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Get Your Students to Love the News, #7: News360 helps students collect the news

news360_icon_playbook_largefavicon Today I’m back with a new installment to the “Get Your Students to Love the News,” which I think is slowly becoming a great resource for teachers. Today is the seventh installment. When you have time, be sure to check out the other posts, too.

So far in the series, I’ve avoided reviewing “news aggregators,” which collect articles from various sources based on user interests. After all, as I’ve written about, you want to make sure that your students understand that news comes from real people and real news organizations and not randomly from the air.

Once that’s solid, it’s OK, I think, to move to news aggregators because students can choose topics they’re passionate about and then follow them over time.

There are a ton of good aggregators, including Flipboard and Zite (which Flipboard acquired earlier this year). Flipboard is the most popular, and a lot of people like it, but I don’t, mostly because of its user interface, which involves, well, a lot of flipping. Zite used to be my favorite, but since its acquisition, I’ve been checking out News360 and am pretty impressed.

News360 has a website but looks better on tablets and phones. As I’ve said before, for students, the phone is where things happen.

To get a sense of what News360 does, consider its tagline: “Everything you want to read.” In case that’s confusing, News360’s website tells you directly the purpose of its service: “News360 is an app that learns what you enjoy and find stories you’ll like around the web.” OK, I get it. But what does that mean?

It means you first select topics you’re interested in, and then News360 goes and finds articles for you. You can choose topics large or small, specific or generic, local or international. For example, I’m following Music, Movies (both general), Running, Literacy (a bit more specific), and Amazon Kindle (very specific). You can also follow news organizations (like the New York Times), but I don’t think that’s best practice for a news aggregator, whose purpose is to offer new articles from sources you may not read.

After you choose your topics, you get a feed that looks like this (on your phone):

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So that’s pretty good. But the best part comes once you start reading articles. You can vote an article up or down, and magically, News360 learns about your interests and gives you more or fewer of those kinds of articles based on your vote.

Let’s take a look at the Jon Bon Jovi article to see what it looks like:

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See the thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons? The power to determine whether or not you view more articles about Mr. Bon Jovi is entirely in your fingers. (Additionally, you can share the article with a friend — or save it to your Pocket — using the share icon.)

But also take a look at the tags above the article’s headline. Let’s say that reading about Mr. Bon Jovi has really inspired you to learn more about opera (not exactly sure about why that is, but please go with it). Pressing on that icon leads you to this screen:

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Yep, here you have more articles about the opera — and, by pressing on the + button up top, the ability to follow that topic, too.

These two features of News360 — voting articles up or down, and adding topics as a result of reading an article — offer you a nice balance of sometimes refining and sometimes expanding your reading interests.

Plus, News360 looks good, is simple to use, and I think will appeal to students. It’s not anathema like an RSS reader (Feedly, Digg Reader), but it’s also not too-serious = boring.

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Using News360 with Your Students
I can see a lot of ways that teachers can use News360 with their students. Here are a few. Please add more in the comments!

1. Research can be fun.
Research shouldn’t be boring. It should be about following an interest over time and learning more about it. Sure, when students have to write a research paper, then things get serious again — with collecting evidence, paraphrasing, making sure you’re not plagiarizing, and citing your sources. But in the preliminary phases, it’s all about reading a ton. An app like News360 can help teachers send that message to students.

2. Current Events Roundtables.
One frustration teachers tell me about is that students may not have a wide sense of the news. To combat that problem, teachers can require students to follow a small number of topics on News360 and then select one article to share with a small group. This can be done jigsaw-style, where each member of the group has a different topic.

3. Philosophical Discussions about the Internet Filtering Effect
So News360 is one of many services that offer its customers an individualized, personal look at the world. To some extent, most online services do something similar. What’s in our Facebook and Twitter feeds, for example, is determined by whom we follow. I read Eli Pariser’s excellent book, The Filter Bubble, a few back, in which he argues that all this online filtering threatens democracy. What do students think? Engaging them on this topic may also encourage students to think about how they gather and interact with news.

All right, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this installment of “Get Your Students to Love the News.” There are a few more posts left, including a doozy, so please stay tuned.

Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts about News360 in the comments, if you like! Do you think news aggregators are good for students and their news reading lives, or are they a sacrilege to journalism? favicon

Please share your brilliant insights!