Online network helps students share their stories

By Faizaan Lalani, Chelsea Bryant,
Emma Hann and Vonya Hanson

Hundreds of people headed in Montreal in late January for a one of a kind conference on the importance of Canadian History. "Giving The Past A Future" was hosted by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, from January 29 - 31, 1999.

Beth Ryan is the coordinator of the SchoolNet News Network. She was there to do a presentation on using media to learn about history. Student reporters at the conference sat down with Beth to discuss SNN.

Faizaan Lalani

SNN: How did SNN get started?

BR: In 1996, the people who run STEM~Net came up with the idea of using the Internet as a way for students to share ideas through on-line communications. They pitched the idea to SchoolNet, a national organization, and the SchoolNet News Network (SNN) was born. There is also a French version, called Rédaction de Rescol.

SNN: What does SNN do?

BR: We explain to students how media works, and how students can use this media and get their stories out to a larger audience. We promote writing and interviewing skills, and teach how photography and video work. And then we show students how to put that on the Internet. We publish in English every month and in French every two months.

SNN: How long have you been with SNN?

BR: I have been with SNN since last May, almost a year. I come from a background in journalism. I worked in newspapers and with CBC radio for almost five years. I've written a lot for magazines and newspapers.

Emma Hann

SNN: Who visits your site?

BR: That's a good question. We target students from kindergarten to grade twelve. The site publishes news stories from young people, written by young people.

Chelsea Bryant

SNN: What kinds of things will you find on the website?

BR: A broad mix in every issue. It depends on what students want to write about, what's currently happening in their lives. Sometimes it's about the Prime Minister visiting a community, sometimes about the Winter Games, or even about fashion in a small town. It can be anything.

SNN: How often is the site updated?

BR: Every month in English, every two months in French. But if we need to update it more often, like in the Winter Games where stories are posted more often, we can. That's the benefit of the Internet. We can put reports on as they happen.

SNN: How can your site help students to learn about history?

BR: One section that we have looks at history as the current events of the past. What happens today is history tomorrow. We have a lot of activities and exercises that help with this. For instance, we encourage students to go out with video cameras and re-enact interviews of historical events such as the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic.

Vonya Hanson

The great thing about the Internet is that it makes a country like Canada very small, so we can all share our stories.

Check out an excerpt of the
interview with Beth Ryan

Faizaan Lalani and Chelsea Bryant are students at the Roots & Wings Montessori School, Surrey, British Columbia. Emma Hann attends McDonald Drive Junior High School in St. John's, Newfoundland and Vonya Hanson goes to school in Brandon, Manitoba.