Friday, July 22, 2011

Following Breaking News

Today's news has been dominated by the horrific bombing in Oslo, Norway. When following an event such as this, the articles in tomorrow's newspaper will be dated news compared with the immediacy of following the story through the Internet. Here are some ways you can have your students follow a breaking news event in your classroom:

  • Follow posts on Twitter using hashtags. Hashtags are an internal categorization of content around keywords. Popular hashtags for following the aftermath of the bombing are #oslo, #utoya, and #oslobomb.
  • Follow a Wikipedia page created for an event. A 2011 Oslo Attacks page was created almost immediately after the initial bomb blast. So many users were passionate about sharing links and updates via Wikipedia that the page was updated nearly 40 times an hour at the height of activity.
  • Within minutes of the initial bomb blast photos of the destruction, such as this one, were uploaded to Flickr, a photo sharing site. In today's world, anyone with a cell phone camera can be a photojournalist, and many are anxious to share what they see.
  • Mashable, an online site which monitors technology news, see social media tools, especially Google+, as a site for disseminating timely information about a current event (see this article). While Google+ is not widely available, new tools regularly emerge for gathering information and engaging others in the world in conversations.
If school had been in session today, I would have had the challenge of deciding whether to follow the Oslo story with my class or whether to procede with my regular lesson plans. I don't know what I would have decided, but it is incredible to know that the resources are available to track current events nearly real time. Sometimes, that is the better use of class time.


  1. I'm remembering making the decision on 9/11 to watch that unfold on TV with grade 7/8 until the 1st tower fell and then checking in for updates but we turned it off for younger students sometime before the 1st tower fell. With Oslo, I was fascinated by the unfolding of details via Twitter, but following multiple hashtags as I was doing would have been overwhelming to interpret and discuss with students as it was happening. Following tweets from youth under fire on the island could have been traumatic for students. Whether watching/tracking live or not, discussion about this type of news following (and your tips here) is essential with students.

  2. Excellent thoughts, Tim! The real time impact of the events is different than first hand accounts of historic events, such as Pearl Harbor, or the JFK assassination. Teacher discernment remains more art than science.