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Is print dead? An ethics lesson


Is print dead?
by john Bowen
Can students read the Constitution in its original form (cursive)? What could this mean for paper consumption? The JEA listserv recently had an extended discussion about whether print student media was dead, or at least in its death throes.
Students will examine the following questions:
• What are student opinions on the future of print media, especially newspapers?
• Why do they feel this way?
• What credible and reliable sources can they find – and explain – to support their views?
• How do their views affect how they look at their student media?
• How do they think their peers feel?
• What would they create as the ideal scholastic publication program at their school and why?
• How does the discussion make them feel about a career in journalism?

• Students will create an argument whether print is dead.
• Students will hypothesize on the future of print journalism as we know it.
• Students will create posters on their belief and evaluate the posters of others.

Common Core State Standards
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

150 minutes (three 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
• Print is dead? Not so fast
•Who says print is dead?
•Newspapers dead within five years
•Hot industry? Warren Buffet is betting on newspapers
•Are newspapers dead yet?
•The end of the printed newspaper
•Do spinoffs spell death of US newspapers? No and here’s why

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1
1. Introduction — 5 minutes
Hand out several copies of a printed copy of the Constitution (handwritten). Ask them to read the first 20 lines of a hard-copy of the document.

Now, ask them to find an online copy and repeat the reading and discussion process.

2. Link to content — 5 minutes
What does the exercise say to them about reading cursive and reading print materials? About what they learn in school based on print texts versus online materials. Is it harder to read the cursive writing because schools now downplay it and nothing like it exists online? Work on comparisons between learning from print sources and online ones. (Link here and here for two articles on the impact of reading print versus online material.)

Gradually move the discussion into the future of print, particularly newspapers, and how that could affect education and citizen involvement.

3. Research — 40 minutes
Assign students to find online articles discussing the future of newspapers and print journalism for Day 2. Some sources could include:
• Print is dead? Not so fast
•Who says print is dead?
•Newspapers dead within five years
•Hot industry? Warren Buffet is betting on newspapers
•Are newspapers dead yet?
•The end of the printed newspaper
•Do spinoffs spell death of US newspapers? No and here’s why

Additionally, ask them to also consider these points raised in a recent JEA listserv discussion on the topic:
• Studies show students don’t read for news online and prefer hard copy
• Journalism is about information gathering and presentation skills, not about just knowing the tools
• Is print better suited for certain kinds of information  than other platforms?
• What do their various communities want and need?
• Are scholastic media bound by the same revenue-driven guidelines as commercial media? Should they be?
• Is the discussion fact or anecdotal driven? Does it make a difference?
• It’s the process of informing, not the product that matters
• If print still works in some cases and ways, how can we invent it?

Use some of these points to find other online or print resources on the topic. Here is a rubric you can use for this exercise.

Day 2

1. Review — 5 minutes
Ask students to go around and state the two most interesting snippets of information they learned from the previous class.

2. Group discussion — 10 minutes

Discuss in groups of four or five what others are saying in the readings about the future of print journalism. Do the students agree? Compare their views and the view of others. Which are more credible and reliable? The most supported by fact or logic?

3. Poster creation — 15 minutes
Narrow the discussion to several reoccurring points, pro and con, in each group. Ask students to combine each group’s findings into a poster or projectable image for the class.

4. Statement creation — 10 minutes
Ask them to create “we agree” statements with each of the most  common points and post them in the class. Students should post these around the room.

Day 3

Teacher preparation:
Hang the “we agree” posters as well as a blank sheet of paper next to each.

1. Review — 10 minutes
Ask students to walk around the room looking at the “we agree” posters. While reading the posters, students should comment and provide feedback on the blank paper next to the statement

2. Group review of feedback — 15 minutes

Students should look at feedback given. Does the feedback alter their position? Ask groups to discuss this.

3. Assignments — 25 minutes
Students could decide between the following options:
• Students could create a position statement of their own using the platform of their choice on what they feel the future of print to be and why.
• Students could plan what they want student media at their school to be in five to 10 years, supporting their views with sources and factual statements. They would show how each platform cited for the future would meet student and community needs.
• Students could create a survey instrument for their students and communities on the topic and reported a reported piece using the platform of their choice.
• Combination of any of the above as individuals, teams. Or, create another assignment based on the exercise.



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