3194760949_ce0b79d953A few weeks after the presidential election, two teachers approached me with an idea to take a group of students down to Washington, DC to cover the inauguration of Barack Obama.

 

Dave Bill and Pete Smith, two of our technology integration faculty had put together a proposal where a group of students would go down to DC and cover the election using social media tools and bring back their experience to members of the school community. It was a great idea and along with other members of the administration we gave our full support for moving forward with the project.

 

Some background; our school runs an annual “academic” festival of some kind focusing on an important topic or issue, this year it was on election day and we engaged in a variety of activities including party conventions, a debate, workshops and simulated voting. The day was a huge success and it seemed only natural for us to send a small group of teachers and students down to cover the inauguration. The project included an application process and was open to all upper school students.

 

A brief overview from the project website:

Worcester Academy students selected through an application process will travel to Washington, D.C. from January 18th to 21st and report on the events surrounding the inauguration using a variety of social media.  The focus will be on understanding the historic nature of the election of Barack Obama as well as promoting the powerful potential of social technologies.

 

Students will be broken into groups and each group will be responsible for examining a particular theme while reporting in Washington.  The following themes will be highlighted using video, audio, images, twitter, as well as blog entries.

 

1.  Why are you attending the Inauguration?
2.  What is the historical significance of the election of Barack Obama and how will his election change the viability of a minority being elected in other countries?
3.  How did social media influence the election?
4.  Regarding the current world view of the United States, what changes does Obama need to implement to rebuild this nation and why?
5.  Considering the goals he has set, what will America be like under the Obama administration?

 

This blog will be the main repository for all information collected by our students.  All methods of communication will either be posted here or can be accessed on the sidebar

The written responses and application videos were uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed here.  In the week since we announced the 11 students that were selected, the response has been tremendous and it has received significant national and local press coverage.

 

My reason for sharing this story is to highlight how schools can both inspire teachers and students to find authentic ways to engage in their learning process together. It would be very easy to find reasons not to engage in this kind of project and yet, the amount of excitement and enthusiasm around this project and small team of social media reporters from Worcester Academy is having on our school community is infectious.  More importantly, I think it highlights an important paradigm shift in how schools need to begin thinking about their curriculum. As one student put it in her interview, rather than reading about history in her textbook, she will be recording history first hand. Therein lies the power and potential of social media tools in the classroom.

 

If you would like to read more about this project, visit the project website at http://wainauguration.org/ or follow the group’s Twitter feed @wainauguration.

 

Follow Antonio on Twitter @antonioviva or on his blog antonioviva.com

Antonio Viva

Head of School at Walnut Hill School of the Arts

http://antonioviva.com