CLiC NewsCLiC News (Computer Learning in Communities) is a project run out of Dublin Institute of Technology’s School of Media which aims to bring the very latest news to primary school children, written and produced with the needs and interests of that audience in mind. The task of writing these stories falls to DIT’s journalism students under the stewardship of Ian Roller and Kate Shanahan, and a very fine job they’re making of it too.

The site has restricted access to increase safety for its users, so teachers will need to register before they can fully view the site. Once logged in, however, readers will find a slickly-produced and constantly updated website that would rival any newspaper’s online offerings. The content (at least during term time) is bang up to date, snappily written and perfectly pitched at its target audience. Even reluctant readers are drawn in by a well-judged mix of sports stories, current affairs and curiosities you’d have trouble finding in other adult-focussed media outlets. The announcement of a CLiC News lesson will never herald the dreaded chorus of groans.

For the teacher, there are many positive aspects to using this resource. The reading benefits are obvious, but there’s a huge richness of oral language to be drawn from lessons as well as favourite stories are compared and current affairs discussed and debated. But it’s the comments facility, and more particularly the star rating system of same, that makes this website stand out from the crowd. Children are encouraged to comment on the stories they have read, and these are moderated before publication and awarded a star rating. The site gives guidelines on how to achieve a five-star comment; from correct punctuation and spelling through to the comment showing a genuine engagement with the story.

Getting five stars is not easy; kids work hard to get one, and there’s real excitement when someone makes the grade. It’s the best possible starting point for teachers to begin teaching ideas about actively managing a positive digital footprint or the importance of being a content producer on the internet, not to mind driving a point home about the use of capital letters. We blog ourselves using the platform, and there’s been a marked improvement in the quality of comments children are making on one another’s work since we’ve been using CLiC News. Moreover, there’s a teacher login section where teachers can view the comments written by their pupils (with various ways of filtering the results), all of which can be exported and printed out as a record of students’ work.

Children in my class group have found this resource highly motivating, with much of the reading and commentary done outside school hours on students’ own time. The mix of competitions, reviews, videos and well-written articles are packaged into a highly attractive website that kids feel is relevant and exciting. If that weren’t enough, some of my most regular contributors occasionally receive an envelope from the good people at DIT with a few bits’n’bobs of stationery to reward them for their efforts – high excitement indeed!

CLiC News is an excellent, free and Irish resource that I’d highly recommend for any 5th or 6th class in the country – well-written, well produced and very well thought of in my classroom.

Marc Ó Cathasaigh took a Masters in Old and Middle English in UCC before qualifying as a teacher via the postgraduate course in Coláiste Mhuire, Marino. He has been teaching in Glór na Mara NS in Tramore, Co. Waterford since 2008, and is currently working with a 6th Class group. His teaching interests include science and use of technology in the classroom, from Kidblog to Twitter (class tweets from @blognamara).