Letters to the Next President 2.0

By jeremydean | 1 February, 2016


Letters to the Next President 2.0 supports educators in providing interest-driven opportunities to foster and encourage youth voice and civic engagement. The project provides resources, learning opportunities, and curriculum ideas that help educators leverage the excitement around a national election by engaging youth in the US with reading, writing, and media-making about issues that matter.

Video of our introductory webinar discussing how to use Hypothesis to engage students in the 2016 election

For the past few months we have been working with inspiring partners at the National Writing Project and the Bay-Area PBS station KQED to develop an educational initiative around the 2016 election. Today, the Letters to the Next President 2.0 project officially launched. You can see how NWP describes the effort in the epigraph quoted above.

Hypothesis is one of several tools that young people will be using to engage with the 2016 election–the folks at Mozilla and LAMP have built some awesome stuff too. From fact-checking candidate statements to breaking down the rhetoric of campaign websites, we’ve developed annotation activities to help students harness the power of social annotation for civic participation. Here’s a link to our L2P 2.0 portal. We’ll be adding more content throughout this exciting election year. (If you are a teacher and want to share an annotation exercise or lesson plan, please reach out to us at education@hypothes.is.)

The previous Letters to the Next President project was implemented during the 2008 election and made use of a little known program called Google Docs for student letter-writing. The “2.0” in the 2016 initiative signals that this is a sequel of course, but also that we are continuing to rethink what it means to engage in the democratic process in the digital age. Today, for example, young people might be more likely to Tweet at the next president rather than write a letter. Similarly, a comment made using a social annotation tool like Hypothesis can be directed at a candidate and the greater voting public as well.

Our hope is that students will make use of the Hypothesis social annotation tool to “write back” to the 2016 candidates, commenting on their speeches, policy statements, and campaign websites, doing so not only with their words, but with images, GIFs, videos, and all the composition tools of the web. Students can share their annotations publicly using Hypothesis and other social media platforms. And they can use these annotations as pre-writing for traditional letters and other projects that engage the election.

Using Hypothesis, participants will be tagging relevant content with the “nextprez” tag–“#2nextprez” is the Twitter hashtag for the initiative. Teachers and students can thus discover content to annotate and view existing annotations by checking the “nextprez” stream linked here.

We’ve embedded a text by text version of the stream above on the right here. Click on a title to visit the original source. Click on the number in parentheses to expand and view annotations right here on this page!

(Of course, teachers can also make use of our group functionality if they’d rather not have their students annotate in public, or if they’d like to at least start their students off within a private space before revising their comments for the public.)

Next week we’ll be kicking off our first in a year-long series of Hypothesis Annotatathons. In honor of Presidents’ Day, we invite students to take a historical look at the American presidency by annotating some of the great speeches by those who have held the office and noting simply: what makes them presidential? (Next month we’ll be taking a look at Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” from the 2008 election, one of the most famous campaign speeches in US history.)

And everyday we’ll be tagging and annotating texts relevant to the current election and asking much the same question: are these words and ideas worthy of the most powerful public office in our nation?

Please help us publicize this initiative by sharing it with colleagues and friends. And as always, feel free to reach out to education@hypothes.is with any questions or ideas!


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