Digital Journalism at The Lake

Student working on article
Looking at a small group of students, hunched over their individual Scholar+ Chromebooks, you may wonder what they are doing?  Is it a History assignment? Is it a project for Science? Perhaps an analysis for the latest assignment in English.  At Perris Lake High School, this small group of students are working on the school newspaper.

The newspaper, Nest Times at Perris Lake, has been using its current format for the past 2 years.  Using Haiku's Wiki Project forum, the students create individual ‘projects’ where they incorporate videos, links, text, and photos to create ‘mini’ Haiku pages on their selected topics.  These pages are then reviewed by the Instructor, and edited, before the pages are copied to the main public page of the Nest Times.

Why go digital you may ask?  Well, in these difficult times, schools, classes, and teachers are always striving for ways to provide opportunities for the students, but still stay within a budget.  Going digital was the obvious answer for Perris Lake High School.  Working closely with the Tech TOSA, the instructor was able to set up the basic structure of the online structure that exists today.  As a teacher new to the district, the instructor had been on a learning curve with her students, and together they have explored many subjects.  Along the way the students have learned to be more comfortable with the possibilities the Chromebook opens to them.  They have learned to discern which websites provide the most current, reliable information, and which sites are best left alone.  They have learned to explain their research to a casual observer and to give details to how it will be applied to their current article/project they are working on.

Students are allowed to pick their own topics, as long as they’re school appropriate.  With a small class ranging from 11 - 25, and with students that stay on campus for only a maximum of two years, it is important to tap into the interests and concerns of these students while they are here.  Their tastes are very eclectic.  The first term projects were done in groups. While it generated positive results, switching to an individual format allowed students to focus more on their topics; it also provided a wider variety of information, topics, and ideas. Students are given the ‘rights’ to look at each other’s projects to generate ideas and to help each other when requested.  Some students, who have been in Journalism in previous terms, are now proficient enough to help educate others.  These students have become leaders within the class.  At times, they have also helped to edit pages for final publication.

Image of collaborative story ideas on a whiteboard
Collaboration on story ideas
One topic choice, that is promoted heavily, is what to do following completion of high school.  Many students are using their projects to explore their choices beyond high school.  For some of these students, college is not always their first choice.  Having this opportunity to explore, about their different career possibles, gives students a better understanding about the type of education they will need.  Many have discovered that some form of a college degree is required for advancement in most of their chosen fields.  Also, they sometimes find that their personal interests have job/career aspects they had not known about before they started their research.  Finding these job/career interests can motivate the student and increase their focus on their future.

Group of student journalistsFeedback from the site has not been set up yet.  Some teachers have been generous with their praise, and their comments have been appreciated!  In the near future, The Nest will be setting up ways to provide more accurate feedback.  We are also looking to, perhaps, take requests on additional topics and materials the readers wish to see in the ‘paper’.  In addition, the Nest has been exploring options to draw more attention to the Newspaper’s site - perhaps a specially designed icon, or a more interesting form to draw attention to the paper when individuals are visiting and perusing the Perris Lake High School home page.  Next steps include establishing a Twitter account, attaching a link to the current Facebook account for PLHS, and to incorporate announcements that students will make daily.  We wish to create a more socially savvy connection for both students and the community. The staff is also planning to learn more about Haiku and investigate new ways to enhance the paper and organize it to become a more fluid site that is easier to navigate.

The team of teachers at Perris Lake High School are always striving for new ways to connect with their students and create an environment that is supportive and nurturing. Their online newspaper is another way to ‘hear’ the voice of the students and give them their own unique voice through written expression.