So much information

I awoke yesterday morning to a message from my friend @aforgrave who had just seen my #FollowFriday messages about Ontario Educators.  He wanted to know if this was yet another automated thing I had going on and, if not, had I seen the new about the earthquake in Japan.

As a matter of fact, I was awake doing my Friday routine and hadn’t checked into the overnight stream of information as of yet.  I had just roused myself and was doing this before I got distracted with some early learning morning news and learning.  As we know now, the events of yesterday were horrible and the effects of the earthquake were being felt in the Pacific and on Americas side of the Pacific all day.

Once again, Twitter had served to be the perfect conduit of information as it happened.  It absolutely trumped RSS for providing the information to the world and the news channels seemed puzzled as to the importance of what was happening.  In my quest for news, I found that television news was incomplete and I was switching all over trying to find the latest details.  The traditional US cable channels were doing their best and yet the reports were intermixed with weather trivia, the price of gasoline, and an analysis of what the US response to the crisis would be.  I found that for the most considered reports, that I settled on Global’s Vancouver channel and BBC World.

and Twitter.

My saviour for the television news was the remote control.  My saviour for Twitter was the hashtags #japan and #tsunami.  As would be expected, the demand for information forced these types of searches to the top of the suggestions.

There was no shortage of resources reporting on situation.  It really was disconcerting and one of the reports I watched interviewed a professor from Simon Fraser University who was asked if we were experiencing more earthquakes given the Japan and recent Christchurch situations.  I was surprised at the response which was no, we’re not experiencing more of them – they’re just happening in populated areas where we’re equipped with the ability to cover it better.  Certainly, we experienced that yesterday and it continues this morning with the reports of damages to nuclear plants in Japan.

Classroom treatment of situations like this is important.  In this case, watching and dealing with live information may not always be age appropriate given its nature.  One resource that immediately came through was actually a recycled activity from CBCLearning.  It was designed for the disaster a few years ago in the Indian Ocean and was equally as appropriate for yesterday.

Links to this and so many other resources made this form of news aggregation so powerful.  For me, one of the most powerful moments was actually an image.  This was not necessarily an infographic but did convey a powerful message.

There was so much information.  The world will be solidly behind and hoping for a quick recovery from this disaster.  There will come a time when there will be educational reflection on the events.  There will be classrooms where teachers and resources were right on top of this as a teaching opportunity.  There will be other classrooms where access to these resources were blocked and so another opportunity is lost.  There will be incredible opportunities to turn this into lessons about media literacy and global citizenship and awareness.

If you’re an educator reading this, how did you handle it?  How will you handle the next steps as Japan recovers?

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3 thoughts on “So much information

  1. Hey Doug,

    Good question. At our school, we had our “electric boogaloo club” (club of Intermediate students who meet to watch TED talks and discuss BIG ideas at lunch) meet for a special meeting to catch up on the net coverage of the events happening in Japan. During my writer’s workshop with the Grade 8 students, we watched the Jeremy Rifkin RSAnimate video here – and then we talked about empathy – what it is, what it looks like – and how the internet enables us to express empathy through actions for those around the globe. Then we broke for March Break, so we will pick it up again after the break.



  2. We spent time in our morning literacy block talking about it. Some of my students had seen images on TV prior to coming to school and they didn’t understand the context. I started my talk with how I woke up and heard about the Earthquake on CBC news and then followed up in Tiwtter. I showed my students tweets that were written in Japanese and how I could translate them in Twitter, I think showed a short clip on BBC. We then looked at the Weathernetwork and read about Hawaii and BC. I opened Google Earth and on the SMARTBoard my volunteer and I clicked and moved the earth around showing the students were they lived and then we went back and forth to Japan, Hawaii and Vancouver. This helped them see where in the world this was happening and it confirmed for them that they were indeed safe. Remember my students are only 7 & 8 yrs old so I felt it was important for them to know they were safe. As we looked at Google Earth my volunteer who is a qualified teacher led a discussion on the fault lines and the students could see the fault lines on the screen. It was a fascinating conversation and they were 100% engaged. I didn’t downplay the incident but tired to build their understanding and provide a context for the earthquake. Often people don’t take the time to talk with young students about these world events. Yet, they see images and hear news reports but don’t know how to talk about it. I absolutely love having technology at my finger tips in my classroom. It makes discussions like this easier and it provides images and an interactive element that a plain discussion wouldn’t have included. We cannot cultivate global citizens if we don’t provide the context for global events.


  3. Thank you ladies for sharing what happened in your classroom. I think that it’s very important that these issues are addressed in an age appropriate manner. Without it, the students are left to their own devices to try and get an understanding or misunderstanding of important events. The tools that we have at our fingertips is so powerful and, even more powerful, are the ideas and techniques that are shared by great educators. Kudos to both of you and to anyone else who tackled this issue head-on in your classrooms.


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