I’m not a real political scientist. I try to understand the issues and the candidates for local, provincial, and federal elections as they apply to me and that’s pretty much it. On election nights here in Canada, I’ll flip around and see what’s happening in the local districts and places that I’ve lived over the years and that’s pretty much it.
In the United States, politics are considerably more “in your face” and I just shudder when I think of the millions of dollars that go into political campaigns. Political reporting there seem to be a constant battle to create some sensational angle on the process or the players. Witness the reports this week that 20% of Americans think that their president is Muslim. A subsequent article in the Washington Post wanted to know what else these people think.
It’s with a couple of trends that I seem to be taking a bit more interest in this. First, my community of people that I interact with daily has expanded globally being connected to Twitter. People have real thoughts and, while I go looking for quality educational conversation, the Twitter stream provides for divergent discussions so easily. In traditional message forums, moderators would rule these things out of order and moderate them into oblivion. Using this medium, it’s accepted and encouraged to enrich the conversation.
Secondly, to use an old cliche, the world is indeed getting smaller. We read and see daily world-wide events that are more newsworthy and relevant. Consequently, the 15 second blip that might appear on the evening news can become as deep as you wish to make it. It just takes a few clicks of the mouse and you’re connected to news sources and opinions globally.
Combine these resources with individuals that you connect with on Twitter and in person generates a really unique understanding opportunity. In addition to the moderated, filtered content that you read through news services, you get the human side as real people comment about how it affects them.
For example, normally, I wouldn’t care about the Australian elections. It’s a rich, diverse country that we covered in a unit in school and then we moved on to another country leaving the legacy learning of penal colonies, kangaroos, and states instead of provinces. That’s pretty much all that I’ve got and/or retained from formal education. But, in other forums, I’ve talked with Australian folks, Twittered with them, got some first-hand observations from The Boy’s visit, and even went to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game with one.
This time, following the recent election, was different. Through my contacts on Twitter, I’ve received more than an eyeful of commentary about things in the past week. I’ve actually become very interested in the issues and would check in periodically to see how things progress towards a new government and the responses from the citizens. There was a more human element in my curiosity.
Australia also gets technology and news reporting exploit it so well.
Click here for an interactive map showing results by electorate or here to watch “Your Vote” fall into place (at least for today’s issue of news.com.au). I wish that there were embed codes for these as they’d be great keepers to illustrate the concept. I love visualizations.
This offers such rich opportunities in the classroom. But, how do you stay on top of this? In the past, the technique might be to do a search, visit websites or have an RSS feed and browse the listings. Both are great ways to handle things. But, Twitter can add even more to the process and I think would complement these techniques nicely. I have a second Twitter account called “DougsNews” which I reserve for the exclusive purpose of following relevant news sources. (relevant to me, of course) With my Seesmic Desktop, I just configure multiple Twitter accounts and devote a column to this source of news. It works nicely.
The real value is to differentiate this content from my normal stream of information. When I want news, I just take a look at this account. It doesn’t appear mingled amongst the other information that I read. I started the concept before Twitter created lists and so that would work nicely with a single account as well. The real power of Twitter as an educational tool is its sense of “Now”. If I want historical or oodles of information, I can use a traditional search engine. If I want it live and now, before Bing or Google or Yahoo! knows about it, I’ll turn to Twitter. In days of dated memories and textbook resources, more and more educators are turning to electronic resources to stay current. Why wouldn’t you have a separate Twitter account or Twitter list or saved Twitter search to make sure that you’re up on latest?