A few months ago, I stumbled across an interesting new Google tool in a Kyle Pace blog post.  Called the Search Story Creator, it allows users to create 30 second videos of the screens that appear when they are searching for particular topics.

Kyle use of the Search Story Creator — he created a sample commercial to advertise a political candidate — got me thinking that Google’s newest gizmo could be a great tool for having kids practice visual persuasion during the upcoming election season.

But instead of using the Search Story Creator to generate a commercial about a candidate, I thought having students create a commercial trying to influence people around a particular issue might make sense.

Specifically, I wanted to create a task that would make kids think through what candidates AREN’T saying about hot-button issues.  Doing so would serve as a tangible reminder that there are two sides to every political story even if candidates aren’t always willing to consider them.

So I whipped up a few samples of search stories built around political issues that teachers could share with students starting a similar project.

Here’s one questioning Barack Obama’s position on universal health care:

And here’s one questioning Newt Gingrich’s positions on immigration:

They’re pretty interesting products, aren’t they?  Forcing kids to ask unanswered questions about the positions that candidates take on issues requires higher level thinking AND a deep understanding of political issues.

More importantly, it would encourage the kinds of behaviors that characterize the savviest citizens in any democracy.  For too long, politics has been driven by an unquestioned allegiance to individual parties.  It’s about time that we start to remind our kids that questioning candidates matters.

These kinds of products are also pretty easy to create.

Here’s a handout that your students can use to craft their own search stories on the political issues that matter the most to them:

Download Handout_ElectionThemedGoogleSearchStories

Overall, I think the Search Story Creator is a new tool worth exploring.

Not only does it generate an interesting and potentially influential visual product — something that students MUST master if they are going to be persuasive in tomorrow’s world — it forces kids to think through the kinds of questions that can result in more meaningful learning about controversial topics.

I also like how approachable the Search Story Creator is.  Once students have thought through the kinds of questions that they want to include in their final products, Google does the rest — from including background music and choosing transitions to uploading videos to YouTube.

That matters to me.  Whenever I’m working with technology, I want my kids focused on content, not on mastering new pieces of software or wrestling with technical processes.  The less time that my kids spend tinkering with tools, the more time they can spend thinking through key ideas.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Google’s Search Story Creator is perfect — final products are limited to 30 seconds, which is barely enough time to tell a meaningful story and users can’t make any individual enhancements to the screen captures that appear in their search stories even if they wanted to — but there are definitely classroom applications here.

Whaddya’ think?  Is this a tool that you think you could use with your students?


Related Radical Reads:

Google’s Reading Level Search Feature

Google’s Redesigned Related Searches Feature

Working Together with Wikis and Google Docs

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