Resources for Teaching about the Election Process

The 2012 Presidential Election is right around the corner.  Should history teachers be spending valuable classroom time teaching students about the election process? I think so. This may be the last time students hear about a Presidential election from a teacher before they enter the ballot box as adults.

You can go here to the History Channel to see a video with David Eisenbach that discusses how technology has changed the voting process.  Over the years, technology innovations have moved us from the early pure democratic forms used in Greece and verbal voting methods, towards later forms of mechanization that produced some great innovations for timely counting, but also created the problem of hanging chads. Eisenbach ends the video alluding to a potential voting revolution via the cell phone, like American Idol. If teachers can get students as excited about the presidential campaign as they are about Idol, we may be able to work towards getting more people interested in the political process.

If you are looking for ways to discuss with your students the process of American voting, the Learning Network from the New York Times compiled a list of web sites, to include lesson plans and other graphic and interactive web links to help teachers incorporate learning about the election process into their classrooms. The electoral map here would be a great way to graphically depict how the electoral process works, and to open up discussion about difficult topics like what happens when there is conflict between popular and electoral votes or to debate whether communications systems have improved the average voter.

What are you doing to teach your students about the election?

GapMinder – A Graphical Representation of Human Development Indicators

Thanks to Dr. Brad Andrew, I’m a big fan of the tool Gapminder, a trend indicator software system.   Wealth and Health of Nations and 200 Years that Changed the World are interactive tools in Gapminder depicting changing national economic indicators. The video below is Hans Rosling’s discussion of how 200 Years that Changed the World analyzes changes in nation-states.



 Each country is designated by a separate circle, the size being proportionate to population, and continents are distinguished by color.  In 1809 all countries had a life expectancy of under 40 years of age, but as economic conditions improved, life expectancy increased.  See the difference in this example between 1900 and 2011.  China is the large red circle.

World history teachers can use this program to visually show how China’s Great Leap Forwards took time and resources to implement.

It also shows how some continents still lag behind in both economic and health indicators.

How could you use this in your classrooms?