“What’s in the news, Dad?


Judy O’Connell, Head of Library and Information Services College News Volume 3 2009

Boys and young men at St Joseph’s College have always been keen readers of the latest news – sport, hometown news, political and economic world developments, and all the latest in social and cultural news. We know that this passion for news is important – a vital component of future success in a world where global events change business opportunities or create new openings for innovation and success. News is therefore an important part of the curriculum – learning is empowered by knowledge of our times, our country and the social and cultural influences that define our nation. The Brother Liguori Resources Centre provides boys with daily newspapers, and a wide range of journals and magazines for research and leisure reading all accessible in a comfortable new reading area. However, times are changing! There was a time when books, newspapers, magazines and journals were the prime source of content and information. It was always up to the reader to navigate the authority maze, enjoying slow reading of these limited information sources in order to gain a knowledge base that matched a particular curriculum learning need. This was when content was king and the teacher was the sage on the stage. Now communication and flexible access to news is vital to teaching in the new curriculum, and globally accessible content is but grist to the mill that churns out new knowledge. The constancy of news, of many voices struggling to be heard, and people and machines that spread that news has taken on new dimensions in the era of online news reporting. News media is changing, so understanding how the way news media can work for or against 21st century learning is important. How we deal with new and urgent information and how we value media scrutiny of news will influence how we learn, how we work, and how we respond to or interpret current news. Reading the News Online Twenty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee wrote his original proposal for a better kind of linked information system. He was doing consulting for CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland, and found that its communication infrastructure was leading to information loss. So he proposed a solution using something called Hypertext. This led to the Hypertext Markup Language, or, as it’s more commonly known now, HTML. That in turn, led to the World Wide Web. Now parents, teachers and students use the ‘Net’ for all kinds of things – and teachers at the College incorporate the Net into learning experiences for their

students when appropriate. We all have our own favourite ways of navigating our online spaces, embracing all the flexibility and speed of this information gathering and distribution. The downside is that there is a LOT out there!! For the first time in history, the Internet has passed print newspapers as the preferred source for news. According to the PEW Internet & American Life Project research1, “Some 74% of internet users--representing 55% of the entire adult population--went online in 2008 to get involved in the political process or to get news and information about the election. This marks the first time that a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey has found that more than half of the voting-age population used the internet to get involved in the political process during an election year.” When it comes to newspapers alone, we now have extensive coverage of all the daily papers available online – and these cover local and global news through text and media formats. The National Library of Australia provides a link to these sources at http://www.nla.gov.au/npapers/. At the College we provide direct links to Hometown News @ Joeys – a friendly service powered by internet access.

Newspaper reading online is here to stay! It’s easy for students to enjoy Australian and global news by visiting Google News Australia as their jumping off point. http://news.google.com.au/ Google News is a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from more than 4,500 English-language news sources worldwide, which groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader's personalised interests. What a sensational way to keep informed! Skimming the headlines has always been a popular way of finding the next good read. Skimming the headlines in a single newspaper on your desk in front of you is one thing – skimming the world news is quite another! The power of news aggregation by readers such as Google News is to help with skimming, and more importantly, to allow readers more personalised options and a wider variety of perspectives from which to choose. Google News offers links to several articles on every story, so readers can first decide what subject interests them most and then select which publishers’ accounts of each story they would like to read. Clicking on the headline will take a reader directly to the site which published that story. Students are expected to work with current affairs in many subject areas, so the power of article skimming makes online tools such as Google Reader a powerful curriculum ally. On the other hand, readers of online news may prefer a quick visual interface to this extraordinary wealth of online news. Newsmap http://newsmap.jp/# is an

1

PEW Report 2009, The Internet’s Role in Campaign 2008, <http://tinyurl.com/dnzgrk>

application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News aggregator, and is well worth a visit! Twitter News In 1832, French journalist Charles Havas started Agence Havas, a news service in Paris that sold translations of foreign news to the city’s newspapers. Agence Havas was the first major private news agency in the world. Getting the news to readers in a speedy manner was crucial to the agency’s success, so as early as 1835, Havas used carrier pigeons to transport stock prices.

Fast forward to 2009, when Iranian protesters are using Twitter — an online social-networking site that uses a bird as its unofficial icon — to send messages about the protests and police crackdowns to the rest of the world through their cell phones and the Internet. The tweets, or "microblogs," as the messages are called, have been so vital to behind-the-scenes information in Tehran that the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance to allow the messages to continue. Major newsagencies around the world are using Twitter to broadcast information and updates. Media organisations and non-profit organisations are using this service to supplement their online news services. Books Online Many boys at the College now own media capable mobile devices – netbooks or an iTouch or an iPhone. Teachers can see the potential for changing the future of information access with these devices. We can surf the net, pick up the news, check out the latest footy score, or play a game or two. But an area of interest often overlooked is the arrival of readily accessible classic literature on these devices. It is something to take note of. For the last four years, Google has been digitising millions of books, including many covered by copyright, from the collections of major research libraries, and making the texts searchable online. Google’s Book Search http://books.google.com.au/ currently features 1.5 million public domain books. These books have also all been optimised to fit a mobile

phone screen http://books.google.com/m . Google has given us the ability to access favourite literary works via an iPhone, iTouch or Android phone, or on screen, straight up in an iGoogle page – which many boys use as their own Home page for the Internet! While there are a range of e-books and readers available for mobile devices, what is different about Google Books is the ease of being able to search and pull down material from such a vast collection. Reading our future When the first really influential wave of the e-book revolution hits Australia it may be the novelty value of a new gadget that will give it impetus. Whatever the outcome, reading news online has become a normal activity at home and at school. Reading books online or via a mobile device is still an emerging area for us all. What we want to know, and what we enjoy reading has not changed – but the technologies that assist us in these areas have changed and will continue to change. “What’s in the news, Dad?” “Which link are you on, Dad?”

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