Teaching ISTE standards and 21st century skills through scholastic journalism

The American Press Institute defines journalism as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.” A school newspaper can be the product of a combination of project-based learning from classrooms and school groups. It could inform the school, families, the community and the world about the successes, ideas, stories and more.

Journalism kept coming to mind every time I learned a new ISTE standard or 21st century skill. The process of planning, creating, supporting, publishing, and reading a school-wide newspaper has the potential of empowering learners and supporting them to become better digital citizens, knowledge constructors, innovative designers, creative communicators, and global collaborators.  Several resources reveal the many benefits that a school newspaper can offer.

The Higher Education Review lists 8 top reasons to have a school newspaper:

  1. Improves Creative Skills
  2. Builds Confidence
  3. Boosts the Educational Process
  4. Offers a Better Understanding of Student’s Mindset
  5. Improves Communication
  6. Helps Identify Key Issues
  7. Builds Teamwork
  8. Generates School Funding

The following video includes students explaining how the school newspaper facilitated communication with each other and allowed them to express their student voice.

After reading the many benefits to supporting students in the publishing of school news, I decided to investigate how schools are facilitating journalism/online news for their school and community. My idea is to find a successful model that I can learn from in order to start one at my school. 

How are k-12 schools already using digital tools to foster, enhance, and transform collaborative learning through digital journalism?

My first search directed me to the article Creating an Online News Site. The author, Christina Manolis is a journalism teacher who advises others how to set up an online news site. Manolis recommends the following:

Digital platforms:

Incorporating the site with:

  • Starting tasks
  • Deadlines
  • Content
  • Editing
  • Grading
  • Affording the website

Other tricks like:

  • Making tutorials as you learn how to do things
  • Assigning a website editor
  • Collaborate with your school and journalism programs

Manolis article also includes a link to National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) that features a list of schools who received the Dallas Best of Show Award. The awards include broadcasts, magazines, and newspaper amongst others.

Here are a few online-news sites from k-12 schools featured in the Best of Show Awards.

  • News from Palos Verdes High School won 1st of Dallas Best of Show Awards. Livefrom205.com
  • News from St. John’s School, Houston, TX. Review Online
  • Harvard-Westlake a 7-12 school publishes a magazine and the newspaper Spectrum.
  • Willow Springs Middle School, Lucas, Texas, Leopard Life
  • Carmel High School, Carmel, Indiana, HiLite

Not found in the Best of Show, but in the article from Edutopia How to set up an online school newspaper, is an online newspaper from an Elementary teacher. The Dolphin Splash Newspaper

This Elementary teacher, Thomas Courtney, found “that students were motivated to produce high-quality work for an authentic audience—and felt more connected as a community.” Thomas Courtney gives the following recommendations:

Important things to do:

  • Weekly meetings with writers and editors
  • Give kids choice of content
  • Invite students and teachers from other grades and subjects – to make it more community based.
  • Check the site’s controls to make sure filters are working to prevent unwelcomed comments
  • Get administrator’s approval and parent’s permissions
  • Make sure all submissions have been vetted by teachers
  • Work with your students to design it – you do not have to do it all.
  • Post work and share links with other classes
  • Reach out to other teachers to get assistance

Important things to NOT do:

  • Supervise comments and content. Do not allow comments or posts without approval
  • Do not use students’ full names or last names, or profile pictures.

Benefits and Drawbacks.

The benefits expressed by students who have participated in their school newspaper The Spectrum are available in the newsletter Should you work for the student newspaper? Some good reasons – and some drawbacks. The benefits range from “The experience is invaluable,” “ability to immediately connect what is learned in the classroom with hands-on experience,” “Job preparation” and “It gave me responsibility” amongst many others.

These students also included the drawbacks. Not surprisingly, time limitations were a common drawback expressed by most students. They explained that it “can become a time-sink,” “one big drawback might be the hours,” and “Yes, it takes long hours to produce a product as complex as a newspaper.” Other drawbacks included: “potential ‘political’ conflicts…”, “student editors have a lot of responsibility but no real authority over staff,” “It can be overwhelming…”

Getting started: A guide

One of the most comprehensive resources I found is Press Ahead! A teacher’s guide to creating student Newspapers (2006) from Newspaper Association of America Foundation. This resource is a 73 page pdf that serves as a teaching tool and a planning guide. It gives teachers instructional activities for integrating the newspaper into the curriculum. It also provides detailed information necessary to produce the school newspaper.

Tools: Beyond digital platforms

University of Missouri online Libraries has a site dedicated to Information Gathering Resources for Journalism. It includes tools for journalists, social media tools, data visualization tools, image and audio editing tools, survey, Wiki, QR code, IRL shorteners and Web Scraping Tools. Datasetsearch, Crowdtangle and Otter are few other tools for journalists.


