Bringing the World into the Classroom with Online Global Newspapers. (Advancing Technology)

By Hicks, David; Ewing, E. Thomas | Social Education, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Bringing the World into the Classroom with Online Global Newspapers. (Advancing Technology)


Hicks, David, Ewing, E. Thomas, Social Education


   THE INTERNET, as a societal force, might prove to be
   surpassed in its significance for the learning process only
   by the invention of a written language.... Mastery of the
   Internet and its resources can greatly enhance the quality
   of learning experiences in social studies classrooms." (1)

   Reading does not consist merely of decoding the written
   word or language: rather it is preceded by and intertwined
   with knowledge of the world. Language and reality are
   dynamically interconnected. The understanding attained by
   critical reading of the text implies perceiving the relationship
   between text and context." (2)

How can interactive technologies such as the Interact prepare young adults with the training necessary for informed deliberation, civic engagement, and active decision making in a culturally diverse and globally interdependent world? The quotes cited above suggest that the remarkably expansive potential of the Internet as a source of information must be accompanied by the development of the critical skills needed to understand the relationship between content and context. Even for the novice user, the Internet offers access to an astonishing sea of information. Yet the skills to "decode" this information--to identify authors and intended audiences, or to grasp multiple layers of meaning--require the kind of critical engagement in which the reader of the text simultaneously becomes the maker of meaning. (3) The Internet has great potential value as a tool for global studies, as the web transcends geographical distance, political boundaries, and chronological divisions to become genuinely "worldwide." At a time of increasing global interdependence, the ability not only to locate information about other countries, peoples, and cultures but also to make sense of this significant knowledge needs to be central to the social studies curriculum and the practices of teachers. (4)

Recent publications on social studies and the use of technology have explored the promise as well as the potential problems of these new approaches to teaching and learning. (5) This article builds on such emerging literature by asking how social studies educators can use the Internet to create learning opportunities that enable students to examine current events, expand their global understanding, foster open communication, explore alternative perspectives, and strengthen media literacy skills. In particular, we address this question by examining how access to online newspapers from around the world can provide a connected space through which students' understandings of current events can be broadened, deepened, and reexamined in the face of diverse, alternative, and to some extent contradictory worldviews. We argue that global newspapers on the Interact provide an accessible, convenient, and innovative approach for using instructional technology to acquire information, develop skills, and enhance understanding.

Online Newspapers as an Instructional Tool

The decision of when, how, and why to use such technologies as the Internet within the classroom ultimately rests with the teacher. (6) Shortages of time and training, the problem of equipment breakdown, and doubts about the extent of real improvements in teaching and learning have all been stumbling blocks to the integration of technology in the classroom. (7) Given these obstacles and concerns, teachers need to ask two foundational questions prior to using technology within their classrooms:

1. To what extent will the Internet allow me to conduct worthwhile lessons that I could not have done before, or that I could have done but can now do more efficiently? (8)

2. How can I use technology to strengthen the "social and civic functions" of schools in order "to create better communities and build stronger citizens?" (9)

Answering these two questions is relatively easy with regard to online newspapers. …

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