MAKEing Student Voice Heard through Political Art

“Children should be seen not heard.”

How many of us feel like this was the mantra when growing up?


Created by Jarred Meyer

In education, we can’t afford for learners to remain passive consumers of knowledge. We know that today’s employers demand being able to process, respond to, and create plausible solutions to pressing issues. This cannot happen if learning experiences are not more engaging and interactive.


Created by Daniel Larva

Thank goodness, we are learning how to leverage learner interest and talents to empower youth to articulate informed opinions on significant causes. Initiatives like Letters to the Next President create opportunities for students to create various media and share their ideas on campaign issues. Partners like National Writing Project, Youth Radio, Mozilla Foundation, Hypothis.Is, KQED Education, and many more collaborate to design activities that invite people to participate. First, this summer, educators will experience Media Makes and Make Cycles in order to prepare for what it will be like to do such work with their students. Next, educators will incorporate lessons, which will be developed over the summer, this coming fall to encourage learners to make multimedia letters to the next president.


Created by Anika Biju

Let’s examine one of the KQED Media Makes. For the Letters to Next President Media Make #2, we were invited to make our political art. Learners viewed an engaging video about famous political artists complete with 5 Tips to creating their own. They were able to work independently or with partners. They chose one of the nine campaign issues that speaks to them. They created and published their political art.

It’s important for me to focus on media-making as a process similar to the Writing Process. It’s iterative, and learners must seek and respond to feedback to hone their messages. Here are some guidelines I included in the activity description.

Agency (20 points):

  • Completed on time?
  • Connected to an election issue from resource above?
  • Received feedback from Mrs. Bence and revised accordingly?
  • Received feedback from Mrs. Boyd and revised accordingly?
  • Demonstrates original, creative thought
  • Art is memorable and powerful
  • Art is completed in near professional manner
  • Directions were followed

Oral Communication (10 Points):

  • able to articulate type of feedback desired
  • able to justify choices
  • able to explain why this is an important issue
  • able to express inspirations
  • able to articulate process

Knowledge and Thinking (10 Points):

  • art reflects understanding of election issue
  • art reflects review and understanding of Do Now Art School resource
  • art reflects sound design theory
  • art connects clearly to perspective on election issue
  • art attempts to be inclusive AND tolerant instead of exclusive AND prejudicial (our driving question)

Written Communication (5 Points):

  • posts jpeg with catchy relevant tweet message using #MediaMakePoliticalArt #2NextPrez #YouthActionFF #boydbence
  • errorless spelling and punctuation on political poster

Created by Elizabeth Fullwood

We had an extra layer of authenticity to this activity. The most impactful political art, as chosen by the Youth Action Film Festival (YAFF) Student Advisory Board, will be selected and turned into buttons whose sale will benefit YAFF. Learners got really excited about that!


Created by Raed Ahmed


Created by Ethan and Evan Williams


Created by Caitlin Rogers


Created by Daniela Villarreal

It’s my sincere hope more educators take advantage of such meaningful learning opportunities as Media Makes for Letters to the Next President. It will ignite the political agency in our learners. During such experiences, I find them to be passionate, willing to become more informed on important issues, and eager to fine tune their media to best communicate their perspectives while remaining open to diverse perspectives.


Created by Veda Velamuri


10 Tips for Engaging Students in Social Media Discussions

Part of my goal is being very transparent and open about sharing the work my learners do. I feel this is the best way to scale the types of learning experiences I feel make a real difference to my learners. Clearly, this is what works in my particular context, but I invite educators to hack and remix these practices to meet the needs of your learning landscape.

In an effort to collaborate, here is a KQED EdSpace blog post co-created by myself and some of my rockstar learners. Enjoy!

Twitter as a Connected Learning Tool

I believe in Social Media. I have borrowed some of my best ideas, have been inspired by some of the wonderings of others, and have been infuriated by the injustices shared on Twitter.

As the school year dives into its fourth week, I marvel at the careful implementation of Twitter in classrooms. I tried to understand why this is such a powerful tool in my current practice so I examined Twitter exchanges through a Connected Learning lens. (See previous post on Connected Learning. These principles supported by Twitter are bolded.)

My son’s teacher shares updates and snapshots of student work and activities. It’s a delight to receive snippets of Isaac’s progress. It gives me a better snapshot of his learning than the somewhat sketchy descriptions of a six-year-old. This social media share out makes their work more accessible to a wider audience. And even though I’m busily working at a high school a couple of streets down, I can discover how my child spends his day.

Sumrall's Class Twitter

Selfies with Six Year Olds

We have also restarted our KQED DoNow responses. What an incredible resource enabling our learners to connect to learners across the world. They are able to make their informed opinions transparent to the world. They can monitor how others view the event and take a pulse of which direction we are headed. They can see how their academic tasks can connect to platforms they use in other aspects of their lives. The first civic engagement topic was #DoNowFurguson asking how we could prevent future Michael Browns and the role of social media in activism. These boiled down thoughts are the result of revision of more extended responses to the questions. The effort entailed to crafting these tweets reflect the writing process to reach the wider audience of the Twittersphere. Plus, our learners are focused on the common goal of raising awareness and the importance of discussing such events with other youth on a wider scale.

#DoNowFurguson 1


This year has also been the year of using Twitter to form and shape community. The idea of having support from peers is key in any Connected Learning environment. As we publish our wonderings and Ah-Ha moments via Twitter, we see bonds of trust forming, further encouraging risk-taking and making learning transparent. Here is a Tweet from a couple of current sophomores appreciating work from our current Freshmen, or Rookies as we call them:

NTH@C Sophomores Give Props to Rookies

NTH@C Sophomores Give Props to Rookies

Knowing their work is being seen, knowing it is being retweeted, AND knowing that older learners appreciate their work is a critical piece to sustaining an ecosystem where learning is fostered across grade levels, where learning transcends traditional boundaries.

And we are only at the beginning of week 4. I look forward to seeing how my learners accept the challenge of publishing their media via Twitter. I’m anxious to see if they use it for real transformation as many of them cited this is social media’s potential.