“It takes a courageous superintendent… to make room in the budget for the study and practice of journalism at the secondary level.”  Mary L. Stapp asserts in the article titled Scholastic Journalism: Skills for the 21st Century (2013). Ms. Stapp includes exhaustive data that support the academic merits and the benefits experienced by those who have participated in their school newspaper. Yet, not every administrator is willing to support it. According to Stapp besides financial needs, “the biggest obstacle is trust.” In this article, Stapp includes the following links to organizations that can support those seeking to develop a secondary journalism program.

The law

The Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism / What school administrators need to know about student media discusses the legal rights and limitations that students have when exercising freedom of expression. It includes examples of several court cases. The bottom line is that schools who wish to support a school newspaper needs to:

  1. Establish a school policy that designates student media as forums for student expression to provide the best learning.
  2. Use definable terms
  3. Encourage the creation of clear policies to help student media staff make strong and ethically sound decisions.
  4. Provide clear job descriptions for media advisers and recognize that their role is to guide and teach, not to determine content or censor.
  5. Refrain from review of student media content.
  6. Maintain open lines of communication.
  7. Stay informed of new changes in student press law.

The challenge

Despite the many benefits, there are not many schools that publish a school newspaper, and there are even fewer that do so with great quality.

The article High School Newspapers: An Endangered Species (2013) by Scott Simon reveal that students are less interested in school news because the Generation Z is attracted by the immediacy and brevity of information of social media. Simon sheds light to how technology has reshaped journalism as every student has instant access to news and can be a reporter, all without having to abide by school mandates and protocol.

In a more recent article (April 20, 2020) Is high school journalism still a pipeline for future journalists? Tara George explains how school newspapers had traditionally served as a springboard for professional journalists including Walter Cronkite and Carl Bernstein. Wondering how the changes in digital technology and the rise of the internet had affected the profession Ms. George conducted a research that led to a published report titled “The journalism pipeline: The State of Journalism in New Jersey high schools.”  This report confirms the decline of schools with journalism classes, and reveals that because journalism is not a required subject, there are few qualified journalist advisors, and little support and funding necessary for sustaining a school newspaper. This article also brings to light the gap that exists amongst schools. Some schools have a curriculum that “is robust and impressive,” and while some schools may integrate journalism “erratically,” in several other schools “there is no journalism of any kind at all.”

Feeling humbled and inspired

When I began investigating how k-12 schools are already using digital tools to foster, enhance, and transform collaborative learning through digital journalism, I did not realize the massive amount of work, time and responsibility it takes to support a school newspaper. I am also inspired because the evidence of the numerous benefits, academic and others, that it offers students and their community is visible and well supported. I am also hopeful to see more initiative, collaboration and support to those who want to start the creation of a school newspaper in K-12 because a scholastic journalism program has the potential to not only enhance, but transform collaborative learning, support ISTE standards, and improve 21st century skills.

A special thanks to my colleagues Mun Shing Cheong, Joseph Halbert, and Deanna Bush, who contributed with valuable links, feedback, and resources.


American Press Institute. (n.d.). What is journalism? Retrieved March 5, 2021 https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/

Bowen, J. (n.d.) The First Amendment and student media / Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism. Quill & Scroll. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from http://principalsguide.org/the-first-amendment-and-student-media/

Collins, R. (n.d.) Should you work for the student newspaper? Some good reasons – and some drawbacks. North Dakota State University Retrieved March 2nd. 2021. https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~rcollins/newsletters/studentnewspaperwork.html

Courtney, T. (2020) How to Set Up an Online School Newspaper. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-set-online-school-newspaper

Educators Technology. 5 Web Tools to Create Awesome Digital Newspapers for your Class. (2013). https://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/5-web-tools-to-create-awesome-digital.html

George, T. (2020) Is high school journalism still a pipeline for future journalists? https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2020/is-high-school-journalism-still-a-pipeline-for-future-journalists/

Higher Education Review. 8 Top Reasons to Have a School Newspaper. (n.d.) Retrieved March 2nd, 2021. https://www.thehighereducationreview.com/news/8-top-reasons-to-have-a-school-newspaper–nid-779.html

How starting a newspaper gave students a voice in their school. (2014). . YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Ygdx9JdxM

Libraries University of Missouri. (n.d.) Journalism – Information Gathering Resources. Retrieved March 5th, 2021. https://libraryguides.missouri.edu/j2100/j2100news/tools

Manolis, C. (2018). Creating an Online News Site. Schooljournalism.org  https://www.schooljournalism.org/creating-an-online-news-site/

National Scholastic Press Association. (n.d.) Dallas Best of Show Awards. Retrieved March 1st, 2021. http://studentpress.org/nspa/dallas-best-of-show-awards/

Press Ahead! A teacher’s guide to creating student Newspapers. Newspaper Association of America Foundation. (2006) Retrieved March 5, 2021 https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Press-Ahead-A-Teacher%E2%80%99s-Guide-to-Creating-Student-Newspapers.pdf

Simon, S. High School Newspapers: An Endangered Species (2013)  npr https://www.npr.org/2013/06/01/187534165/are-high-school-newspapers-an-endangered-species   

Stapp, M. L. Scholastic Journalism: Skills for the 21st Century. (2013). School Administrator, (3)70 34-39. https://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=27492

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