Marathon Monday is a big deal in Boston. The city shuts down to cheer on runners as they cross the finish line of an epic race that takes them through towns and suburbs into the heart of Boston, outside the Copley Square branch of the Boston Public Library. It's also the first official day of spring break, otherwise known as Patriot's Day, and when the weather is gorgeous like it was today, I'm reminded why I have fallen in love with this city I call home.
Around 4 p.m., I received a phone call that alerted me to the fact that something had gone horribly wrong. As soon as I hung up, I did what I always do in times like these: I turned to the internet to find out more. I'm thinking and feeling many things right now, but part of what I've been reflecting on is how my use of the internet in tragedies such as this has evolved over the past twelve years.
The first time my life was directly impacted by a violent event, it was my 16th birthday, September 11th, 2001. I found out about the attacks on the Twin Towers via the phone, and then spent my time getting updates from CNN and BBC News and writing frantic emails to friends in D.C. (where I'd moved from) to find out if everyone was ok. This was in the era of poor internet connections in India and no Facebook, so I made do with what I had.
The second time it happened was November 26, 2008 - I was in Taiwan for a year when I received a text message in the middle of the night from my mother telling me that attacks were underway in Bombay (Mumbai), the city where much of my family lives, where I have lived, and a place that is dear to my heart. I sat down in front of the TV with my laptop opened, chatting over MSN with a friend who lived there, gleaning as much as I could in real-time via news websites and CNN, heartbroken as a city I loved went up in flames and a family member lost his life. I used Facebook, but I didn't rely on it as my primary source of information or sharing, preferring instead to lean on an online message board community.
And now today, April 15th, 2013, I'm in Boston and the way in which I responded to this tragedy is markedly different. Yes, I still found out about it via a phone call, but after that, my entire engagement with this tragedy has been online. The BBC's site supplied me with streaming video, a link posted by a friend from Scotland who shared it on my Facebook wall. To let loved ones know I was alright, I updated my status on Facebook, tweeted, wrote emails, text messages, answered phone calls, replied to WhatsApp messages, and posted on my message board.
As I turned to the New York Times and the Boston Globe for more information, I noticed that both offered streaming news, with information collated from a variety of sources - streaming video or photos from bystanders, tweets from both individuals and official channels, links, and more. individuals as well as official channels, pictures, and more. After seeing another status update from a friend about a woman who is reported missing on Facebook, I headed to the Google site that is crowdsourcing information on runners, filling in vital information about their safety and whereabouts.
None of this is new, obviously, but reflecting on my experiences made mye the observation not only struck me, it made me think about implications for my teaching. As librarians and other educators work to instill in students concepts such as credibility, reliability, and evaluating sources, we must take into account how the obtaining and delivery of news is changing and adapt accordingly. These same concepts are as important as ever, but if our students are to be effective at thinking critically and engaging with the news, we must work to make sure that we teach them how to apply these concepts to a news landscape that is ever-changing. It's a fascinating, challenging endeavor, and one I look forward to immensely.
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also (very occasionally) review children's and young adult literature on my book reviews page.
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