Website review by Vanessa Aranda, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2020

Bites Media

Teen-centered news site reliably breaks down complex current events

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Grades
8–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Social Studies, Creativity, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Presents news in manageable chunks, from multiple trusted perspectives, and with media and links for more exploration.

Cons: The classroom management system and built-in quizzes have limited customization and collaboration options.

Bottom Line: There's a ton of trusted info packed into these news round-ups offering great prep for discussion, but more rigorous assessments will be up to you.

Given the clear emphasis on accountable and fair reporting, teachers can use Bites Media to connect students with current events and trust that the content is reliable. Since the topics span Science and Technology, Life and Arts, Law and Politics, and Sports and Health, most middle and high school classes will be able to find some way to connect their curriculum to current events covered on Bites Media. New articles are uploaded weekly, so teachers can hop in and follow the articles forward. However, make sure to check out the past posts as well, many of which remain relevant.

Teachers might curate three articles based on a common theme, and then allow students to choose one to read and complete the readymade quiz for at the end. These quizzes could serve as preparation for in-class or virtual discussions. By using Bites Media -- and digging into the sources -- students will be better prepared for Socratic seminars, philosophical chairs, or four corners discussions. Teachers might scaffold things a bit by requiring students to prepare a minimum of three pieces of evidence from three sources they found through Bites Media to back their position. This strategy could work equally well as prep for persuasive essays.

For journalism students, Bites Media models sound reporting practices and also provides a head start on research for articles that students may be writing themselves. The food-for-thought-type questions and links to sources help springboard young journalists into their own quests for information. The layout of each article is also good modeling for the use of multiple modalities in telling a story, and students might use other tools to create their own.

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Bites Media is a teen-focused media site that takes pressing news stories and summarizes them, presenting a variety of trusted viewpoints. The heart of the experience is a scannable article featuring bullet points, videos, infographics, and links to sources. There's a strong emphasis on ethical journalism, so info is guided by reputable resources and the design encourages students to investigate these sources. A paid subscription adds ready-made mini-quizzes to articles and a teacher portal that helps teachers assign and then track and provide feedback on assigned articles. Subscribers receive weekly emails with new content, as well as corrections to any material, which display a deep commitment to reporter accountability and journalistic integrity.

Bites Media manages to tackle controversial topics without telling teens what to think, empowering them to think critically, source information effectively, and consider different viewpoints. The no-nonsense headlines of high-interest topics encourage students to dig into heavier, loaded subjects they might encounter in the media. The articles feature vetted, transparent information that gives students a full picture of a story from different perspectives. The emphasis is on multiple perspectives -- be it pros and cons or opinion vs. opinion -- that offer their own sets of evidence and sources. Different levels of readers can opt to read the minimum, which is still highly informative, or dive deeper into the source links to get extra info. Articles feature extensions like polls, questions, world leader commentary, or potential research starters. Digital sticky notes encourage readers to annotate articles. Since subscribers have to log in, these notes really do stick and automatically save for later. A speaker tool not only reads the article and highlights words as they're pronounced, but also allows for sound and speed adjustment. While there's no dedicated discussion space for students, teachers can have these discussions in the classroom or on other platforms.

The clean design chunks content well and includes infographics, short video clips, and updates on the issue. Although infographics and videos do help in breaking up the monotony of text, they aren't just fillers or attention holders; they're uniquely formatted to each article, and the videos are short and engaging. Ultimately, viewers of this content get just as much information, and possibly more, than reading one traditional lengthy news article. All of this makes tough issues feel approachable, and aids accessibility. With all of that said, since this is primarily a subscription-based service, teachers might feel like this is one more login and account, and the management tools (assigning articles, quizzes, grading, and tracking) may not quite feel worth it currently. While that's a concern, the frequency, quality, and ease of use of the content makes it a tempting choice for those who might rely on Bites Media throughout the school year. 

Overall Rating

Engagement

The trending news is tailored to teens' interests, and chunked well with photos, infographics, and videos to maintain attention. The formative assessment at the end offers a nice check for understanding.

Pedagogy

Each article represents different perspectives and sources, helping students to think critically when they read. Extra links give students more to explore, and extra annotation tools invite students to interact with content.

Support

The design is great and easy to understand, and the articles offer an accessible layout. The article audio is a nice touch, but robotic. The dashboard helps teachers track progress and give feedback.


Common Sense reviewer
Vanessa Aranda Classroom teacher

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