Miriam shares her experiences setting up student digital newsletters before and during Covid-19.
Having a platform to share student voice is now more important than ever. We have seen students come out with movements like #FridaysforFuture and having a place to share their thoughts is an important outlet for them. Therefore in January 2019 when a student (@JensCreationsX) said she would love to do work experience in a newspaper I got thinking.
Having worked in the media right through my college days I knew the scene and the role of the novice journalist well. What I didn’t expect, however, was that other students would share the same enthusiasm. Tasked with the role of finding these students work experience in media settings I knew it would be a challenge and so later that day thought what if we could do this as a class and create our publication.
The devices students used for learning were just as good for creating, they essentially had pocket newsrooms on the desks in front of them this whole time.
In the weeks that followed students came up with a name. Having been assigned the roles of editor, photographer and proofreader, they then went out to find their own stories.
The publication was entirely student-led and they decided on the theme and topics for each issue. About five weeks later the first issue of Peek was published on the Apple Book store.
Students had decided that they were going to be ‘Peeking Into….” topics like student life, mental health and the return to education. The response from this publication was positive across the whole school community and shortly after they published their creativity issue with interviews with creatives like Will Sliney (yes the marvel artist!) animators Sminky, author Jodi Picoult and many more.
Lessons learned as a student
In their feedback students discussed how it wasn’t always easy to work as part of a team, a lesson we all have to learn the hard way. They also found it brought them together as a class group and they shared a lot of experiences and memories. Later in the year, they used this experience to once again work together in fundraising for the homeless in our local community, showing that their teamwork skills were transferable to other projects.
Quote from student
“From a personal point of view, this brought new challenges in terms of both the work and dealing with other people. I was elected project leader, a situation that I have never been in before and this taught me a lot about myself, showing me strengths that I did not know I had, and helped me improve on weaknesses that I brought into the project with me”
Lessons learned as an educator
As an educator, I learned that sometimes I don’t give my students enough independence. My role in this project was mostly just a discussion facilitator, a role soon taken over by the student in the role of editor and later as a proofreader and the person who pressed the publish button.
The future of the publication.
As soon as it began it was time to wrap up and students would move on to other classes. We had all grown fond of Peek and as a teacher, I was secretly hoping this might continue into the new academic year bearing in mind that every class has different interests and skills.
And this was true. While the class that formed Peek were writers and researchers, the next class were true creators, artists, video makers and animators.
This could have posed a challenge, however, it instead led the way to new opportunities. While their predecessors went out and interviewed artists, this class were the artists, so instead of interviews this cohort of students compiled reviews of drawing apps and created video tutorials.
The challenge posed by Covid school closures.
Because producing digital newsletters is predominately based around creating documents, we were able to work on these remotely. We did, however, scale back and focus on two issues. One focused on stories around their local community, with the second focused on creativity. Working on the publication remotely was particularly challenging when creating the layout and design, but thanks to collaborative document features we got there in the end!
I am looking forward to seeing the project evolve again this year and seeing a new class make it their own while trying to visualise what a post Covid Peek might feature.
The tech and apps we used.
Applications – Pages and Clips.
Devices – iPad.
Peek newsletters are free to download on the Apple Book Store.