Harlan Institute and FantasySCOTUS Featured on New York Times’ Learning Network

May 19th, 2011

The Time’s Learning Network ran a feature as a follow-up to last week’s front page article about social media in the classroom. The Times interviewed Erin Olson, a member of the Harlan Institute Teacher Advisory Network. When asked about social media and civic engagement, she discussed her class’s experience with FantasySCOTUS and Snyder v. Phelps.

Q. Does classroom engagement in social media lead to civic engagement? Is social media use related in any way to increased activism?
A.  E.O.: I am not the dispenser of all knowledge. Through social media, students can learn from the source, and the expert is not necessarily me. I can connect our class to experts in the field of study whether that be a professor, an author, a lawyer or a historian. There is so much information on the Web; students must read critically. In a time when e-mail forwards are considered truth, the ability to research effectively, to discover bias, and to analyze sources becomes crucial.

My juniors are members of the Harlan Institute Supreme Court Fantasy League. Students read about the Snyder v. Phelps case, and on Veterans Day, the class discussed the case with a lawyer via Skype. Students responded to prompts on our Harlan blog. The class was inspired by the reading, and volunteered to perform a reader’s theater piece for the Veterans Day program. As we continued reading, writing, speaking, analyzing and researching, students managed to continue discussing the case. They understood the need to protect the freedom of speech, but they were troubled by the hurtful comments made during a time of mourning

A few weeks ago, my students entered the room one talking over the other. Westboro Baptist Church was protesting a funeral of a fallen soldier; the funeral was in Iowa. Students organized a peaceful demonstration of support for soldiers. Their passion was inspiring, and their genuine empathy and support for soldiers fighting, for families of soldiers, for those fallen … amazing.

Erin talks more about the experience with the Westboro Baptists here.

Congrats Erin!