Newspapers and other outlets should have a place in the classroom, but how does that come about?
Lucas Owens is a 2022 RJI Student Innovation Fellow partnered with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta. The RJI Student Fellows will be sharing their product work throughout the summer in Innovation in Focus.
My director at the Atlanta Journal Constitution came to me with an idea: “Do you want to work on something with NIE?” I said yes, honestly not knowing what NIE was exactly referring to, but that decision was one of the best things that I have ever decided to do.
NIE, or News in Education, is, simply put, the idea that news belongs in the classroom. The goal is to educate students by informing them of what goes on in their community. Despite how few outlets emphasize this aspect of their service, the concept has been around for a long time.
At the Atlanta Journal-Constitution special editions of papers used to be delivered to teachers and schools participating in the program. Now, however, News in Education is relegated to a hard-to-find site that is mostly used to direct teachers to the ePaper.
This page, provided in part by News in Education, was no longer working out for both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the teachers and students who were no longer being served by this. Something needed to change, but like many problems: identification is the easy part, and the solution is where the true challenge is.
Doing research for this, one thing that kept popping up was The Learning Network from the New York Times. This section of the website is free to access, and gives great material to both students and educators. From contests to weekly lessons, the New York Times provides a wealth of content for classrooms, but it is how that content is used that other newsrooms should iterate.
The New York Times does not simply write a lesson or make a video for students to watch, but provides channels for both teachers and students to interact, comment and give feedback on the service. Webinars are a common feature for the New York Times’ learning section, but are far from the only one. Students are encouraged to comment on articles and even create a certain amount of content through the section’s editorial contests. Meanwhile, for students wanting to learn more about journalism, tutorials and lessons from journalists themselves appear on the site. More than just informing classrooms of current events, The Learning Network learns from students and teachers through engagement how to make their experience better and how to best operate.
Unlike the Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focused on the Atlanta metro area, with reporting and service also being done for the rest of Georgia. Focus will not just be on education, but on informing the students in their classrooms of what is happening in their communities.
While the process is still ongoing, at the moment we have done a good amount of research and mock-ups for how we think the service will look like.
We are doing a great deal of research into the best practices around News in Education. We hope to launch it to at minimum a pilot group at the beginning of the school year this fall, and continue to take the feedback we get from that to expand to as many classrooms in the Atlanta metro area and Georgia as possible.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution NIE site, while following in the footsteps of other outlets in the creation of its own News in Education program, will be wholly its own. There are certain other things to look out for in this process, like how to earn the trust of schools, teachers, students, parents, and every stakeholder, but the emphasis has always been the same: serving, informing, and educating our community. Constantly learning from the feedback of users, staying on the cutting edge of new ideas among educating about news, and giving the site support through articles and programs will help in this mission. Ultimately, my fellowship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution finished before the NIE site was ready to launch, but it is in very good hands to be available to the public further down the road.