value that remains at the heart of the role, however, is creating engaging learning opportunities for students to grapple with information of all kind. The upcoming presidential election gives librarians the perfect opportunity to support teachers and instruct students about the importance of navigating efficiently through a myriad of information resources while evaluating them effectively.
Here are five resources about the election that fit the bill!
1. Vote Smart
Project Vote Smart is an independent organization that invites students to learn more about politician positions and issues while discovering candidates that have similar political philosophies. Two of Vote Smart’s features are especially useful. The Political Galaxy allows users to search for a federal politician by name or zipcode. A variety of issues are available to dive into more deeply. For example, one could search an individual politician and his or her connection to the topic of “Civil Liberties” through the lenses of affiliations, voting record, expressed positions, speeches on the topic, ratings by interest groups, and funding sources related to the topic. A student favorite is Vote Smart’s “Vote Easy” section. This allows the user to answer questions on a variety of issues and see what presidential or congressional candidates he or she aligns with most. Students can rate how important the topic is to them which will also be used to calculate each user’s political match.
The Museum of the Motion Image hosts a wonderful interactive resource for students. Its Living Room Candidate source features television commercials for presidential candidates starting in 1952. These ads can be filtered through type of ad, date of ad, or topic of ad. Additionally, an explanation for the ad and an opportunity to share through a link are also included. Another aspect of Living Room Candidate really sets it apart. Students can create their own political ads using footage from historic commercials and soundbites. The video editor is built right into the site and provides the basic tools students would need to create their own ad. Living Room Candidate also offers lesson plans that dissect political ads, which could be an effective first step before using the video editor.
PBS Newshour partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates to create watchthedebates.org, a fabulous source to use in conjunction with the presidential debates. Watchthedebates.org offers video of presidential candidate debates going back to the infamous, televised 1960 Kennedy-Nixon clash. Users can filter by election year, or - a favorite of students - filter by an issue and watch a compilation of debates throughout the years on that issue. It’s especially fun to watch students exclaim about the differences and similarities of the arguments throughout the years! Students can also interact with the debate ideas online by giving their opinion using the attached Microsoft Pulse feature.
A social studies teacher recently asked me to research a variety of news organizations and place them on a continuum based on political leanings. This opened up a great conversation about teaching students about the tools they need in order to evaluate sources using many criteria and subsequently led to social studies collaboration and multiple mini-lessons for students. The Pew Research Center has gathered facts, researched, and surveyed information consumers in order to create reports and visuals that tell the story of trends in media consumption. Their articles on political polarization in the media, social media impact, and political ideology of news consumers were especially helpful to social studies teachers in my building. They plan to include this resource and require students to read several articles as they dig into an election webquest.
5. Comparing Candidates on the Issues
Social studies teachers often require students to research candidates in order to find out their stances on a variety of issues. There are many websites that offer this feature but here are two standouts. Procon.org has an easy-to-read chart that compares the top four presidential candidates’ views on seventy-five different issues. Each issue has a link where students can find out more specifics on the candidate and his or her position.
BBC News offers a twist on the issues. This site not only compares Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on many current topics, but it also includes leaders from around the world and their stances. This is a welcome addition and adds a global perspective for students in their information quests.
Katherine Nelson is the Resource Center Director at Carleton Washburne Middle School in Winnetka, Illinois, and has been in her school district for nine years. She is passionate about creating engaging research opportunities, collaboration, and maintaining a vibrant learning community for students. Follow her on Twitter @lookitup1514.