Review by Common Sense Editor, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012

The Learning Network

Process current events through engaging NYT-style lens

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Teachers say (5 Reviews)
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Grades
7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: As an offshoot of the venerable New York Times family, The Learning Network has instant access to wide-ranging news stories and writers, providing a rich framework of ideas on which to build lessons.

Cons: Info and activities are more accessible for older students than younger ones and are most valuable in a one-to-one computer environment.

Bottom Line: This free resource can be a reliable source of activities and ideas for current event discussions from a trusted news organization with its finger on the pulse of the world.

For teachers in states that have adopted the Common Core standards, the site provides a reliable place to make connections with reading, writing, and content-area topics from social studies and science. Kids and teachers can search articles according to content area as well as by keywords, and there is a Common Core link, too. In many ways, The Learning Network could be a valuable place to begin class each day, either by flashing it on an interactive board for class discussions or by providing links to individual students.

Educators don't have special access to an internal dashboard at the site, but there are plenty of helpful areas located right off the homepage. These include a section of lesson plans submitted by other teachers and the 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. There is also a handy daily news quiz, word of the day, student crossword challenge, and more. All are easily accessible from the main home of the site.

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The Learning Network is a blog-style website that features New York Times news content for teacher use. There's no more trusted name in the newspaper business than The New York Times, and its site for educators lives up to that reputation by providing a rich, engaging resource for learning about current events. Great features include a word of the day, a fill-in-the-blanks news story activity, a visual thinking activity that poses an image with questions of inference and comprehension, and even the Six Questions, which regularly use embedded video and audio. Navigating the homepage is relatively simple: The main article is front and center, with the previous story below it in a typical blog-like chronological sequence. Lesson plans and the student opinion sites are linked on the right side of the homepage, clearly marked.

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The Learning Network is a place built for student voices, with an entire area dedicated to inviting student responses. Young people have accepted this challenge, as evidenced by active conversation on the site. Teachers will have to determine their priorities here, since there are a lot of options –- from the more standard news story on the homepage to the various interactive elements built off the day's news stories. Some students might be overwhelmed by the choices, so choosing an activity or topic for the class might make sense (and you can differentiate for students by narrowing or broadening the activities and expectations).

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3
Kids have to be interested in the news and ready to read through news articles in order to be fully engaged in this material. It's set up a lot like the NYT home page, but kid-friendlier.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

The range of info about current events is expansive, and kids can find lots of ways to extend their understanding –- from daily questions on the blog to quizzes about media awareness.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

A video overview along with links to support kids and adults at the site are available.


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Heather M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Memorial Parkway Junior High School
Katy, TX
4
I don't really understand why this site says it's free. You have to subscribe (read: pay) for unlimited access.

I like the comment sections and the questions are engaging. I want to use it for genius hour with my students but, again, they'd have to pay if they want to view more than ten articles in a month and mine likely would.

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