Sunday, December 9, 2012

Students Bring Newspaper Back From the Dead

I was approached by a 7th grade Language Arts teacher and a couple of her honors students about bringing the student newspaper back, as it had been a casualty of budget cuts prior to my arrival at Utica Junior High.  The teacher and her students wanted to make it a part of the Honors Language Arts class. I was supportive of the venture, but wanted two things out of the project:  for the students to produce something special, and secondly, I wanted the project to be done digitally. I have seen too many student newspapers that were far from being considered for any awards.  If we were going to bring the newspaper back, it was going to be something worth bringing back.  I was also not too keen on the idea of wasting paper and hustling copies of the paper to students and dealing with the loose change.  Aside from that, nearly 50% of our student body is considered economically disadvantaged, so in my mind, this project's purpose was not a fundraiser.  The students understood that I had high expectations and we were going to be cost-effective and use the technology that our school possessed.  We were going to bring back the newspaper, but bring it back differently.  The teacher was excited and more importantly, so were the students.

Over a two week period, the students sought guidance from their teacher and then went to work. They interviewed students, teachers, conducted a survey and began putting the newspaper together using an iPad 2 and the app Pages.  They met with me periodically and then once again the day before our first release date, in order to do a final edit.  We finally created the newspaper as a PDF and with the help of our district technology director, uploaded it to a link on the front page of our school's website.  I could not have been more pleased with their final product, but to see their enthusiasm made it all worthwhile.

The 8th grade Honors Language Arts class has jumped on board, and will make it a part of their class as well.  The plan is to release the newspaper biweekly, alternating which class produces the publication.

Below are some screen shots of the first edition of the Utica Times (Digital Edition).  It was designed and created by a group of 7th grade students.  I also want to thank the two teachers who have integrated this project into their classroom curriculum, and also doing so without a stipend.

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