Product Review of The Learning Network
The Learning Network is a website that features news content from The New York Times tuned for educator use and classroom discussion. There are few newspapers in the world with as high of a profile as The New York Times, and its site for educators lives up to that reputation by providing a rich set of resources to discuss current events or other important topics. There’s a host of features, many updated regularly, including daily lessons, a word of the day, writing and thinking prompts based on images or graphs, contests, and quizzes. Navigating the homepage is relatively simple: There are features (a mix of content types) above the fold at the start, often timely and relevant. Below that section is more related content. Then there’s a row of boxes where educators and learners can navigate directly to specific content libraries: daily lessons, writing prompts, quizzes, media, and contests. There’s also a row of content categories that organize resources aligned to particular subjects.
The Learning Network provides a reliable place to connect current events to reading and writing skills-building. The topics are so wide-ranging that classrooms from social studies to science might find something relevant to provide real-world context to curricular content. Even if there’s not something relevant on a particular day or week, learners and educators can search the huge database of content according to content area or type as well as by keyword. In many ways, The Learning Network could be a valuable place to begin class each day, either by projecting it on an interactive board for class discussions or by providing links to individual learners.
Plenty of helpful areas are located right off the homepage. These include a lesson of the day as well as an archive of past lessons. There’s also a learner opinion blog, where learners 13 years and older are invited to comment on news of the day. Each of these areas is grouped into content-area sections for further modified searching around a topic or idea. The site also has handy writing prompts, quizzes, and contests. There’s even a section on the homepage that highlights “accessible” activities. For educators, there are live and on-demand webinars.
The Learning Network is a place built to support learner critical thinking and to privilege learners’ voices. In fact, there’s an entire area dedicated to inviting learner responses. Young people have accepted this challenge, as evidenced by the active conversation on the site. It’s remarkable to see learners develop real-world news literacy skills as learners read and discuss world-class journalism with peers. This is unlike a lot of other “kids news” sites that create a simulation of newspapers (often with poor-quality stories that are little more than summaries of news) just meant to be consumed.
Beyond the learner discussion, there’s so much content- much of it regularly updated – that educators must determine their priorities. There’s just no way to teach it all. This means, however, that there’ll likely be something for just about any topical need — not to mention trustworthy context for trending/current stories. It’s a site with several opportunities to create ongoing routines in the classroom, whether you teach one of the lessons every week, use the writing prompts to drive learner journaling, or start off a period with the word of the day.
The lessons themselves do a good job presenting an unbiased perspective on stories, but educators might still want to bring in other viewpoints from other outlets to round out lessons. It’d also be nice to see more ready-to-implement takeaway assets — like graphic organizers — that’d save educators time translating the lessons into workable resources for learners.
Overall User Consensus About the App
There’s a nice mix of media, but still a lot of it could feel dry to learners. The daily content means that topics connect to things learners might be talking about.
Curriculum and Instruction
The range of info about current events is expansive. Content varies from daily lessons to writing prompts to quizzes and contests. Lessons aren’t heavy-handed.
There’s a curated collection of “accessible lessons.” Design is very friendly to different types of learners and abilities. Webinars help get educators oriented. Downloadable templates would help implementation.