As I write this, a massive earthquake has recently taken place in Japan, followed by a tsunami only hours ago. It has recently passed the Hawaiian islands and is still headed for the Pacific coast of North America.
As my class of grade seven and eight students came in this AM I started with this video:
Many of them had heard early reports at home about this and a few of them had obviously watched the news. We discussed the fact that the tsunami was still moving and predictions were being made about where it might hit next and the possible damage.
We had a discussion in class about how the web was changing to allow us access to real time news. We talked about things like hashtags and realtime searches. We discussed the effect of Youtube and flickr on this sort of breaking news culture. Someone found the Wikipedia page of this event and was amazed to see the breadth and detail of it. At that point it had already been edited over 500 times.
Earlier I had posted on twitter about this event and my teaching partner, Heather Durnin was online even though her school was having a snow day. Heather agreed to take part in a skype call from home and emailed her students (who were also at home) about the fact that we were going to be working on a document to collect as much current, breaking information on this event as we could. So a quick skype call later, students from my class and some kids from Heather’s class (who were at home remember, having a snow day) logged on to a single shared google doc and collected information, updates, questions and predictions about the long term impact this might have. A quickly moving chatroom flowed by and Heather and I chimed in clarifying points with students, suggesting things for them to look up and posing questions for them.
In the end, we ended up with this document. While many of the early facts on this will change, be proven wrong, and be updated as the news from the situation around the Pacific is clarified, this was a great experience for students as they learned about real time news online, the power of the web, and collaboration in action.