Citizen journalism took headlines recently with Phil de Vellis’s (aka ParkRidge47 on YouTube) remix of the 1984 Apple Ad as a “Vote Different” video critique of Hillary Clinton and endorsement of Barack Obama. Writing on The Huffington Post, Phil reveals his only tools to create this headline-grabbing video were his Macintosh laptop, an Internet connection, and a subscription to YouTube:

I made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software), uploaded it to YouTube, and sent links around to blogs… This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.

Indeed “the game” of politics IS different. The website techPresident.com is tracking many of the newer technological faces of 2008 U.S. Presidential politics. Among those are the number of “MySpace friends” currently affiliated with leading candidates. Today’s top 2 democratic contenders: Barack Obama: 77,041. Hillary Clinton: 30,587. Apparently fewer MySpace users are interested in Republican candidates, current numbers for the top GOP candidates are Ron Paul: 4,367 and Mitt Romney: 2,501.

Interesting to see the latest news headline on HillaryClinton.com:
Hillary Clinton is watching MySpace

It is also interesting to watch how these political maneuverings contrast with the general lack of conversations we see in many K-12 schools over digital social networking. User created content is going to continue to grow in quantity and in its reach in the months and years to come, and schools need to proactively address the opportunities as well as dangers posed by it. The January 2007 PEW/Internet report “Election 2006 Online” includes some interesting statistics, which should be particularly attention-getting when you consider the growth trend lines they represent. According to the report:

The number of Americans relying on the internet for political news doubled from the 2002 mid-term election and grew fivefold in the past decade.

The pace and reach of residential broadband Internet access is accelerating these patterns. Other summary findings from the report included:

31% of Americans used the internet during the 2006 campaign to get political news and information and discuss the races through email…Relatively young broadband users say the internet is a more important political news source than newspapers…A new online political elite is emerging as 23% of campaign internet users became online political activists…While mainstream news sources still dominate the online news and information gathering by campaign internet users, a majority of them now get political material from blogs, comedy sites, government websites, candidate sites, or alternative news sites…While most campaign internet users say convenience is a major reason they use the internet, more than half cite the internet’s breadth of information and perspectives as a major reason for their online activity…Republicans and Democrats were equally likely to rely on the internet – but there were partisan trends in usage of other political news sources.

Although not mentioned in the article by name, YouTube is undoubtedly already and will play an increasingly important role in the 2008 elections. Digital storytelling is a powerful medium, and we live in the “publish at will” era for ideas communicated with text, audio recordings, or videos.

If we extrapolate these trend lines down to our school-aged youth, a logical question becomes: How much of the content, assignments, tasks and information we want our students to access and become part of their RELEVANT digital information stream after and before school-hours is available online? To be relevant in the 21st century, it is not necessary or even desirable to be entirely digital. But offering content via different digital modalities certainly does and will continue to increase the potential for those ideas to be relevant to a “digitally native” audience than many analog, non-digital information source alternatives.

We’re living in an attention economy. The digital divide still exists, but have you done an informal survey in a classroom lately to see how many students own their own cell phones? The numbers can be amazing.

If we want to remain relevant, we need to increasingly think about engaging ways to digitally communicate the messages we want to share with others. U.S. political candidates are certainly doing this. Teachers, principals, and school board members need to pay attention and take notes. (And maybe even leave some comments on some blogs! 🙂 )

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3 Responses to Read/Write web political disruptions

  1. Joem says:

    Yes the Internet has made great changes to the game. We are just seeing the beginning of the impact the web will have on the 2008 presidential race. This is just the tip of the ice berg so to speak. More creative videos will be released and other uses of the web will become evident as we progress towards November 2008.

  2. I agree that educators need to take note of the digital revolution. However, as tech-savvy educators we need to help bridge the digital chasm that exists between students and teachers (administrators too) who are just beginning to expand their technology experiences. I work with excellent teachers who are interested in engaging their students, but are so overwhelmed and intimidated by the technology that they don’t know where to start. We need to scaffold the learning for these teachers just as we would do for students trying to catch up in a particular subject area.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Differentiating learning is one of the greatest challenges in teaching, and the importance of differentiating learning is just as important for older, adult teachers as it is for our students I think. As the pace of change continues to accelerate (which I think it is) the “digital divides” even between teachers can seem more apparent. I think ultimately we need changes in our curriculum standards and expectations which provide more TIME for lesson development and learning on the part of teachers. Currently I think many teachers (perhaps most) have their “curricular plates” so full that the idea of spending lots of time learning new technology things strikes them as undoable. I think PTA and PTO groups could get involved in helping locate supplementary, online lesson resources for teachers– but even if a program like that is underway at the school in in a district, I still think the TIME issue is the greatest obstacle to helping more teachers use digital tools.

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