Lesson: News 3: Constructing a Digital Dossier

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Before students can frame questions for their press conference, they need to know what they are talking about.  This lesson focuses on leveraging the power of the Web to find out as much as possible about the person who will be giving their press conference — and about the issues where his/her work intersects with student lives. In the following lesson, we’ll turn have students turn that microscope on themselves.  


  • To understand how to conduct detailed research about an individual
  • To understand that one’s own digital presence needs attention, maintenance, discipline and awareness lest damaging material be available



  1. Appendix 8: Venn Diagram of Overlapping Interests
  2. Appendix 11:  Topic/Source Exploration
  3. An online space (Google Doc, Wiki or blog, for instance) where students can generate and edit a common linkography.  See Appendix 4 (from the Web Search, Copyright, Credibility & Bias Module): "Creating Online Group Space" 
  4. Appendix 5 from the "Web Search, Copyright, Credibility & Bias" Module): "Linkography"




  1. Ask students what they already know about your press conferee in terms of his/her personal history and job description.  Then ask students to brainstorm a list of student issues that are in the news (or should be in the news.  If you conceive of these as a Venn Diagram, you can envision these lists as fitting into a Venn diagram.   If your press conferee is going to be the local police chief, your brainstorming circles from this part of the assignment might look a little like that found in Appendix 8: Venn Diagram of Overlapping Interests



  1. Ask students to brainstorm questions they have about other things they’d like to know to expand their knowledge of the press conferee.  Sticking with the police chief example, that board might now look something like that this:




·  Has the truancy rate at the school increased or decreased in recent years?

·  What do the police do to enforce truancy laws? 

Traffic laws 

·  How many students are cited every year for traffic violations around the school?

·  Which are the most common violations? 

Juvenile hall 

·  What are conditions like at the local juvenile hall?

·  Have they improved after a grand jury study a few years ago? 

Teen drinking 

·  What will trigger police involvement in a student drinking incident?

·  Is student drinking rising or decreasing

·  What safety measures do police have in place when they arrest a student who has been drinking?

Racial profiling 

·  Are students of different races treated differently?

·  What policies are in place to guarantee equal treatment?

·  Are there any recent studies on the subject? (This could be applied to all of the topics in this list.)




  1. Developing a search plan.  Divide students up the above questions, assigning several students to each. Ask students to brainstorm where to go to for the information they need. Using the same strategies developed in our first search unit, have students create search queries they think will be useful in finding some of this information.
  2. Students conduct searches to answer their own questions and record their answers in Appendix 11:  Topic/Source Exploration.
  3. Create a shared Google Document for all students in the class following the instructions in Appendix 4 (from the Web Search, Copyright, Credibility & Bias Module): "Creating Online Group Space"
  4. Have students add all of their links to a common linkography (See Appendix 5 from the "Web Search, Copyright, Credibility & Bias" Module): "Linkography")in your shared online group space, being sure not to duplicate a link created by another student.  Each link should be accompanied by a 1-2 sentence summary of the information it provides.





Homework could be assigned at the front or back end of this assignment.  On the front end, students could be asked to brainstorm their own list of potential news stories. (They likely won't have many ideas individually about issues in which your press conferee is involved.  At the back end, steps 4 and/or 6 could be given as homework, provided you had an online group space in place.

Assessment Questions:

  1. Are students able to find information in all promising topics? 
  2. Is there an equal focus on the press conferee and the news issues he/she is involved in?   
  3. Do student linkographies generally feel sophisticated enough to proceed with the development of interview questions? 


Connections to Standards:

Teacher Notes:

  1. Topics and questions will vary greatly according to your source and local circumstances.
  2. The next lesson, Lesson 4, focuses on students exploring their own Web presence.  Some instructors may want to skip directly to Lesson 6, which will pick up with the shared linkography about your press conference target.


Time needed to teach:

1 Session


Online Collaboration
Writing Activity


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