Spinning a Web

Johanna Sherman 
Chapin High School
El Paso, Texas

Generative Topics

  • Is a school Web page a publication?
  • Does a school community create an authentic audience?
  • Are there guidelines and parameters for the Internet?
  • How can journalistic ethics coexist and interact with the public (and publicity) needs of a school environment?

Understanding Goals

  • Essential Questions
    • How do we want to use the Internet at our school?
    • Who controls the Internet? Who controls our school’s access to it?
    • Who should design our Web site templates?
    • Compare and contrast the purposes of a public relations and journalism.
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • How can a school website be structured so administrative, instructional, and parental information and issues can be readily updated, yet still run parallel to student publication links from a journalism program?
    • How can a webpage for any learning community stakeholder maintain authenticity and reliability?
    • Does our school environment foster free expression and channel student learning and interests into authentic demonstrations of learning?

Generative Objects:

  • Sample websites from local, national and international schools that utilize Web resources to advertise school material and information.
  • Samples of websites that are for student publications and review of students’ projects.
  • Samples of websites that contain both content areas.
  • Copies of the Hazelwood decision.
  • Copies of the school and district mission statements.
  • Copies of an Internet acceptable user policies used by other schools.

Performance Indicators
As instructors seek to utilize technology effectively in today’s classrooms as well as connect with supportive community stakeholders outside its walls, students find more opportunities to explore the Web and claim sites as their own. Chapin’s mission is to create responsible learners that contribute productively to society. The purpose of this unit is to begin to coach journalism students and Web design students to understand and appreciate the integral role they can and should play as a school creates a voice and presence in the World Wide Web. Some instructional time will occur during regular class time, but other discussion will occur outside the classroom as students interact with more administrators, faculty, and parents.

Activity 1

Students will research scholastic websites that focus on:

  • Advertising a school
  • Illustrating, profiling student work (i.e projects, art, independent study, electronic portfolio)
  • Creating a school “newspaper on the Web”
  • Creating space for student expression

Create a chart that critiques each site for

  • Reliability–is it current?
  • Validity–is it correct?
  • Ease of use–download time
  • Attractiveness–how does it look?
  • Amount of information
  • Journalistic style and tone

Activity 2

Students will interview school administrators responsible for technology decisions and resources, and discuss the school’s visions of what role the Web should play in the classrooms or other related learning circles. They will then interview faculty, students, and parents for additional insights into how each sees the role and opportunities for Web use. Compile all interview data into a chart that reflects the needs, opinions and suggestions of a localized Web audience.

Activity 3

Analyze the school mission statement and compare it to the current journalism program mission and ethics policies. Where are their alignments? How can these ‘parallel visions” work to reinforce the success of a school Web site, free expression, and instructional journalism?

Activity 4

Using sample Internet acceptable use policies and ethics policies from other branches of media, draft an acceptable user policy that can be used to guide ethical, appropriate student use of the Web at the school.

Activity 5

Discuss and define the rights and responsibilities of Web editors as they review submissions for the journalism links. Is the role of a Web editor the same as a Web administrator? Why or why not? Does a Web page necessitate a review board rather than a single editor? How would that board make decisions? Are those decisions supported by the school administration?

Activity 6

Consult the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) regarding emerging guidelines for posting students’ names, photographs, and other personal information on the Web. What guidelines will the school set to secure parental consent? Draft a release/permission slip that can be utilized to post student likenesses, names, and creative work on the Web.

Activity 7

Using a Web design program, create a homepage and templated links for both administrative interests (i.e. bus schedules, principal’s message, teacher links, office numbers) and journalism links for publications (i.e. photo essay, news reporting, literary works). Present this package to administration, PTSA, and School Improvement Team audiences for feedback.


Design two organizational flowcharts:

  • Phase 1: Journalism students share authoring responsibility with designated school administrators to maintain accuracy of 2 separate, but linked sites: a school PR site and a student publications center;
  • Phase 2: Journalism and Web design students responsible for maintenance and accuracy of all data on the school Web site.

After the flow charts are designed, plan and predict when Phase I could evolve into Phase II. Evaluate the possible advantages and disadvantages of each phase.