Friday, May 15, 2009

News Reporter Backsliding

Maybe that's an unfair title, I don't know. I'll try to tell this in as small a nutshell as possible. My school, Arbor Heights Elementary in Seattle, has a tradition of a student newspaper - online. It started 18 years ago, the same year I came to the school. It is billed as "The oldest continuously published elementary school student newspaper on the Internet". We got it online in the '94-95 school year. I'm the editor.

News Reporter BlogFor the past four years, I've had reporters enter their reports on a blog, as comments. I then turned all that writing into a monthly print edition for everybody at school, and a pdf of the same, on the Internet. We even have done podcasts and have had them on iTunes. Lately, there is just no time for that.

In the last couple of years it has been tough getting kids to remember to come to my classroom (on Wednesdays) to work on their reports. Now, they could of course do their writing from anywhere, and at anytime. I hammered on that for three years, but it never took. Not enough buy-in, readiness, or whatever.

Then a month ago I got word that November Learning Communities was going to discontinue their blog hosting for educators.

At the end of my rope and out of ideas, a couple of weeks ago I put the problem of getting kids to remember to come to meetings, to everybody at a staff meeting. The unanimous suggestion was to return to paper/pencil reporting, which I had done for 10 years, before starting up the blog.

It would be impossibly long and boring for me to recount here all the things I've tried to increase student commitment and involvement. Part of the problem is that it's simply the nature of the beast, when you have changing student reporters.

News Reporters, 2009?So this month I got a lot of reports, a lot more than had come in on the blog in some time. This is good.

I also got 3-4 more hours of work a month as an editor/interpreter/transcriber of student news "reports". Not so good.

The extra time I don't care about, really.

But the implications of this backward move break my heart.


Unknown said...

Mark, I've always thought this was a cool project. Please let me know how I can help you keep this going. I'm happy to volunteer some time. E-mail me at jessicablanchard (at)

jfriesen said...

Given time to think about it... why do you think this is? Are teachers not modeling? Are our expectations of the benefits of working online not realistic? I wonder... I see similar things and it puzzles me.