This morning, since my 4th grade daughter’s teacher chose NOT to show President Obama’s speech to her class, I pulled Sarah out of school 30 minutes before the speech began and brought her home so we could watch it together on CSPAN, as well as interact with 5th grade students and teachers in Littleton, Colorado, whose teachers (Mr. Moore and Ms. Vander Velde) used CoverItLive as well as a series of questions posted to their classroom blog ( to engage students in discussions around the speech. I really enjoyed watching President Ronald Reagan’s interactive Q&A session with students from 1988 on CSPAN prior to today’s speech by President Obama.

How unfortunate it is that we STILL have not given our President the line item veto, as Reagan discussed back in 1988, or effectively addressed our national deficit which continues to spiral out of control?! In addition to advocating for the line item veto in that speech / discussion with students in 1988, President Reagan also made the case for a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. Given the amount of concern we heard from various parties that President Obama would push “his agenda” in this speech to students, it was and is very instructive to hear what past Presidents have said when they addressed our nation’s children directly. President GW Bush’s address to students from 1991 is also available via the CSPAN archives. Neither President Obama or GW Bush took the interactive approach of President Reagan in their presentations, and that is unfortunate. Perhaps the next time our chief executive takes time out to address the nation’s students directly, she will respond to questions from the audience and from virtual attendees online. 😉

In Littleton, Colorado, today, there were approximately 150 students gathered (according to the CoverItLive reply) watching the speech together. The teachers posted five questions during and following the speech to which students responded. Question 1 was, “Why do you think that adults would not want their children to watch this speech about education from the President?” Daniel, David, and Brenden seemed to get it right in their answer, noting:

Parents do not want their children to watch the speech because some people don’t like Obama’s ideas.

That was the case for some families here in Edmond, Oklahoma. My daughter, Sarah, recorded a two minute response to the speech after it was over which we posted to YouTube and our family learning blog. In her response, Sarah shared that a student sitting near her this morning in class told her, “I’m not allowed to watch the speech. We’re Republicans.” Obviously whatever the political party affiliation of a student or parent, it’s important to hear and listen to different viewpoints. It’s too bad at least some of our families here in Oklahoma don’t share that view about civic engagement.

Question #2 for Littleton students this morning was:

Many of you are thinking that adults do not like Obama. Some of you believe that parents might not let students watch at school because they would prefer that the family watch together at home. What do you think… Is it better to watch at home or at school? Please make sure to explain your answers and push your thinking.

I agree with Aly and Alexa’s response. They noted:

[We] think that which ever works better for the children and parents to talk about with them.

They’re right! Conversations are the key. I think it’s valuable to have the reasons some parents opposed their students viewing this speech at school “uncovered.” We should support schools and communities which embrace open dialog and LISTENING to each other, rather than closed minded/closed ear thinking.

not listening

Question #3 for students in Littleton focused on a major theme of today’s speech, “Whose responsibility is your education?” Savannah and Isamary noted in response:

It is your responsibility for your education because if you come to school with no homework thats your fault no one else’s fault you didn’t have it. Also if you don’t listen you won’t get the information you need for the test or to answer the questions you will need to sometime in the future. Who’s responsibility is it? Yours.

If we want our students to learn from consumptive video activities, we MUST ask them to actively process the information they heard and CREATE something with it. While it’s certainly no panacea, using a classroom blog in the way teachers and students in Littleton did today can make lessons “stickier.” It also certainly provides a window into classroom learning, increasing transparency and the opportunity for parents as well as others to not only “peer into classroom learning” but also actively participate.

Question #4 on the Littleton blog today was, “Do you think that the people who have done big things like start Google and Facebook got the skills they needed in school, or do you think that they could have done those things without a college education?” The students offered their own guesses as comments to this question, but isn’t it exciting to see what resources ANY learner with open Internet access to WikiPedia and YouTube can use to answer this? The English WikiPedia entries for Sergey Brin and Larry Page provide lots of background on this question, as well as this 11 minute interview with Sergey from Israeli television:

In this video, Sergey explains he and Larry initially created a server case made from legos, before they had enough money to purchase larger, commercially-made cases. Is that anecdote amazing or what? Sergey also addresses the issue of Google’s search results being algorithmically derived, and not “meddled with” even when he might personally not like those results. The example which prompts this discussion is a search query for “Jew” which yields (among many other sites) websites which deny the Holocaust took place.

That video and those links may seem far afield from the President’s speech today, but in actuality they are not, because they demonstrate the AMAZING quality and content of information at our fingertips IF we are empowered with both access and purpose. Access IS critical, and that is why the project “Unmasking the Digital Truth” continues to be important. Purpose, however, is something which does not come from the school administration or the IT department. PURPOSE comes from the tasks assigned by a passionate teacher, and from the motivation a learner derives from his/her family as well as from inside. President Obama addressed these issues well in his speech, and I think succeeded in sharing an inspirational message.

It was fun to be able to listen to the speech together with my daughter today. It’s too bad we had to come home, rather than remain at school, to both watch the speech and have interactive media experiences with other learners geographically separated from us, but with time I’m confident those dynamics will change… even here in Oklahoma.

On a technical note, I’ll point out that I set the commenting features of the YouTube response by Sarah to permit “friend” comments to show up right away, but other comments to be moderated. Not everyone knows you can moderate comments on YouTube, and for school videos posted there this is definitely a good idea.

Setting YouTube commenting options

It’s also a good idea to choose NOT to include “related” videos when you embed YouTube videos on another site, as we did with our family learning blog today. You don’t have control over what “related videos” show up there, and you might be able to prevent some parent complaints by disabling that feature before embedding a video. The YouTube-provided embed code is altered to not include related videos when you click the checkbox under the embed coded field.

Choose NOT to include related YouTube videos when you embed

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One Response to Using Blogs and CoverItLive to Discuss President Obama’s Speech

  1. Dear Mr. Fryer,

    Your blog was really fun to see. Thank you for posting comments with us. Thank you for visiting our website. Thanks for creating links on your website to our website.

    We’ve got so many questions for you. We’ll share some of them here:
    1. How do you come up with so many great ideas?
    2. Would you think of following our blog?
    3. Did you see our Animoto?
    4. Can you come visit our school?
    5. Are you glad that you took your daughter out of school today?
    6. How does she feel about missing school today?
    7. Do you work at the school she attends?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. We were surprised that you took your daughter out of school!We can’t wait to work with you again soon!

    ~ The Dragons

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