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Published February 22, 2009 | Humanities

NewsActivist

NewsActivist is an educational model that serves students, teachers, and the community and is now on-line at www.newsactivist.com.

Overview

NewsActivist encourages the individual student to create his or her own project by blogging about societal concerns and passions as a way to motivate activism. As well, the website is a tool that encourages students to learn about their communities, their world, and their own goals. An individual teacher could orient the project to address his or her own pedagogical goals. In an English class, the teacher could choose to focus on student writing. In Humanities, it could be used to develop media-literacy skills. As a Humanities instructor at Champlain College, it was my goal to create a curriculum that would inspire my students to actively read and respond to the news.

This semester, my students are using the program as the heart of an extra-curricular group at www.champlainnewsactivist.ning.com, and I may teach a class at Champlain with NewsActivist at its center in the near future. I have now made a site to share the program and the ideas at its root with other teachers looking to motivate activism and encourage students to explore their passions.

The NewsActivist Model

Champlain NewsActivist site

  • In Phase 1, each student creates a blog where they sift through the Internet to find news items that show some part of the world that could be made better. These news items are then posted on the student's blog, and tagged appropriately by issue and location. The current issues list originated from orientations for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) developed by the US government.
  • In Phase 2, students choose a particular issue to focus on, and then blog only stories dealing with this theme.
  • In Phase 3, students find organizations working to enact change around their chosen issue, contact these organizations, and work with them to change the world for the better.
  • Ideally, teachers and students using the program and following the three steps above, regardless of focus or program, would be aware of what other groups were doing and exchange information.

NewsActivist in the Humanities

I have now made a site to share the program and the ideas at its root with other teachers looking to motivate activism and encourage students to explore their passions.

The possibilities of using NewsActivist in a course are vast! Currently, in Humanities, two different classroom applications are being used:

  1. At Champlain, Kory Goldberg's course Education and Social Change plans to integrate the NewsActivist curriculum in conjunction with readings on media literacy and philosophy of education by Neil Postman and Paolo Freire. Freire writes about how the Brazilian education system was reoriented to allow the student to have his education take where he lived into account within the curriculum.
  2. Personally, I am planning a complementary course with a significant writing component required throughout the course, especially to describe the work done with an NGO as Phase 3 of the NewsActivist model. The requirement for students to draw connections between local, national and international news stories would be an interesting aspect of this work. The goal would be to help students find where their interests lie. As noble as many causes are, a program where each individual student determines their own individual focus would help them to develop their own world view, and hopefully foster life-long involvement in the community.

The NewsActivist General Site Home Page

About Ning

At this time, the website www.ning.com has been my choice for hosting my extra-curricular group's blogs. Ning allows anyone to create a social network. The leader of a newsactivist group can easily set up a new network for her group using ning as a platform. Each student can then have her own blog, and each student can read and comment on each other's blogs. I have created an instructor's ning to share the detailed documents I've used to run my program, and at this site, www.newsactivist.com, I hope teachers will communicate about their experiences running this curriculum through NewsActivist.

  • To see a newsactivist group in action go to champlainnewsactivist.ning.com This is a pilot group of students at Champlain's Saint-Lambert campus. Anybody can now log in to view the posts and ongoing development of the Champlain Newsactivist Pilot Group by using the login name and password below:
    login name: newsactivist.visitor@gmail.com
    password: newsactivist
  • To start your own NewsActivist chapter, please go to www.newsactivist.com where all of the materials needed to start a similar group are available. Anyone can log in to this group.

Plans for the Future

I look forward to more newsactivist groups developing in the near future. In September, 2009, I expect independent NewsActivist groups to easily be in direct communication with each other, creating a community of student activists urging each other forward into positive reactions to the news.

Please email gabeflacks@yahoo.com for any information about this program, or share your thoughts or ideas about how to continue developing the NewsActivist model with your colleagues by using the Reader Response Feature below.

1 comment(s)

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    Gabriel Flacks wrote August 10, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Champlain College St. Lambert offered a complementary course titled Newsactivist from January-May 2011. It was a great success for the 27 students who completed the course. For more on Champlain College's first regularly offered newsactivist class, please check out www.newsactivist.com. To see the work of students from this semester, please join the network at www.champlainnewsactivist.ning.com. Best, Gabriel Flacks gflacks@champlaincollege.qc.ca

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