Beyond the Text: Converging Current Events and Digital Technology

By Frank Longo and Lisa Johnston

Although today’s students are frequently inundated with information in a rapidly evolving society, the consumption of that information often comes without useful and appropriate context, making it challenging for students to establish connections and a strong sense of relevance.  One of the most significant connections students can make are those between course content and real-world situations.  Even the most well-crafted curricula, however, can lack the ability to bridge this gap and fall short of instilling a methodology for learners to effectively recognize the applicability of their studies.  

This presentation will argue that one of the most significant steps an instructor can take in reinforcing course themes and demonstrating their practical value is through the strategic integration of current events into the curriculum, particularly through the use of digital technology.   This requires both an understanding of the theoretical framework behind digital current events integration and the practical steps involved in content implementation.  

The framework for such an approach centers on the promotion of student engagement, the enhancement of conventional and digital citizenship, and exploration of the real-world relevance of course material.  Essential to this foundation is the understanding of how current events function in a classroom environment, including the promotion of currency and the encouragement of critical and analytical thinking.  Utilizing digital tools to integrate this information allows for increased timeliness and the promotion of a form of digital citizenship that is deeply intertwined with the expansion of the student knowledge base.  

While this presentation will touch on a variety of ways to integrate current events into the classroom, it will focus primarily on the use of the faculty blog, an accessible and flexible medium for providing supplemental content while promoting student interaction and idea exchange.   This model of blog goes well beyond the musings of conventional blogs to serve as a space for supplemental reading, relevant commentary, and essential parallels between course content and real-world events.  It is an extension of the classroom space that seamlessly weaves together course content and the real and relevant dynamics of present-day news.  

While many publishing companies have increasingly aimed to keep electronic resources timely through the integration of stories or concepts from current events, they are not yet capable of utilizing stories from the day, week, or even month before.  The proposed model of the faculty current events blog allows for the timely and relevant use of recent news and developments in a way that highlights and enhances the selected text and course materials.  It also allows for better instructor adaptation of the course itself to the academic and professional needs of a diverse student population.  This is text customization at its best and most innovative.   

The proposed presentation will ideally use a concurrent model with a combination lecture (40%), demonstration (35%), and discussion (25%). Participants will gain insights into the value of digital current events and many practical examples of how this form of instruction can be integrated into a classroom environment.

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