Media Seasons

Explosive News for Educators

Media networks rely on the power of revisiting anniversaries of events to sell news and keep people focused on the format, but what young viewers do with it has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. In 1986, I was just launching my career as an educator.  For a student teaching requirement, I designed a bulletin board to encourage my first batch of junior high students to read books about space exploration by highlighting the space shuttle “Challenger” and our first teacher in space

While NASA and the President were processing how to handle the news coverage, I was processing how to treat it with students who were not yet of age to vote or pay taxes. Suddenly, students and staff gravitated to that bulletin board just inside the library doors for the remainder of my assignment.  Unassigned, students started to ask permission to post newspaper clippings and brief poems to honor our teacher in space Christa McAuliffe and her teammates because unexpected loss captures our attention, regardless of age.

During the remainder of my time there, students suddenly became interested in not only the success of their favorite ball teams or whether they found a dress for the 8th grade dance, but listened to the President reflect on where do we go from here. Yes, we had engagement that would not be tested that year nor any other, but probably one of the most memorable experiences of their junior high years.

15 years later, in 2001, a group of my students were lined up at the door for the end of library class when a staff member walked in to share the news of a plane accident in NYC.  Just as I turned on the large screen TV, we witnessed, via media coverage, the twin towers falling. The most tense personal moments for me were the ones until my instructional aide heard from her husband, who was a major airline pilot in the air from a major hub between the three areas struck that day.  What would end up most challenging, though, is how we educators help students respond to news coverage.

15 years later, we no longer have junior highs, but my middle schoolers still walk thru the library doors and troll webpages seeking information.  They can find the short, sensational media clips on their school-issued laptops, but as a trained researcher, I can help them sift through the overwhelming amount of information they can access.  When media coverage of 9/11 piqued students’ interests’ this fall, my most recent student teacher could also share searching tips but also point them in the direction of our print treasures, such as graphic novels about 9/11.

Social media trends will assure that when the next unexpected event to capture the world’s attention occurs, by the time they get on the bus at the end of the school day all our middle schoolers who want to will have viewed the video footage on the their smartphones, passed it on to friends, and already be mining the spoofs, including posting photo images of their heads, along with their BFF’s, on the stunning of the most recent event.

I’m not against students’ use of social media. I am an educator who uses social media. I’ve been tweeting since 2009 for many reasons, including news, developing a PLN, following fav authors and illustrators, gathering freebies from publishers, and promoting what my students do in the library.  But I still read novels that touch my heart (Palacios’ Wonder), poetry that make me want to sing (Kwame Alexander’s Crossover or anything by my birth year counterpart Jacqueline Woodson), and non-fiction (Daniel James’ Brown’s Boys in the Boat).  I want my students to distinguish between the formats so they know the joys of each as well.

As powerful as media visual images may be to view and share, I want my students to dig deeper than the beached body of a child on shore, the reclining image of a potential first of a First Lady, or another victim of the most recent shooting.

So I look for opportunities to help them be more than consumers of information so they might dig meaningfully as student researchers to create new connections for their own unique contributions to how and why information is necessary for learning.


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