ECMP 355

Newsela – A Nonfiction Library in Classrooms

This dialogue is written on behalf of an administrator (Anila Kanwal) and a teacher (Kanchan Mankotia). The teacher is using a tool “Newsela” as part of her teaching which helps students to build reading comprehension at different levels by news articles from different sources. The administrator is concerned about the use of ‘Newsela’ as this tool was not introduced to the students before in her school. The administrator called for a one-one meeting with the teacher to discuss the queries that she has in her mind and to get prepared to respond to parents’ questions if there is a need.

Administrator: Why do you use Newsela in the classroom? What does this tool offer?

Teacher: By using technology in my classroom, I want to be able to make the classroom environment the great place for learning, interacting and engaging.  Newsela is a reading tool which enhances reading comprehension by delivering relevant, daily articles. Every article published at five different levels, even the most hesitant readers can become news junkies. It also helps teachers by saving their time and energy as they don’t have to gather reading material for different reading levels.

Administrator: Students are unable to judge whether news website is real or fake. How would use of Newsela could help them to differentiate between real and fake news?

Teacher: Articles written on Newsela come from reliable sources and most prestigious outlets like   The articles come from the McClatchy-Tribune news wire service, a consortium of 30 daily newspapers including the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel. News are confirmed before sending for publication. Besides this there are several ways and tools available for teachers to check the reliability of news.

Administrator: Expanded search and recommendation features could help kids connect with articles tailored even more to their interests and reading levels. Since the articles can’t be assigned individually, but to the whole class, how would you justify it? What if students don’t have any interest in the assigned article? How would you engage them?

Teacher:   Articles span such topics as arts, astronomy, economics, geopolitics, music, sports, and zoology. You can divide the class into groups with respect to their interests and then assign them articles. Also, with every article published at five different reading levels, Newsela app automatically adjusts the reading level to keep students challenged and engaged. You can also keep track of improvement over time as Newsela visualizes your progress for you.

Administrator: What if there is a conflict of interest between the news article and student’s perspective/background. (Newsela gets news feed from the USA print/electronic media, its source is not Canadian. Also, Canada is a multicultural country.)

Teacher: There is a  Select a text set feature available in Newsela, which let individuals choose texts of their interest. There are several different texts available on it, which give freedom to select the topic based upon our own requirement and interests.

Administrator: This tool is mainly being used in the USA, how does it fit in Canadian (Saskatchewan curricula). How do you align the reading with curriculum and proper assessment?

Teacher: Select a text set not only helps to select interest based articles but also let us pick curricula based articles too. A new Canadian version of this tool is also available now. On this version, Canadian news is posted.

Articles that have multiple choice quizzes allow students to track their progress. A few pointed questions, at the end of every reading assignment. It helps to keep students engaged by challenging their knowledge time to time. With each success, you can move forward to the higher level of reading. Margo Trips greatly talks about aligning the curriculum and use of ‘BINDER’ for keeping track of students’ progress. She tells, “Accessing the BINDER tab at the top, the students can easily see what articles have been assigned to them by the teacher, what articles they completed, the number of quizzes they took, their average Lexile level, their average score, and their average quiz score by the standard.”

Administrator: How would you use it in junior primary classes? How would students register as a student?

Teacher: This tool is meant for students from grade 2- 12. So, junior primary grades can be included into these reading assignments. There was a concern about younger kids using the mature content. So, Newsela Elementary was introduced for such kids.

It is easy to register as a student on this app. Following video takes you through this process step by step.

 

Administrator: Did you take parents’ consent to have their children used this tool for learning? What plans/ information do you have to share with parents to convince if there is a contradiction in the agreement of adopting this tool in the classroom?

Teacher: Parents’ consent form format is ready, and will be sent to them soon. With the consent form, detailed information about Newsela will be attached.

Administrator: Are there any special digital platforms required by this application? Or it is compatible with any device? We must keep in mind the budget constraints before adopting any technology.

Teacher: It is compatible with all devices. All you need is to sign up to its website. The Newsela website can be accessed on a variety of digital platforms, and Newsela apps have been designed for both iPads and iPhones. The website is intuitively organized and easy to navigate.

It has two versions. The first version is free and other Newsela’s fee-based version, Newsela PRO, offers enhanced tools and experiences. Newsela does not publish prices on its website but shared in a recent tweet that the Pro version costs about $6,000 per school, $2,000 per grade level, and $18 per student per year. (Newsela has worked with DonorsChoose in the past, so that may be an option for teachers who wish to subscribe to Newsela PRO on their own. They can also request a free thirty-day trial to see whether Newsela PRO works well for their purposes).

Administrator: Finally, as we know digital world is a new enough phenomenon that many of its rules are still being written and its consequences and outcomes are still unknown. How do you think it is helping students to build their good digital citizenship?

Teacher: As Margo Tripsa writes in her post, there are features in Newsela like “Annotation” and “Citing and article” that help to promote good digital citizenship. “Annotation” have a great instructional value as they help students become critical thinkers, and transform their learning environment into a dynamic virtual community. “Citing an article” recommends how to properly cite a Newsela article. Students gain a sense of responsibility of good digital citizens by using these features and they get used to it in their other online activities. Also, if teachers are using Google Docs in combination with Newsela and paste articles in a Doc – they model good digital citizenship for their students by citing the original article.

I hope, this dialogue is thorough enough to help promote the use of this tool in the classrooms.

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