February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Touch and Go: Countdown to an Election

Washington Post Politics app screenshotGiven that this is the first U.S. presidential election since apps have made their way onto most electronic devices, you might think there would be dozens of worthwhile products available on the topic designed for students. Think again.

Sure, there are plenty of apps devoted to November’s election, there just aren’t that many that explain the process to those too young to cast a ballot. Those listed here should get the conversation rolling about how we elect a President and the men who have held that the office.

For older students look for apps produced by mainstream media outlets with a focus on election coverage. Start with the major newspapers. In addition to hourly news updates, The Washington Post’s  W P Politics  includes “campaign files,” an interactive polling map, and a fact checker that “accesses the veracity of candidates’ statements,” awarding “one to four Pinocchios” when deemed necessary. Viewers can also watch videos of candidate’s ads—these alone will generate some lively classroom conversations. It doesn’t get much better than this one, and it’s available for free.

The NY Times Election 2012  (The New York Times) app promises all readers access to a half dozen “top” news stories. However, only subscribers can view candidate pages and videos and photos from the campaign trail, read the latest polling news, and receive live election results. High school students who love politics are probably already following Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook  (Politico) on their iPhones or iPads. Right now the daily news from this Washington insider is full of election-related coverage, and it’s all for free.

To drive home discussions about the Electoral College consider downloading the Electoral-Vote.com (Dubbele.com; Gr 9 Up; Free) app, which will bring users to the website. The site, which has been tracking elections for a number of years, includes detailed maps and commentary (sometimes snarky) on the presidential and senate races. It includes current poll results, graphs, and news features, and links to articles from a range of periodicals and blogs. The 2012 Map: The Presidential Election App is a better choice for younger students (Cory Renzella; Gr 5-9; $1.99), and it’s available in 12 languages. The projected electoral map is easy-to-read and there are daily updates and brief notes on where current presidential polls are in place. Users can create maps with their own Electoral College projections and share them with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email. As they scroll through the archive of electoral maps from 1789 through 2008 they’ll see the borders of the country change, watch as third parties pop up, discover the shrunken map of 1864, and read the embedded notes on each election. For a simple Electoral College map that can be manipulated for classroom use Election Map 2012  (Teq; Gr 4 Up; $1.99) will also work. A look at the last four election maps is included.

Most of the apps for younger students feature lists of the men who have held the office of Chief Executive and provide a few facts about each of them. U.S. Presidents  (Encyclopaedia Britannica/MEDL Mobile; Gr 3-6; $1.99) opens with a rendition of “Hail to the Chief” and a photo of President Barack Obama. Beyond this screen viewers can access a page of images of the presidents in chronological order. A tap to any portrait brings up information on the subject along with additional tabs leading to facts about that president’s vice president, First Lady, and birth date, and a bit of trivia. Information on national landmarks, and the lyrics of “Hail to the Chief” are also provided. After exploring the app viewers can take a quiz to test their knowledge of presidential facts answering such questions as “Who was the first U.S. president to be elected with no prior political experience?” and “Who was the only president to serve two terms that weren’t back to back?”

The “clear interface” of The American Presidents and First Ladies  (Multieducator, Inc.; Gr 4-8; $.99) allows users to sort the lists of leaders and their spouses either alphabetically or chronologically. Each entry includes personal facts, along with a page of information on the president’s early years, family, election, “presidential promises.” The full text of each man’s inaugural text is also included. Information on the First Ladies includes the years before and after each woman’s spouse was in office. Highlights of the app are the embedded videos, which include photos and audio clips. Unfortunately, some out-of-date information and typos mar the overall presentation.

What Does the President Look Like?  (Kane Miller; Gr 4-8; $2.99 ), based on the book by Jane Hampton Cook and illustrated by Adam Ziskie, takes a different approach to presidential history. It offers a visual survey of the men who have held that office, along the way providing “succinct history of visual media, from portrait making through digital imaging.” Here’s what our reviewer, Erin Sehorn, had to say about the app’s options: “The “timeline” chronicles major events in presidential history, as well as the technological evolution of photographs, movies, television, and the Internet. On each page, glowing stars allow users to learn more about the technological advances of presidential image making through pop-up pictures, early political cartoons, and newsreel footage. “Resources” links to the websites used as source material. There are a few glitches—for example, in the “Gallery” portraits appear only briefly, making it difficult to study an image. Overall, though, kids will enjoy this production.”

Our youngest students may not know the ins and outs of how someone makes it into the White House, but they do know that a visit to that famous abode is cause for excitement. While conversation of the election swirls around them, share Marc Brown’s Arthur Meets the President  (ScrollMotion, Inc.; $2.99), based on the author’s picture book. In this story, the aardvark’s essay on “How I Can Help Make America Great” wins him and his classmates a trip to the White House to meet the president. En route the characters (and viewers) see and learn about a few other famous Washington, DC landmarks, and perhaps, take a moment to ponder what their contribution to our country might be.


Eds. note: After a brief hiatus during the transition to our new website, our app reviews are back. —moving from School Library Journal’s blog roll into a column, and pushing out in our Extra Helping enewsletter. Archived reviews can be found on the SLJ website under “Blogs and Columns.” However, to ensure you receive all of our postings, be sure to add “Touch and Go” to your RSS feed.

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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