June 4, 2021

What can students learn from creating their own students news?

Mr. Tom Clarke - English Literature and Language Teacher

In this blog, I would like to explore the question: what can students learn from creating their own Student News? At AISVN our students are currently approaching the end of their third year of providing regular news for our school community. This week will mark the 50th episode of AISVN Student News and it seems like a good time, after almost ten thousand views and over seven hundred hours of footage on their AISVN Student News YouTube channel, to reflect on the journey so far.

What do our AISVN students think about being in the Student News Program?

As Teacher Advisors, Mr. Carlos, Mr. Tyler and I have regular opportunities to talk to and survey our Student News Students. This year we have 21 students from Grade 7 to Grade 12. Here is what they have shared about their experience and their learning:
82% stated that being part of the Student News Service Learning Club has helped them to develop their ability to write stories for an audience.

Many also shared that their technical and collaboration skills have developed. For example, one member reflected: “I now know how to format a plan for a video and use different filming techniques that can draw the attention of the audience. My teamwork skills have also improved significantly.”

An insight from our Student News Teacher Advisors

As a Teacher Advisor for the Student News Service Learning Club at AISVN, I have the privilege to see the blossoming of our students’ confidence and ability as English scholars and as learners in general. Here are some opinions about the students’ learning from the other members of our Teacher Advisor dream team Mr. Carlos and Mr. Tyler:
“I have really enjoyed seeing our team sharpen their media skills in all kinds of ways from scriptwriting to editing.” Mr. Tyler Gates
“I think it is a great opportunity for the students to learn editing principles to communicate their stories effectively." Mr. Carlos Matheus-Hung

What does the academic research say about the impact of Student News Programs?

It is clear that Student News is big news at AISVN and in our modern school curriculums. I have been fortunate to have been a part of the UK BBC School News Report program (now known as Young Reporter) and worked directly with BBC journalists and producers to help support students to broadcast their news locally, nationally and even on occasions internationally. From my personal experience as a Teacher Advisor for Student News Programs, including here at AISVN, I believe there are significant beneficial impacts on student learning, however, what does the academic research say?

Improved Literacy Skills and new contexts for Approaches To Learning Skills (ATLs)

According to an independent report from SSAT (The UK Government Specialist Schools and Academies Trust), the learning gains and benefits for students are clear. For example, Literacy Consultant Jan English in her SSAT report on the UK School News Report demonstrated clear literacy improvements in her study of schools that introduced the BBC Student News program. Video footage and written samples, before and after introducing the program, showed a steep learning curve for students with regards to effective group collaboration and discussion.

Furthermore, Jan’s study highlighted the increased opportunities across the curriculum for students to have regular exploratory talk with their peers which helped to improve the quality of their writing, as evidenced in their before and after written news scripts. This is a key characteristic of successful student news teams where focused discussion is seen to have a fundamental role in attaining the 3 Cs of journalism: clear, concise and correct communication. As a research fellow for the University of Cambridge Thinking Together Programme, Jan affirms that having a Student News program at your school offers students authentic real-life contexts, where a dialogue-based approach to the development of children's thinking and learning takes place.

Similarly, an independent review of BBC School News Report from the University of Lancashire, a leading UK research university, praised students’ improved ability to speak and write effectively for a specific audience and what we in IB Schools call ATLs, our approaches to learning. The collaborative nature and academic rigor of Student News gives students new experiences in developing their ATLs (Thinking Skills, Communication Skills, Self-Management Skills, Research Skills and Social Skills). As the research shows, Student News can promote student engagement, deep understanding and the transfer of skills and academic success.

What is the unique contribution of Student News to students’ learning?

One could justifiably respond to the positive findings of these two independent academic studies with the question: “Well, okay, but what is new here? Have engaging educational programs not been providing these similar gains for time immemorial?” Of course this is true, however, I believe it is important to acknowledge the valuable motivation for students of multi-modal broadcasting of one’s ideas to a wider audience beyond the traditional classroom setting. To quote Professor Don Passey, one of the researchers in the Lancashire study, when students are creating their own news stories they “..are not just handing their work to a teacher, they are handing it to the world.”

As IB educators and learners at AISVN we (students and teachers) are always looking for authentic audiences and platforms for our students to communicate their learning from students’ PYP exhibitions, MYP units of inquiry, Personal Projects, DP CAS (Creativity Activity and Service) projects and in day to day lessons. For me, Student News gives students the exciting opportunity to still have the traditional audience of their peers and teachers but also bring their voices and stories to a much wider audience. I would therefore agree with Professor Don Passey when he goes as far as saying that Student News “offers an authenticity and realness I've not seen matched.”

Next Steps for Student News at AISVN

So what new steps are our students hoping to be able to take in developing their transferable journalism skills such as research, fact-checking, balancing opinions and clear, concise and correct communication? At AISVN we benefit from being part of the EARCOS family of schools and we recently reached out to another EARCOS school in the Philippines, the International School of Manila to learn from their wonderful Bamboo Telegraph News. We are inspired by their well-established student-led news programs and also other programs like the Lumberjack Student News Channel at a leading Independent School in Minnesota. At AISVN our secondary students are proud to be in the planning stages to take their program to a new level and to make Student News a sustainable part of the whole school curriculum. With a new digital news magazine, news blogs and more varied regular audio-visual news features in the works, this year’s Student News team has been creative and ambitious in exploring these possibilities to help expand their media empire in the future.

The AISN Student News Mission Statement

Our students created a mission statement for their Student News Service Learning Club which includes an ambitious and caring desire to “….better understand our community and assist others." With this in mind, another future next step in discussion is for our Secondary School Students to mentor our Elementary Students to help them develop their student news program. See, I told you, the AISVN Students’ media empire is aiming to expand!

Finding creative ways to bring Student News into the day-to-day Curriculum

One key and sustainable approach to making sure the learning benefits of a Student News program is experienced by all, where every student can be a journalist, an editor and a producer is to intentionally embed this program into curriculum planning. At AISVN our English Language Acquisition Department is taking the lead with this by developing a new unit of study for our MYP Grade 6 Language Acquisition classes. I spoke to Ms. Erica Raines, Department Chair of Language Acquisition about this exciting unit that explores current events and journalism. Here is what she shared about this innovative approach to teaching and learning:

"Teaching our students reading and listening strategies to comprehend relevant texts, like the news, not only progresses language acquisition but also provides AISVN students with tools they need to develop as engaged and informed citizens of the world. When they are then challenged to report their own news stories, students implement language, leadership, and citizenship in real-time." Ms. Erica Raines

We look forward to our next update for you where we hope to report how AISVN Student News continues to make a difference in our immediate and wider community. Maybe we will have this title for a future blog post?- ”AISVN holds an annual Kham Pha (Discovery) Grade to Grade 12 News Day.” Let’s hope it isn’t fake news 🙂

This is Tom Clarke, reporting on behalf of AISVN Student News
tom.clarke@ais.edu.vn
Remember to please click on this link to subscribe to the AISVN Student News Youtube Channel.
References:
English, Jan. (2009) - SST (Specialist Schools and Academies Trust UK)- BBC News School Report- Impact on Literacy
Passey, Don. and Gillen, Julia. (2009) - BBC News School Report Independent Evaluation, University of Lancaster

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