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The Learning Network
Pros: Daily content and a vast archive. Topics relevant to all content areas.
Cons: Not much for younger students. Most valuable in a one-to-one environment.
Bottom Line: Backed by a world-class news team, this stunning free resource can fuel daily topical discussions.
The Learning Network provides a reliable place to connect current events to reading and writing skills-building. The topics are so wide-ranging that classrooms from social studies to science might find something relevant to provide real-world context to curricular content. Even if there's not something relevant on a particular day or week, students and teachers can search the huge database of content according to content area or type as well as by keyword. In many ways, The Learning Network could be a valuable place to begin class each day, either by projecting it on an interactive board for class discussions or by providing links to individual students.
Plenty of helpful areas are located right off the homepage. These include a lesson of the day as well as an archive of past lessons. There's also a student opinion blog, where students 13 years and older are invited to comment on news of the day. Each of these areas is grouped into content-area sections for further modified searching around a topic or idea. The site also has handy writing prompts, quizzes, and contests. There's even a section on the homepage that highlights "accessible" activities. For teachers, there are live and on-demand webinars.
The Learning Network is a website that features news content from The New York Times tuned for teacher use and classroom discussion. There are few newspapers in the world with as high of a profile as The New York Times, and its site for educators lives up to that reputation by providing a rich set of resources to discuss current events or other important topics. There's a host of features, many updated regularly, including daily lessons, a word of the day, writing and thinking prompts based on images or graphs, contests, and quizzes. Navigating the homepage is relatively simple: There are features (a mix of content types) above the fold at the start, often timely and relevant. Below that section is more related content. Then there's a row of boxes where teachers and students can navigate directly to specific content libraries: daily lessons, writing prompts, quizzes, media, and contests. There's also a row of content categories that organize resources aligned to particular subjects.
The Learning Network is a place built to support student critical thinking and to privilege students' voices. In fact, there's an entire area dedicated to inviting student responses. Young people have accepted this challenge, as evidenced by the active conversation on the site. It's remarkable to see students develop real-world news literacy skills as students read and discuss world-class journalism with peers. This is unlike a lot of other "kids news" sites that create a simulation of newspapers (often with poor-quality stories that are little more than summaries of news) just meant to be consumed.
Beyond the student discussion, there's so much content -- much of it regularly updated -- that teachers will have to determine their priorities. There's just no way to teach it all. This means, however, that there'll likely be something for just about any topical need -- not to mention trustworthy context for trending/current stories. It's a site with several opportunities to create ongoing routines in the classroom, whether you teach one of the lessons every week, use the writing prompts to drive student journaling, or start off a period with the word of the day.
The lessons themselves do a good job of presenting an unbiased perspective on stories, but still educators might want to bring in other viewpoints from other outlets to round out lessons. It'd also be nice to see more ready-to-implement takeaway assets -- like graphic organizers -- that'd save teachers time translating the lessons into workable resources for students.