the difference a year makes

A few weeks ago our school had a multicultural awareness program where teachers were asked to present on world youth issues associated with their subject area. As a science teacher, I originally wanted to speak about technology access, but in the process of researching that topic I remembered this article I had read in Wired: Cairo Activists Use Facebook to Rattle Regime
I decided to use this to present on social media and political activism for youth, possibly drawing connections to their political life in the recent presidential election.
I presented a shortened version of the article to three sections of students: 2 groups of tenth graders and 1 group of ninth graders. The ninth graders summarized, reported, and gave examples. But the tenth graders provided opinions, and drew connections to other areas. It was fascinating. Another teacher who presented the same article to both tenth and ninth graders reported the same thing. A discussion took off easily with the tenth grade, but bombed with the ninth.
I guess it means we're doing something right. Somewhere along the line, between being first semester freshmen and first semester sophomores, they're getting it. Whatever it is, they're getting those skills, those vague and nebulous skills for critical thinking and communicating. No idea if it's from a specific teacher or all of us together, but it's working.
Unrelatedly, an unreliable statement: I found out that some students are relatively passive news consumers. By relative, I mean only compared to myself. They do not seek out news sources but only go with what is most readily available: television. I was surprised by this because in the internet age, I seek out alternative news sources. I thought they might, too. What I prolly was not taking into account was the fact that I may not use the internet in the way a majority of people do. Also, that in their household the media sources/television may be more controlled by parents and the students' news consumption has not matured apart from their parents. It would be an interesting thing to learn about.

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