How to Set Up an Online School Newspaper
It’s difficult to run clubs, conduct sports tournaments, and host talent shows out of my den, which has been turned into a virtual classroom. I enjoy setting up those special events and activities that make kids want to come to school, just like teachers do all over the country. It has not been simple to explain to the students using Zoom that the majority of these things will not take place. But how was I supposed to explain to my incredible fifth-grade journalists that the Dolphin Splash Newspaper Club also needed to take a break?
I was fortunate enough to find a way to keep my school newspaper operating in a secure and straightforward manner, and the outcomes have been fantastic.
AN ADAPTABLE MEDIUM—WITH MANY BENEFITS
Students were able to publish their writing online at an easily accessible location called our virtual newspaper, where they could also read the writing of their classmates. It afforded them the opportunity to express their opinions on matters that they were particularly interested in debating in a manner that was strikingly similar to that of our traditional school newspaper. In addition to this, it gave students with a variety of interests and approaches to learning the opportunity to shine.
One student, for instance, decided that she wanted to maintain her commitment to helping others, so she started an advice column. Because Liliana needed a way to express her emotions regarding the quarantine, she decided to write opinion pieces on the topic of protecting oneself by wearing masks. Mauricio, a student in the class of one of my coworkers, recently updated the column known as “Random Facts.”
The digital newspaper assisted me in teaching my students literacy in a manner that was also more relevant to their lives. I was even able to produce a how-to guide for both readers and writers, change the settings to allow for the approval of comments, and instruct on the concept of an audience. In addition, the students were motivated to improve their editing abilities because they were engaging in genuine interactions with their peer group.
IMPORTANT DOS AND DON’TS FOR A VIRTUAL NEWSPAPER
Nothing on a computer feels completely safe to do in this day and age, and this is especially true for educators and students. Having said that, I did acquire some knowledge that assisted me in developing a sense of ease regarding the procedure.
Get together once a week with the student writers and editors you’ve assigned. The typical length of our club’s idea-sharing sessions is thirty minutes. My research has shown that the level of control that children and teenagers have over the material that is consumed directly correlates to the amount that it is read. Because the majority of the pieces that students contribute to the newspaper start out as assignments for their classes, I do not need to do much additional editing.
You are free to extend invitations to students and teachers in grades other than your own as well. This contributes to the sense that the school newspaper is an integral part of the school community.
Verify that your filters are operating properly by going through the controls of the website and looking for things like unwelcome comments and the like. Remember to ask some of your close friends for assistance, even if this information initially seems discouraging. I am fortunate to have a team of four reliable student editors with vision that is sharper than that of an eagle. After our individualised guide for digital literacy had clarified the expectations, I discovered that the responses from the students were very encouraging.
Be sure that you have the approval of an administrator, and check to see if your school has a standard permission form for using the internet and viewing content online. In that case, you need to make sure that the instructor of the student has reviewed and given permission for each submission.
Allow comments to be posted without prior approval, or maintain the platform’s public accessibility. Keep in mind that if you publish the newspaper on a website, it will be viewable as a URL, and at first, this may feel a little bit unsettling. Keep in mind, however, that you have control over who can comment and who can view the site.
Make use of the students’ last names or profile pictures just in case the website is discovered by an individual who is not already known to you through a secondary link.
Allowing students to discuss the paper and access it through links that I made available only to their teachers was, in my opinion, the most effective way to address the most significant safety concern.
HOW TO GET YOUR NEWSPAPER UP AND RUNNING
I have no doubt that there are many ways in which you could modify a virtual newspaper to fit the needs of your virtual class. Platforms like Padlet are utilised by a number of my colleagues. I wanted something that was a little bit more appropriate to our ongoing themes, so I began with a platform that was based on a blog. WordPress and Wix are two websites that come highly recommended due to their user-friendliness and secure settings.
In general, I found that using these platforms was about as simple as utilising Google Classroom. There are a lot of videos that serve as tutorials on YouTube, which you can watch if you are unsure how to get started (such as this one for WordPress). It is possible that you will be amazed by how much fun it can be, as well as how quickly you will learn.
Once you have decided which system you want to use, you should:
1. Select a layout or design, and then configure the controls for that layout or design.
2. Participate in the design process with the students. (Trust me, I’ve saved the best part for last.) The majority of the templates will give you the ability to create pages for various article categories or types of posts.
3. Upload completed work and discuss relevant links with students from other classes.
4. Distribute invitations to the weekly meeting and request submissions of work from authors and educators working in a variety of classrooms. If there are other educators who are interested in contributing, you will have the ability to delegate multiple editing permissions.