Hi and happy new year,
If you have any questions about how to use newsactivist to support your course(s) this coming semester, you are invited to login and use the Teacher's Forums here at newsactvisit.com to ask questions and find collaborative teaching partners. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.
I look forward to having my students from Montreal writing their own articles and adding comments to student-work posted at newsactivist.com this coming semester. I can't wait to see the course titles that will be hosted at the site, which will be providing context beyond the scope of my course content for my students' coming semester-long written interactions.
I've added a thread in the collaboration-planning forum to find possible collaborative teaching partners and you can read it here:
Also, NewsActivist teacher Tina Ries from Kansai International University in Japan has just shared a short article about newsactivist. I've cut and pasted the text of the article below my sign-off; here's the link to the article:
NEWSACTIVIST – SERVING THE WRITER IN OUR STUDENTS
Kansai University of International Studies
What is NewsActivist?
NewsActivist is an interactive publishing platform with a focus on current issues within society. The website can be used as a powerful tool in any writing class syllabus, as it allows students to publish their work, offer and receive feedback on each other’s work. It was developed by Gabe Flacks in 2012 with Canadian government funding, and with participants from Canada, America, Britain, Japan and Germany, has developed and expanded quickly. It is expected to expand and offer even more diversity in the future, as the platform becomes more widely known.
Benefits of Using NewActivist
Using NewsActivist fosters critical thinking and allows students’ written work to be published and read internationally, nurturing cultural awareness, and bringing to the forefront current global issues.
Beyer (1995) defined critical thinking as making clear, reasoned judgments. In order to publish on NewsActivist, students must prepare their postings with well-constructed and reasoned arguments. Students preparing to publish their papers on this website are expected to adhere the National Council of Excellence in Critical Thinking’s definition as they:
“intellectually and with discipline, actively and skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and/or evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action”.
The well-known educational theorist, John Dewey, asserted that study aimed at building thinking skills would benefit not only the individual learner but also the community and society at large. Dewey thought critical thinking was essential to learning; specifically, that processes instrumental in constructing basic ideas, principles, and theories are inherent in content, and when followed by application, those ideas, principles, and theories can be implemented effectively and become relevant in learners' lives.
Using NewsActivist can facilitate this process as the students work diligently to write, edit and refine their papers both individually and collaboratively before posting. During this process, they are able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and then effectively revise their work with the help of their peers and teacher. With the awareness that an international audience rather than just their teacher or classmates will read their work, writers will most likely approach their own work more critically.
NewsActivist also facilitates the teacher’s role in cultivating critical thinking as the teacher encourages students’ intellectual engagement at every stage of writing. Critical thinking fosters reflectiveness in students and can be elicited by the teacher’s asking questions that stimulate thinking essential to the construction of their argument. These questions can be tied to current newsworthy topics currently debated in NewsActivist. Additionally, students can view other students’ posts and points of view from many cultures, and many topics. Students can then critically sift through this information, adding their own research, impressions, and ideas.
Not only is critical thinking enhanced, but also critical pedagogy is achieved. Students are exposed to current social issues and are made aware of many different views held by their contemporaries in other countries; helping to develop their own thoughts and ideas. Norton and Toohey (2004) advocate a critical approach to second language learning through the involvement of social change much in the vein of Freire. Within the practice, students learn the language while they understand themselves, their social surroundings, their histories, and issues impacting their futures. NewsActivist allows not only the social issues relevant in the home country to be viewed by students, but authenticates the social issues of other countries.
NewsActivist facilitates finding partners to give feedback to students in the writing process. For us here in Japan, teaching English as a foreign language, it provides access to native speakers who willingly review and comment on our students’ work. Our students can also review and comment on native speakers’ work seeing sentence formation and grammar use in ‘real life’. For some students it may be the first time they have interacted with native speakers. The students see the benefits of using a language to interact as new doors for communication are opened and experienced.
Caveats and Recommendations
NewsActivist is not without its drawbacks. As with any Internet based learning vehicle, one should practice prudence when posting and offering personal information on the net. While NewsActivist has taken steps to ensure students’ privacy, caution is recommended. To summarize, perhaps one of the most significant features of the program is the encouragement that students feel to write and think more thoughtfully and critically about contemporary issues, aware that others from foreign lands will read their posts. The quality of my students’ writing as well as their effort and attitudes toward the writing process itself has improved with the inclusion of writing for NewsActivist. I highly recommend this useful writing platform for any teacher of writing.
Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath & Co.
Elkins, J. (1999). The critical thinking movement: Alternating currents in one teacher's thinking. Retrieved from http://myweb.wvnet.edu/~jelkins/critproj/overview.html
Freire, P. (1993). Education for critical consciousness. New York: Continuum.
Norton, B. and Tooney, K. (2004). Critical pedagogies and language learning: An introduction. In Norton, B. and Tooney, K. (Eds). Critical Pedagogies and Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
The critical thinking community (2013). Defining critical thinking. Retrieved from https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766