There is always talk about preparing students for college and career readiness (CCR), but the recent simultaneous and collaborative news release of the Panama Papers by newspapers around the globe is an example of how preparing students using technology in the classroom can be taught as an authentic application.
The Panama Papers Collaboration
Under the headline OFFSHORE LINKS OF MORE THAN 140 POLITICIANS AND OFFICIALS EXPOSED, the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 100 other news organizations around the globe, “revealed the offshore links of some of the world’s most prominent people.”
“In terms of size, the Panama Papers is likely the biggest leak of inside information in history – more than 11.5 million documents – and it is equally likely to be one of the most explosive in the nature of its revelations.”
The article in the NYTimes: World|Here’s What We Know About the ‘Panama Papers’ explained the significance of the documents that were part of a cooperative global pact of reporting:
“The papers — millions of leaked confidential documents from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama — identify international politicians, business leaders and celebrities involved in webs of suspicious financial transactions. The revelations have raised questions about secrecy and corruption in the global financial system.”
How did the ICIJ accomplish this simultaneous and collaborative news scoop? They used collaborative writing platforms.
Collaboration is the Key
In an interview with National Public Radio’s (NPR) Ari Shaprio, titled Panama Papers Leak Is The Result Of Unprecedented Media Collaboration the director of ICIJ, Gerard Ryle explained how the 100 media organizations around the world to were able to read and analyze the 11.5 million files from the Panama Papers leak. Ryle explained,
“We would never be able to do this kind of collaboration even five, six years ago. But technology has advanced so much that we can make all of these documents available over the Internet and pipe them right into all the newsrooms so that, I mean, we can have 10 reporters working in one newsroom. We can have 20 in another. We can have five in another. And they can all see the same documents, and we basically host all of the documents on servers and pipe them down over the Internet.”
The ICIJ was able to use digital platforms where documents could be shared in asynchronous collaborations, where news organizations could partner to connect, to share and to respond across time zones.
These same digital platforms are available in many classrooms today, where students can work in class synchronously or asynchronous with classmates as well.
A key difference between journalists’ practices and students, is that students are trained to be more cooperative and collaborative. Ryle describes how unusual the sharing of information is in the journalism profession:
” I had to unlearn everything I had learned as a journalist to do this kind of work. I mean, most of our careers, we basically don’t even tell our editors what we’re working on.”
In contrast, students today who understand the power of collaboration will not have to “unlearn” to be effective journalists.
Common Core Connections
Educators, especially those at the middle and high school grade levels, have been using these digital platforms to meet the key shifts in College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) as part of the Common Core:
“These standards require students to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum.”
Within the Frameworks of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) there is also a specific anchor standard for writing for all students:
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Today’s technology allows students to mirror the same approach using same skills-as seen in word sift-(reading, writing, evidence, informational texts, answers ) that the international journalists in the ICIJ did in breaking this important news story. Students who use digital platforms are refining the same skills used by ICIJ -“The World’s Best Cross-Border Investigative Team.”
Multiple Platforms Available
Perhaps the best known platforms used in schools for teacher to student or student to student collaborations are on the sites such as Edmodo, Wikispaces, WordPress (and its companion Edublogs). A quick search on the Internet, however, will produce a multitude of additional options. For example, posts like 102Free (or Free to Try) Online Collaborative Learning Tools for Teachers (updated 2/2016) list the myriad of choices that educators can use to increase collaborations in the classroom. There are so many that, for example, the behemoth Google Drive is listed at #51:
Once known as Google Docs, Google Drive offers a comprehensive suite of collaborative, online tools: word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms or drawing files.
Celebrating Global Collaboration in Education
Moreover, just like the journalists who broke the Panama Papers stories, educators are experimenting with virtual collaborative experiences on a global level. There is a Global Collaboration Day (GCD) (celebrated the 2nd week in September) where the focus is on cooperation and collaboration to enhance global understanding so that students will have practice in both solving problems across borders when they enter the workforce and an appreciation for bringing global ideas to their own local experiences.
The GCD website describes how students can participate in authentic collaborations that are either short-term or long-term using blogs, wikis, or social media tools such as Twitter and Skype.
The next generation of journalists is being groomed in classrooms today, but for now, students and educators are increasing their proficiency with the same methods as the professionals in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The final project known as the Panama Papers has met the Common Core State Standards for College and Career Readiness…they might even get an A+.