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Teaching Real-Time News Using Social Media

Dr. Marialice Curran


teaching current eventsTeaching current events has always been one of my favorite topics to address in the classroom.  In a recent twitter chat, my fellow social studies teachers were discussing how to teach real-time historical events in your classroom.  


Social media has revolutionized how news is disseminated and how current events can be taught in the classroom.


Modern Ways to Teach Current Events

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I have always loved using the newspaper as part of my curriculum.  I would drive to Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts to pick up newspapers from different parts of the country and the world for my students to read, compare and examine. Those days are over. 


The world has changed so quickly since I first started teaching in 1993.  Now, there’s no need to drive anywhere to pick up a newspaper anymore, they are now just a click away.


On our twitter chat (#sschat, Mondays at 7p.m.), Brian Wasson (@bwasson) pointed out that:

  • “On September 11, 2001, there was no iPhone, there was no Twitter, there was no YouTube.”

Social media has changed the landscape.  If I were in the classroom now, I’d want to use Newseum: Newspaper Front Pages to examine headlines from different newspapers and we’d create classroom news articles using or Storify or Pinterest


I would use The Choices Program: History and Current Issues for the Class on a daily basis. The program provides curriculum materials you can use to connect current events to your curriculum.  eLearn Assignments also offers a way to use real news stories as a platform for reading comprehension and critical thinking activities with their web-based teaching application.


If I were still in the classroom, I would use Twitter to evaluate perspective, as well as primary and secondary sources just like Ron Peck (@Ron_Peck) suggested during the #sschat.


According to Peck’s tweets:

  • “We discussed Twitter as a form of primary and secondary sources” and “I was sharing with my students how social media and especially Twitter were a better source of different perspectives in real time.”

Using Social Media to Teach Revisionist History

We would also examine how quickly social media can alter history by retweeting a powerful, but totally inaccurate quote.  I’m guilty of retweeting this quote too!


Following Osama bin Laden’s death, the fake Martin Luther King Jr. quote “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but will not rejoice in the death of 1, not even an enemy” went viral throughout social networks.


This story, Out of Osama’s Death, a Fake Quotation is Born, offers us a teachable moment to show how history and people’s perceptions can be changed through the media.  


This is revisionist history in action. What a tremendous opportunity to show your budding historians how important it is to properly check your research and historical data!


You can also create a classroom feed that shows different news headlines on the same topic. Compare the spin each news outlet puts on the story.


Comparing Current Events to Ancient History

Think that current events don’t fit with your history curriculum? Think again!


One of my all-time favorite books, Dateline Troy by Paul Fleischman, is a perfect way to demonstrate how the Trojan War is still being fought today. The book tells Homer’s ancient story of the Iliad alongside newspaper articles throughout modern history to show just how similar the stories can be.


“Though their tale comes from the distant Bronze Age, it’s as current as this morning’s headlines. The Trojan War is still being fought. Simply open a newspaper,” writes Fleischman.


How do you teach current events or integrate social media in your classroom? Share in the comments section!


This is an edited version of Dr. Curran's original blog post #sschat Reflection: Teaching What Matters Most, reprinted with the author's permission.