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Rupert Murdoch beware.  While the world’s media moguls (yes all two of them) ponder how to monetise their content on digital platforms, there is a growing  array of online resources helping teachers and students create their own multi-media newspapers…for free.  How Web 2.0 is that! 

There are two approaches to this task. Firstly you can look out for online applications that enable you and your students to create online newspapers using their own content.  The second approach is to tailor make an online newspaper featuring the best news stories/vid clips pulled from around the world on a topic or range of topics as defined by you. 

Rather than go through them all one by one, I’m sending you straight to a far more wise teaching head than mine who has spent some time reviewing and testing a range of apps meeting options 2 – creating aggregated multi-media newspapers. Larry Ferlazzo , an English language teacher in Sacramento, California, has come up with the following lists of such sites on his blog (also worth a visit). To make his list, the application had to be free; make content available in an attractive and accessible way for English Language Learners; and make it very easy to sign-up and add new preferences. Here’s Larry’s best of the best: 

When it comes to creating their own newspaper on-line, the first app I came across was paper.li a site that organises links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag. I had a go at creating a page direct from my twitter account which is really just a way of sharing your tweets and those of your followers. (You could also sign up for feeds from paper.li online papers on topics of interest for example this one which organises tweets on the Gulf oil spill crisis).  Paper.li also enables you to create a class or project based newspaper via twitter.  You set up a specific twitter account for the project, go to paper.li and create the newspaper from there.  Paper.li will auto-publish a professionally presented multi-media newspaper from all the tweets followed by the main twitter account and send it out to those who subscribe on an updated daily basis.  

What you get is not a newspaper in the traditional sense as paper.li uses your tweets and/or links to other articles but this app does allow students to collate a range of information they had either created or sourced on a specific topic. 

Another twitter related application which is based around your own, or perhaps a class twitter feed is Twitter Tim.es.  This is touted as “a real-time personalised newspaper generated from your twitter account”. As I found with paper.li you need to make regular tweets to ensure there is content to feature (your sites self update every 12 hours or so) – otherwise next time you go for a look, the page could well be bare! Here’s how mine looks (or looked mid July – apologies if you are viewing later and it’s blank!) 

Meanwhile, an online app known as Fodey also lets you create an authentic looking traditional newspaper article by directly inputting a story onto the site.  Students write their article into a text box and within a couple of minutes, the site generates an article based on their text. It’s simple and easy to use.  After having a go, I found it has around a 300 word count limit. Not a bad way of teaching students about writing to a word count or a deadline. You can download a jpeg of the resulting article as the site only archives for a short time… 

Bizarre Beach Find at Brighton

So there are plenty of fun tools to choose from with pretty obvious applications.  In senior English I’d use one of the above for AS 1.1 (produce formal transactional writing), 2.2 (produce formal transactional writing) or 2.8 (investigate a language or literature topic and present information in a written form).   I’ve also seen newspaper creation used for AS 1.1 (produce creative writing) in a unit featured on the EnglishOnline website when creating a newspaper as a class or group although writing a news article was assessed separately for 1.2 I’m pretty sure that newspaper writing is an option in the junior curriculum too.

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