Looking for an engaging way to incorporate current issues and events into your classroom? As schools move more and more towards a 21st century design to education, real-life connections to global issues and events are necessary. To enhance student success in their future careers, students need to understand the importance of the news and staying up-to-date with events in the world. They further need to learn how to analyze and interpret news texts and not take everything they read at face value. The app created by Press 4 Kids called News-O-Matic is a fantastic way to integrate 21st century learning in the classroom. I have recently shared this app in the Cube for Teachers database as a curriculum resources for Language Arts grades 3-6. However, the app itself is interdisciplinary and features news articles about social studies, science, art, sports, and more! Here are the reasons why you should incorporate News-O-Matic into your next lesson:
Enhances 21st Century Literacies: The daily news stories News-O-Matic posts speak to the various 21st century literacies mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Although the model of 21st century learning may look different across Canadian provinces and across the U.S.A., these models generally hold the same value towards certain literacies. In order to integrate and emphasize these 21st century literacies across the curriculum, high quality digital platforms are necessary. Here are the ways News-O-Matic enhances 21st century learning in the integrated classroom:
- Digital Literacy: News-O-Matic is an interactive app that can be downloaded on multiple types of devices. I have used this app on the Apple iPad, and it has been a great learning environment for students to practice their digital skills and digital citizenship. Students are learning how to interact with these devices through the multi-modal features like videos, highlighting, and article filing (saving) features. Furthermore, students are able to work on their digital citizenship skills. News-O-Matic provides students with an option to get the citation for the article they just read. This teaches students the importance of citing their source and not taking credit for someone else's ideas. The highlighting feature may also help students learn how to take out key points and paraphrase the ideas they are trying to cite in their own work.
- Global Literacy: Most of the articles posted in News-O-Matic come from around the globe. Students are able to read about current global issues in kid friendly text and stay up-to-date on current events happening all around the world. As seen in the example screenshot below, there are articles addressing events and issues around the globe. Students are also able to click on videos that will usually show a real life clip of the issue or event.
One of the coolest features on News-O-Matic is the "Go There" option where students can tap the little globe in the corner. This globe appears afters students open a news article. Students are then taken to a map that shows where the story is taking place in the world. This map further shows students where they are situated on the map and provides statistics regarding the distance between where they are and where the event or issue they are reading about is happening. Students can also listen to audio of how to say "hello" in that country's language by clicking the HELLO button (see screenshot below).
- Environmental Literacy: This literacy ties into global literacy very nicely while thinking about it in the context of News-O-Matic. Many of the stories on environmental technology or environmental issues will be situated in countries around the world. As seen in the example screenshot below, the one issue is titled "France is Going Green." This article discusses the air pollution problem France is encountering and how the government is responding to the issue. Students are therefore learning about global issues while also learning about ways people can respond to environmental concerns. I used this article in my pilot study where I looked at how tablets can enhance students' knowledge construction about science within he application of literacy and language arts tasks. Students really enjoyed News-O-Matic and the multi-modal features. They further found the article "France Going Green" to be a great resource to cite in their final culminating task.
- Multicultural Literacy: Multicultural literacy is further evident within News-O-Matic based on the news articles that address different cultural events and issues around the world. The screenshot below shows a news edition that students can click into and learn about shelter innovations for people in Africa. This edition further ties in global literacy since students are learning about different cultures around the world.
- Critical Literacy: This literacy is essentially embedded throughout the articles. Teachers should facilitate their lessons with News-O-Matic so that students understand the importance of putting on a critical lens while reading news reports. News-O-Matic provides a fantastic platform for students to gather information on topics and potentially combine findings to support a hypothesis or answer a particular question. By having some form of writing extension activity, students are able to critically reflect, compare, and analyze the articles they just read. Furthermore, a Language Arts extension activity would enhance integrated units and move away from traditional "subject blocks" that most schools still use.
Assistive Technology: A key component to the News-O-Matic app is the assistive features embedded within the app. As a teacher and researcher with a passion for inclusive classroom practices, I believe News-O-Matic would meet most of my students' needs. The amount of reading within the app can be quite daunting for many students who generally struggle with reading or are identified with a reading disability. News-O-Matic has a "Read to Me" option to support these students. By having this assistive feature within the app, students' reading abilities will not effect their understanding or comprehension of the news articles. The app further highlights vocabulary that may be tricky for young readers to understand. Students can then click on these words and listen to a definition. This not only supports students who struggle with reading, but it further develops vocabulary among all of your students. You can see the feature of the "Read to Me" option on the right hand side of the screenshot below. You can also see the highlighted vocabulary words within the text.
Assessment: News-O-Matic created an app specifically for teachers. I have not had much experience using this feature of the app, but it looks very useful. Teachers can create an account for all of their students and track what articles their students are reading. You are also able to track student data regarding their reading response answers. This provides insight for assessment purposes to see how students are progressing with their reading response abilities. Below is an image of the News-O-Matic app for school!
Overall, I highly recommend using the News-O-Matic app to enhance 21st century learning in your classroom. This app could be incorporated as a morning Bell Work activity where students must come in and begin their day with one of the new articles. This app can also be used during guided reading opportunities where a teacher works with a small group of students to read a short story. These news articles would be great to spark discussion in small groups and measure students' reading comprehension. I have also started to use News-O-Matic with the student I tutor. What I like the most about this app is the amount of choice students get between the articles. They can really narrow in and read about something they are truly interested in. Hopefully through apps like News-O-Matic, we as teachers can engage and motivate our students to gain literacy skills that will support and connect them in the 21st century.
Click the icon below to check out the News-O-Matic webpage!