Just as the barrage of campaign ads for the 2008 presidential election begins, a new Web site is offering an archive of television ads that have shaped voters’ views since 1952. The collection includes such iconic ads as 1964’s “Daisy,” which invoked fear of nuclear disaster, and 1984’s “Morning in America” from Ronald Reagan’s successful campaign.
Called the Living Room Candidate, the Web site was originally created by the Museum of Moving Image for use by the general public and included lesson plans for classroom teachers. It is currently being enhanced to include the latest campaign ads and to expand its educational content, adding interactive features for teachers and students. EDC is conducting a formative evaluation to ensure that the site’s new offerings realistically address the needs of classroom use.
“We are trying to revamp the way media producers create materials to better meet teachers’ needs,” says John Parris of EDC’s Center for Children and Technology (CCT). “Teachers are pressed for time, and they are not interested in many of the tools and extra features commonly found on media-rich sites. In addition to compelling content, they want ideas for questions and tips on how to use digital media, delivered in a means that helps them enrich what they’re teaching.”
One of the goals of the evaluation is to help the museum integrate media literacy into the site’s educational offerings, helping students to access, interpret, analyze, and evaluate images, words, and sounds they encounter. “Kids do stuff with digital media, and while teachers understand the content, they don’t understand the form and how to assess it. The interactive tools on the site need to support media literacy within the disciplines,” says Parris.
Users of the site are encouraged to view the campaign ads as miniature movies. “Film buffs or not, everyone has an innate understanding of films. However, many teachers do not have the language for, and are not used to, talking about things like shot angles, colors, and music. The new site will offer opportunities to pull the ads apart, and see more clearly the different aspects of film,” says Parris.
The evaluation of the Living Room Candidate will include surveys, focus groups, and classroom observations to identify who is using the site and in what context. In addition to Parris, who is an expert in working with museums on their educational content, the project team includes Bill Tally, a history specialist, and Cornelia Brunner, an expert in digital literacy.
The development and evaluation of the Living Room Candidate site are funded by the Verizon Foundation.
“Daisy” ad image courtesy of the Democratic National Committee.
Originally published on October 24, 2008