A recent article on one of my favorite websites, Factcheck.org describes a post-election poll that is sure to incite headaches in some (and infuriate others). It points out that, after the 2008 Presidential election was completed, a large portion of the country had completely bought into the “spin” (read: lies) told by both sides of the campaign; many Republicans still believe that Obama is Muslim, and many Democrats still believe that McCain was going to hack apart Medicare (neither of which was true).
What is most disturbing to me in the article is this statistic:
Political ads run thousands of times and reach far more people than articles on FactCheck.org. On our best day, we were read by 462,678 visitors. By contrast, the Obama campaign aired two ads claiming that McCain planned to cut Medicare benefits a total of 17,614 times at a cost estimated to be more than $7 million – which is several times more than FactCheck.org’s entire annual budget.
Considering that a large portion of the public believed the claims espoused in those ads, it would seem that two things convinced many Americans of its truth: repetition and money. By investing serious cash into commercials that aired repeatedly, the Obama campaign was able to convince many voters that McCain would be cutting Medicare (obviously the same goes for McCain’s ads on Obama).
I see two possible ramifications of this as it relates to education. First, maybe repetition is still an effective strategy for convincing people of something. Sometimes, repetition can be effective. Second, it seems like throwing money at an idea can be effective, as well. Is it just me, or are those some pretty cynical conclusions to draw from all of this?
Those that have done any serious video editing know how time consuming it can be. And despite all of the time that goes into the process, it always seems to come out lacking something. Enter Animoto -a video creation tool that mashes together your pictures and music into a dazzling video, and does it in a matter of minutes.
Instructify, @edu, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Mr. B-G’s English Blog, U Tech Tips, Huff English, and of course the huge tech blog, Webware, have all posted on this cool tool already. I guess that means I’m late to the party. Nevertheless, I’m excited to share a little bit about Animoto. To avoid beating a dead horse, though, I thought I’d mention the features that most educators will find relevant and exciting.
- While most people can get a free account that allows them to make 30-second clips, Animoto has seen fit to spoil educators by giving us free full-access passes. All you have to do is subscribe, they’ll review your information and will give you a pass to create unlimited videos of unlimited length. Kudos to Animoto for this amazing gift!
- Animoto provides a (limited) selection of royalty-free music for you to use in your videos. Ranging from classical to rock to hip-hop, you can use whatever style of music you want to spruce up that slideshow you were planning.
- Animoto links directly to YouTube, allowing you to upload your video quickly and seamlessly to your YouTube account. It’s also very easy to embed Animoto videos directly into a blog or website.
- Some pictures are just more important than others. Animoto lets you “spotlight” certain pictures so they appear both in the background and appear longer and brighter than other pictures.
- The newest feature of Animoto is the one thing that it was missing before: text. Now, along with the pictures you upload, users can create “images” in your video that are nothing but text. And like everything else on the site, the text is about as professional looking as you can get. The only downside is that there is a character limit – 20 on the top line, 30 on the bottom line. Even so, this was a much needed improvement.
Rather than going on and on about Animoto, here are a few examples that I’ve “created.” Enjoy!
First, a quick video tribute to my alma mater:
And a mashup of headlines from around the globe on November 5, 2008 (via the Newseum – another amazing site I’ll talk about sometime).
And finally, a remake of my first ever trailer – the prologue from Romeo & Juliet (a little longer than I’d like, but still pretty darn cool).
With the 2008 Presidential Election only a couple weeks away, I felt like now would be a good time to share some great resources for those of you who (like me) are as of yet undecided. Whether you’re helping students sift through the swamp of information about the election or simply trying to figure out who to vote for, here are five websites to visit before casting your vote for the next Commander-in-Chief.
- Factcheck.org: One of my favorite sites of all time. The hard-working people at FactCheck (and the authors of unSpun– a great read) do a wonderful job dissecting the claims made by candidates in debates, advertisements, and other media. They’re especially helpful after the presidential debates, as they sift through all the “whoppers” each candidate told. I’d recommend RSSing their blog and following regularly.
- InQuotes: Is there anything Google can’t do? A searchable, sortable compilation of quotes from each candidate on major issues, from abortion to taxes. Get the information about each candidate’s position from the candidate’s own mouth. Simple, but powerful tool for adults and for students.
- Connect2Elect: A really interesting site that asks you to input your own beliefs and positions about all the major political issues and then prioritize them. Once you’ve finished that step, it connects you to the candidate that you best align with based on the positions you’ve written down. Absolutely worth checking out if you’re an independent and/or undecided. Kind of pointless if you vote based on party affiliation.
- Project Vote Smart: An oldie but a goodie, Project Vote Smart outlines the positions of all the key candidates. The huge benefit of this website, though, is that they don’t stop with the Presidential election – they include an abundance of information on Congressional elections, state elections, and even state ballot measures. If you want to know what each issue is really about, this is the place to look.
- PBS Vote 2008: OK, so this one is kind of cheating, but that’s alright. PBS has a slew of great resources, including links to other wonderful sites that I won’t cover here. Some of the site’s best stuff is found under the “Tools” menu, including interactive games that will help you (and students) understand what is going on in this election. There’s even a “For Teachers” button on the top right that sends you to a second site full of educational resources on the 2008 election.
And finally, a quick bonus. I’m not sure how influential this will be on your vote, but here’s Stephen Colbert (also available on Hulu) comparing the Presidential candidates to Shakespearean characters, with the help of Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt (thanks to the English Teacher Blog for posting this first). If not informative, at least it’s entertaining. Hurt out.