Ed Tech Tips with E. Mosier

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The Living Room Candidate


In one of the tech blogs I read frequently, FreeTech4Teachers, a website was described that has the potential for some interesting lessons for students. The site is called The Living Room Candidate, and it displays all of the Presidential campaign ads from 1952 - 2012. Additionally, there are several different lesson plans meant to be used in conjunction with the commercials. I highly recommend checking it out as election season is in full swing and this provides students a greater understanding of how the advertising process works.

The Home Screen

When you arrive at the site, you are greeted with a video player in the middle, with a sidebar of election years on the left. Also in the sidebar to the left is where you'll find places where you can filter the videos, by election year, types of commercial, and issues. Below each video is a description of the video and the "category" it fits under.

Clicking on an Election Year

When you select an election year off to the left, a new page appears with a similar layout as the home screen, with a few different options. Below the player in the center are small thumbnails of videos from each party that had a candidate running that year. My favorite part about this screen is that off to the right you can navigate different tabs for each candidate and read their campaign slogan, read a summary of what they're major platforms were, and even see the results and how many electoral votes each candidate received.

The Filters to the Left

As mentioned, you are presented with a few options to filter videos overall or for an election year in two pretty neat ways.

Type of Commercial: The types of commercials presented are: Backfire, Biographical, Children, Commander in Chief, Documentary, Fear, and Real People. Each of these displays the candidate in a different light so you can easily present a lesson on the categories of commercials candidates are using and the comparison of how each candidate uses each category to enhance their image.

Issue: Another awesome piece are commercials filtered by the Issue presented. Those include: Change, Civil Rights, Corruption, Taxes, War, and Welfare. It would be interesting to hold a class discussion about other topics of interest in commercials nowadays and see how the dynamic and concern of voters has shifted over the years.

Lessons for Teachers

The most useful piece of this entire website is that there are built in lessons for teachers to use with their students. These can be printed in PDF form making the resource that much more valuable. A few examples of lessons include:

What makes an effective ad?: By viewing and analyzing selected presidential campaign advertisements, students will develop criteria for evaluating what makes an effective political ad.

Developing Critical Analysis: Students will learn how to be critical viewers of presidential television campaign commercials by analyzing the use of images and sounds in a series of ads.

Understanding the language of political ads: Students will understand the nature and uses of language in presidential ads, and become aware of how candidates use words to influence viewer opinion.

Political ads in historical context: Students will analyze ads from two presidential campaign years. In the process, they will learn how ads reflect their historical context while also addressing themes and concerns common to most modern presidential campaigns.

The AdMaker

Aside from the lessons for teachers, a really neat resource on the "For Teachers" tab is the Admaker. This is an online tool that allows students to remix a historic campaign ad or to make a new ad. This could be an additional lesson to use and something students may really enjoy!

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