Common Sense Review
Updated January 2014


Media museum's site mixes history and civics, teaches about journalism
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • There are interviews and videos on the media's coverage of major events like 9/11, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Users can view items from museum exhibits.
  • Kids can view front pages from more than 800 newspapers around the world.
  • The Digital Classroom section provides additional learning modules and videos.
  • Interactive tools include a clickable map that shows press freedom ratings by country.
Using diverse, interesting techniques, the site does a good job of explaining how the media works.
Kids can't really personalize the experience, activities don't become more challenging over time, and some sections are a bit light on content.
Bottom Line
An effective summary and introduction to the media; more exercises and tools to help budding young journalists would make the site even more noteworthy.
Erin Brereton
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Clever interactive elements illustrate news coverage of significant U.S historical events. But generally, the site content isn't personalized; kids don't get direct feedback or instruction and, as a result, may not visit the site often.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Videos, images, and text blend history and journalism to explain how media coverage works. Content also touches on topics like accuracy and ethics. Kids will increase their news knowledge but won't necessarily get writing help. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

The Digital Classroom section provides journalism, election, and Civil Rights Movement lesson plans. Printable worksheets offer students visiting the museum additional insight. Some sections link to activism organization sites.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers can access nearly two dozen lesson plans with preparatory and post-lesson activities for journalism, First Amendment, and historical headline-based units. A few lesson plans also provide a modern-day context on issues like civil rights challenges in other countries. While some activities are designed for use during actual Newseum visits, others don't require a D.C. trip; with some creativity, you should still be able to use some of the visit-oriented materials for classroom work.

Teachers can also share exhibit-based visuals in class to help enrich content in any number of classes; the vintage newspapers and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs are two standout selections. Also, for D.C.-area educators, the Newseum offers professional development courses; additional information is available on the site.

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What's It Like?

Exhibits in the 250,000-square-foot Newseum in Washington, D.C., span five centuries of news coverage; the museum's website also provides ample background on journalism, civics, and historical events. Primarily an informational resource to complement the physical museum, it gives students access to the site's videos, images, and written content on topics like the Civil Rights Movement, 9/11, and journalists' experiences. There are also sections with teacher-oriented lesson plans as well as museum visit guides for those planning a field trip.


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Is It Good For Learning?

The Newseum site does a great job of providing students with a fun multimedia experience. One section features news photos accompanied by audio of photojournalists discussing how they captured each image; another has an interactive map that lists different countries' press freedom rating, key media moments, and prominent journalists. There's also a collection of newspaper front pages from around the world, updated daily. The Digital Classroom section includes in-depth learning modules on elections and the Civil Rights Movement, each with dynamic components like interactive timelines and maps. Kids can also watch about a dozen videos on topics like media bias and online journalism.

It would be nice if the site itself offered more in the way of personalized learning content and feedback, like specific instruction on journalistic writing; teachers will need to provide additional instruction to help bolster kids' learning. However, the site can serve as a stellar introduction to the mechanics behind the media, namely how opinions and objectivity differ. It's also a great place to spark discussion about current events.

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