Back in my day, we'd break out newspapers and discuss important stories in classes ranging from American History to Civics to Journalism. We'd read papers at night and bring in stories to discuss. Current events discussions could fill an entire period and were usually more informative than anything we'd find in our books. Of course, I'm not actually all that old. It's just that the papers we have delivered to our schools tend to get skimmed for the sports pages and the comics now. Why read news when you can get all the sound bites you need from the Web, right?
I'll be honest: even I'm a big fan of Google News. But I'm a bit of news junkie and tend to dig into the related stories and blogs to get multiple perspectives and different angles. The average teenager? Not so much. So although Google's new news aggregation experiment, Fast Flip, debuted to mixed reviews Monday, I see it as an opportunity to get kids to look deeper than the headlines and brief synopses on Google News or CNN.com.
The site, available as part of Google Labs, looks a bit like Google Images mated with Google Reader. Thumbnails of articles from partnering publications (including "BBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post,...Newsweek,...Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic, Esquire...TechCrunch, Salon.com and Slate") appear under Google News-style subject headings. Although people younger and with better eyes than me can probably decipher the text in the thumbnails, it's much easier to just click a thumbnail and read the article.
Navigation buttons after that initial click are supposed to mimic flipping pages in a newspaper. I'm not so sure about that, but at a minimum, that click would get students past the headline and into an actual article from at least a relatively reputable organization. The interface would also lend itself to adaptation on a mobile touch-enabled device (apparently this functionality is on the way) or a next-generation e-reader, making it even easier for students to access the content in class.
Much talk has been made of the new revenue sharing model this represents for Google and publishers of the content it's already aggregating anyway. We'll see how that works. For me, though, I'm just interested to see how students respond to fairly traditional news coverage delivered in a novel way online.