Carolyn Foote posted a thoughtful commentary about how students worldwide have used Web 2.0 tools to respond to the Virginia Tech tragedy, collectively crafting something completely new and deeply personal:

But the other important factor I think that we in schools should be
aware of, beyond marveling about the tools students are already
naturally employing to communicate, is that students across the  nation
and world are able to participate in this experience in a much more
personal way than they ever could before.

They can witness firsthand comments on Facebook, people searching for
their loved ones a couple of days ago, videos that have been posted,
blog comments, and can interact easily online with people who were
there.

She goes on to note:

As educators we should be aware that our students may be interacting
with these events in a much more personal way than in the past. . . . So I do think it’s helpful for us as educators to be
conscious of the different levels of interaction available to our
students when a crisis like this occurs, talk to students about “crisis
overload,” and to take time to look at the content out there that they
may be interacting with.

This is great advice. If you’re looking for a way to formalize discussions with students about Virginia Tech, and also make a curricular connection with the "content out there," Carole Bos offers an interesting possibility. She edits a website called AwesomeStories that’s designed to support teaching with primary source materials. Curricular materials on the site are organized into thematic "stories" that place the primary-source documents in context. Students and educators can access the materials via a free site membership.

Carole sent this message to a listserv of which I’m a member:

In light of this week’s events at Virginia Tech, experts are advising parents and educators how to best deal with the impact of the tragedy on students nationwide.  Younger children often exhibit feelings by drawing pictures while older students may express their thoughts in essays, stories and letters.

AwesomeStories, the primary-source web site which is used as online curriculum support in 30,000 schools nationwide, is producing a story featuring student response to the Virginia Tech tragedy.  The entire story will follow the format of chapters 12 and 13 of the "America Attacked" story which links to student-created pictures, essays and stories at the Library of Congress.   

Educators are invited to send their student-created materials to AwesomeStories where every item, whether class-produced or individually created, will be digitized.  The story, featuring the students’ work, will be available online as soon as the materials can be processed.  Thereafter, the entire archive of original work will be sent to the Library of Congress. 

The project is intended to: 

1.  Give educators and parents a positive way to talk about this week’s events;

2.  Give students a place where their expression of support, fear and sadness can be displayed to the rest of the country; 

3.  Create an online memorial, profiling student-created materials, to honor faculty and students who died at Virginia Tech.

Contributions may be sent to:

AwesomeStories Internet Productions
990 Monroe, N.W.
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503-1423

It’s interesting that, as a gatherer of primary-source materials, AwesomeStories’ first collection point is a mailing address. That makes sense for the drawings, handwritten letters, and other artifacts that children will create. But, as Carolyn Foote observed, what’s really singular about the Web 2.0 student response is that it’s taking place on many levels simultaneously, from the global to the individual—and it’s all online. Since the primary-source materials for this story are predominantly  digital, I went back to Carole and asked about submission of links, videos, and other digital artifacts. Her immediate response:

They can send it through the "Contact Us" comment form – which is easiest – or they can send it to: editor@awesomestories.com.

If they send it to the editor email address, please tell them to put "Virginia Tech Project" in the subject line.

Thanks, Carole, for letting us know about this project.

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