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Five Technology Tools Journalists Use

We devote a lot of time on the Global Learning blog to real-world experiences for students. Today, Mark Schulte, education director, and Amanda Ottaway, education coordinator, at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting will share ideas and tools that will engage students in world events.

By Mark Schulte and Amanda Ottaway

Our students are socially connected on a global scale—they play, they argue, they share, they learn online, generally through their mobile devices. So technology should be a critical part of any educator's strategy. But amid a rising and increasingly chaotic tide of information—much of it biased or inaccurate—finding the right mix to advance learning can be challenging.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting employs innovative, nontraditional techniques in two complementary worlds: journalism and education. We use this combination to help nudge students toward global competency, and technology is vital to that process.

"We're working to meet students where they are—whether it's on Twitter, iPad, or playing games—to try to engage them in the larger world around them," said Pulitzer Center social media editor Caroline D'Angelo.

As the world tweets and tumbles into the Digital Age, the potential for using technological tools as interactive and dynamic gear for global education is exciting—but where to begin? Journalists use technology to connect with sources and their audiences. Below are five examples, and they are also ways you can use technology every day to bring global education into classrooms.



  1. E-books: E-books haven't quite taken off in U.S. schools yet, but we think they have huge potential. A recent school tour with photographer Greg Constantine, one of the journalists behind the e-book In Search of Home, reflected the spectrum of iPad availability in schools right now. Greg spoke with some groups of students who only saw his photographs projected from his flash drive to the wall, and to other classes where every student held an iPad and followed along that way. But regardless of the method of presentation you can prepare students for an interactive visit by designing an educator's guide ahead of time. Include critical thinking questions about the text and photographs, and if you use iPads, also ask about those as instruments for learning, since it's important at this point to gauge what works and what doesn't.

  2. Data visualization: Pulitzer Center Web developer Dan McCarey created an interactive map for a global cancer five-part radio project by Public Radio International reporter Joanne Silberner. He used grades of color and a slew of statistics to create an easy-to-use, visually appealing representation of cancer's global proliferation. It's easy to access, fully embeddable and simplifies an issue that might otherwise be blurred by a crush of statistics. "It serves as a useful visual entry point into a complex issue," McCarey said. "In this way it could prove valuable in the classroom context. Whilst exploring the map, questions arise as to why rates are higher and lower in certain places which could potentially generate discussion and research-related activities."

    We also have a map on our website where viewers can hover on a region they're interested in and see all the stories our reporters have covered in that area. Data visualizations can prove useful in reaching visual learners; tools like interactive maps help present complex information in a way that gives students the power to explore graphically without diluting the sophistication of discussion.

  3. Social media: Make smart use of the ever-expanding, ever-popular alternate universe of social media. Consider creating a Twitter account specifically for students and educators to follow. Check out our feed @PulitzerGateway for an example. Or set up an Instagram account and post a "photo of the day/week" from somewhere in the world with an informative caption, and challenge students to find a related image or article. Curate a class YouTube account with TED talks, Google Hangouts and relevant documentary clips for browsing or reference. Make up a Twitter hashtag and plan a lesson around students' responses to it; for example, we implemented a campaign around the hidden trail of global commodities by having students use the hashtag #WhoMadeMy followed by an item—chocolate, sweatshirt, hand lotion—about whose origin they were curious. Then have students find the answer. Our reporting on "Global Goods, Local Costs" is a great place to start!

  4. Skype: We use this free worldwide video-chat service often to connect teachers directly with journalists wherever they may be. Paul Salopek, on his seven-year slow-journalism walk tracing the paths of our ancestors across the world, recently used Skype to connect himself and a classroom of students in the Republic of Djibouti with third and fourth graders at Summers-Knoll School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Paul said to both groups during the Skype conversation, "We are all Djiboutians in a sense," prompting one of the Michigan students to muse later: "Before we were Americans, Ethiopians and Djiboutians, we were just us."

    Skype also allows for easier access to experts in the field for teachers and students with specific interests. For example, Beenish Ahmed, a Pulitzer Center-sponsored reporter currently based in Pakistan, Skyped with a Model U.N. group at Nerinx Hall, an all-girls' school in Saint Louis. The group discussed women's education in Pakistan.

  5. Google Hangouts: Explore the potential of Google Hangouts, which interested viewers can access via Google+ accounts or any site on which the Hangout has been embedded. On World Malaria Day, for example, the Pulitzer Center brought together journalist Kathleen McLaughlin, Cobus Van Staden of The China in Africa Podcast and Dr. Patrick Lukulay, program director for the Promoting the Quality of Medicines initiative at the US Pharmacopeial Convention—voices from all over the world talking on the same screen http://pulitzercenter.org/event/google-hangout-world-malaria-day-fake-drugs-pharmacopeia-mclaughlin about the prevalence of fake malaria medication in East Africa. Or have students divide into groups—each group with its own camera—before the Hangout and have each group ask the expert a question about a different country, as one classroom in Westport, Connecticut, did with Cairo-based reporter Sharif Abdel Kouddous. Over the Atlantic Ocean, the students and Kouddous were able to discuss the Arab Spring.


Rapid globalization demands global education. Technology has the potential not only to move that process along, but also to make it fun, exciting and relevant to this generation's net-centric students.

Follow the Pulitzer Center and Asia Society on Twitter.

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