Irvine, California -- One of the promises of network technology
in the classroom is that it connects students and their education
with the real world. On September 11, the real world came into
schools around the world. Teachers could hardly ignore the
events of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York
City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Television and Internet access in schools provided real-time
access to pictures and news as events unfolded. Did Internet
help educators respond to students' needs? The NetDayCompass
Newsletter went to a few schools around the country to find
The Human Touch
The Media and Technology Charter High School (MATCH School) in
Brookline, Massachusetts, combines technology access with small
a personal touch to help inner-city youth achieve academic success.
According to the Executive Director Michael Goldstein, their first
reaction to the events of September 11th was to spend time talking
about what was happening.
"The immediacy of news is not helpful to kids in a crisis," said
Goldstein. "Kids need human mediation. Our students spent
time talking through things with their teachers to make it a
experience, to share ideas."
Teachers went to the Web for lesson plans and information to
integrate into their scheduled activities. One 10th grade class
reading Cry the Beloved Country, a novel by Alan Paton about
a Zulu pastor
and his son in 1940 South Africa. Students had completed a traditional
five-paragraph essay and were working on video documentaries,
interviewing local professors, South African citizens, and conducting
Goldstein used the book as a context for discussing some of the
issues related to the terrorist attack.
According to Goldstein: "You can start the conversation with
who did this, how do we know, what if we're wrong, what are they
trying to achieve, are they going to get what they want. Suddenly
the book and project comes to life. You are talking about the
issue of how to change what you perceive as injustice. You have
example of intolerance."
The MATCH school web site, http://www.matchschool.org, summarizes
their thinking about technology in the classroom: invest in humanware
over hardware and software, push kids to be content creators
rather than consumers, and integrate technology projects into
curriculum. By using technology to promote human interaction
the MATCH school elevated discussions above quick judgments to
more thoughtful analysis.
A Real World Social Study
At Stanwood Middle School (http://www.stanwood.wednet.edu/) in
Stanwood, Washington, Lara Brown assigned her 7th grade students
shortly after September 11th to research Osama Bin Laden, the
Al Qaeda network, or another related topic. The Internet provided
them with immediate access to in-depth materials about what might
been obscure topics in August.
Brown pointed them to research sites and search engines such
as AskJeeves that use natural language questions. They found
with different takes on the subject. When students shared their
research projects, they compared what they had learned and contrasted
sources. Brown discussed the difference between sites that end
in .com, .edu, and .gov. They decided that with the exception
most of the commercial sites weren't as useful as education and
government sites. They discussed fact vs. opinion and how to
The lessons would have been lost if the research had been limited
to school library materials. According to Brown: "It would
have been very difficult to do any research. We don't have the
access world and country events that are happening right now
if we don't have the Internet."
Kaye Porter, a 7th and 8th grade teacher at Wanganui Park Secondary
College in Shepparton, Victoria, Australia, posted a request
on About.com for pen pals to share perspectives with her class.
"From the other side of the world, which is where we are,
it was difficult for my students (especially the younger ones)
to gain an understanding
of the reality of the incident," she wrote in an email.
It seemed too unreal for them to comprehend, which is why I
Porter's students accessed the CNN web site to watch the events
unfold, and she encouraged them to open up and talk about what
seeing. The About.com geography web site provided up-to-date
maps to help Year 7 and 8 students locate Afghanistan in the
They also looked up information and pictures about the Muslim
religion and the Taliban. She is still in search of pen pals
to offer share
perspectives on world events (if you are interested, contact
her at email@example.com.
Gwen Jackson, a parent in Saskatchewan, Canada, moved her family's
wall map to a more central location. Together, they went to
the Internet to find more maps and look up Muslim faith, Taliban
information, Afghanistan, resources, and living conditions.
found the Internet
helpful in learning with her children, but she also expressed
concern about the increasing role of technology in her family's
Internet, computers, Nintendo, and TV.
"I feel that it is a challenge to not allow the computer/Internet
and other video technology to fill the spaces in our lives," she
said. "I feel that it is taking away our ability to
be creative; think of things to do should the electricity
The Media Literacy Challenge
Technology seems to create two forces: one bringing us together
with immediate footage and real-time interviews of people
on the street,
while it pulls us apart, making us feel alienated or insecure.
Educators and parents face the challenge of balancing access
with literacy--the ability to understand what students see,
hear, and read. The people interviewed for this story encourage
to provide guidance and support to students; fit information
into a larger context related to history, social studies,
literature, or other core curriculum areas; and to give students
communicating what they have learned.
Teachers looking for guidance or classroom resources on how
to discuss national tragedies with children will find research
support groups, charitable organizations, and other materials
on NetDayCompass.org in the special section: Children in
"We don't live in a black and white world," said Michael
job as a student is not to find one explanation, but to
accept that a lot of issues are murky. Fight as best you can to
as you can."