Every weekday in 30,000 schools across the country, students tune in to CNN Newsroom, a 30-minute commercial-free video program comprising a handful of two- to five-minute news segments. Now MIT researchers are taking Newsroom one step further by using the Internet instead of cable TV and VCRs to bring the program to the classroom.
For the last six months two 10th-grade social studies classes at Lexington High School in Lexington, have been accessing Newsroom this way. The Internet version offers significant benefits over cable transmissions, including easy access to a large library of news clips.
"I find that my students are more [interested in] keeping track of world events," said Mary Gillespie, the teacher who is using Internet CNN Newsroom in her classroom. "I see the students turn it on themselves during study hall [and] follow up on issues talked about in class on their own."
Researchers led by Dr. Lee W. McKnight, associate director of the Research Program on Communications Policy at the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development (CTPID), are evaluating Internet CNN Newsroom. They are doing so via written surveys given to students, on-site visits and focus groups with students and faculty.
Among their findings: Internet CNN Newsroom has changed the way students view computers and the Internet. "While Lexington students formerly saw the computer primarily as a machine for playing games or learning how to type, they now see computers and the Internet as vital research tools for school projects and information about the world," said Russell I. Rothstein, a graduate student in the Sloan School and the Technology and Policy Program.
In addition to Dr. McKnight and Mr. Rothstein, MIT researchers who have contributed to Internet CNN Newsroom are Professor Richard C. Larson of the Center for Advanced Educational Services, Professor Steven R. Lerman of civil and environmental engineering, and Paul D. Bosco, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science who wrote the original proposal for the project. Alumni Jonathan Soo and Kip Compton also contributed to the work as students in the Laboratory for Computer Science. The project is part of the Networked Multimedia Information Services, a research initiative comprising the capabilities of several universities.
Many teachers find that CNN Newsroom, in general, is of great value in the classroom, reporting that students show more interest in geography and social studies and are improving their vocabulary through "key words" in the daily curriculum guide.
Making it available over the Internet offers significant benefits such as access to news clip archives. Teachers have asked for this capability, as they felt overwhelmed by the volume of information available in collected Newsroom programs. The ability to search for and assemble Newsroom segments over time provides new opportunities for classroom use of news and information.
Another benefit: Internet CNN Newsroom offers ease of clip location, assembly and insertion into derivative works. Material can also be linked together in new ways. For example, a teacher might create a home page on the Web with links to stories about a certain topic, or students could present their pages with stories relating to topics they are studying.
Internet CNN Newsroom is made possible by two technical advances designed by Mr. Soo and Mr. Compton. The first is "video-streaming," which allows video information to be transmitted without download delays. The second is a process that automatically digitizes and indexes video programs, converting the cable version of CNN Newsroom to the Internet with minimal human intervention.
Internet CNN Newsroom is on the World Wide Web at <http://nmis.nmis.org/NewsInteractive/CNN/Newsroom/contents.html>. The information presented on the cable version of CNN Newsroom-past and present-is stored and indexed at this address, although the casual user can't download real-time video without the special equipment being used by the Lexington High students. The library contains several months' worth of CNN Newsroom reports, all housed on a computer system on the MIT campus.
MONITORING THE NEWSROOM
Mr. Rothstein is monitoring the project as it is deployed in the classroom this school year to gauge Internet CNN Newsroom's success as both an educational tool and a practical technology. To date he has conducted two written surveys, and he will conduct one more in April.
The assessments focus on the two social studies classes at Lexington High. A second site, a social studies class in Belmont High School, has been the control group for the project. The Belmont group is using the cable CNN Newsroom service, but has received the same survey as Lexington.
The surveys to date have shown that, among other things, Lexington students place more importance than their Belmont counterparts on the use of computers for school projects. Students at both schools were asked to name the most important source of information for school projects. At the start of the school year in Lexington, 55 percent of students said books were most important while 39 percent said that computers were. However, by February the percentage of Lexington students naming books as their most important source decreased dramatically to 30 percent, while the percentage of students naming computers increased to 65 percent.
At the beginning of the school year in Belmont 91 percent of students said books were the most important source of information for school projects while seven percent said computers were. In February, the percentages changed only slightly to 85 percent for books and 10 percent for computers.
The Internet CNN Newsroom project is sponsored by ARPA, NSF, Turner Broadcasting Systems and IBM.