Reflections on EdTech
Perhaps you have seen in your Twitter feed recently, tweets that trumpet the publication of “The Daily ____” and a link, or something to that effect, to an online newsletter. One of the current popular “spinoffs” from twitter and other social media services are personalized newspaper services. Two of these services that I have looked at are Scoop.it and Paper.li. Here’s how these services work, in a nutshell: After creating an account, you go ahead and input some of your social media accounts (twitter is a particularly effective one), RSS feeds you follow, as well as topic(s) that you want your newspaper to cover. You can name your paper, and customize the format, the look and feel, etc. After doing so, the web based service uses information from people you follow on twitter, and other streams that you follow, as well as its own searches based on terms and areas you have inputted, to create a multimedia “newspaper” (online web based newsletter) with articles, pictures, and videos relating to the subject matter you have selected. You can decide how frequently you want the paper generated, and how much of it is done automatically vs. your own article selections. You can then go ahead and share a link to your paper through twitter or any other electronic means.
I think it would be a great exercise for students to create and curate and online newspaper as a way of researching and presenting a particular topic. For example, if the class was American History, each student or group of students could select a person, time period, or topic, and that would form the basis of their online newspaper. The next step would be to have the students research various online sources of information, be it on social networks, or blogs and/or web sites with RSS feeds, which discuss their topic. Using one of the “newspaper” services, they would then create an online paper that they would share with their classmates (ideally through a classroom network on, say, Edmodo).
Each week, I would have the students discuss the process by which they curated their paper, with an eye on how they decided which articles were appropriate for their topic and which weren’t (this could lead to a great exercise in learning how to identify ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ sources of information online), as well as the top 3 new items of information they learned about in that week’s issue. I would also ask their fellow students to comment on the newspaper issue, with an eye on what was the most interesting or impactful article they came across. (This could be done on a class blog, with each group posting a link to their paper, as well as their reflections, and fellow students responses could be included in the comment section).
I think that this sort of exercise of course allows the students to ‘take ownership’ of a topic, but I think it goes beyond that. It allows students to become a ‘class authority’ on a particular topic, and that not only makes the students feel really great about themselves, but also allows for meaningful collaboration when it comes time to study for tests, etc. Because these papers are being shared with their fellow students, there is an added level of responsibility to ‘get it right’ when it comes to finding interesting and accurate content, as well as designing the paper to be visually pleasing as well. Finally, the social media component of paper allows for the possibility of branching out beyond the classroom as well, as students can share their papers with the world, and perhaps make connections with other (in this case) history buffs as well.