March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Topics and Resources for the 2016 Summer Olympics | Tech Tidbits

SLJTeen_160718_RIOstadiumOn August 5, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will become the first South American city ever to host the Olympics and the Paralympics to follow. Athletes and fans will travel from 206 countries to compete for 4,924 medals in 42 sports.

There will be so many exciting things for our students and patrons to learn, explore, and cheer. Information streams can be found by using the Twitter hashtag #RIO2016 or simply by following TeamUSA, USATF, USA Gymnastics, and more. Many of the athletes and coaches are also on Facebook and now even Periscope and Snapchat. Of course, students can watch all the events thanks to the NBC live stream link.

Topics of interest

Librarians are known for their research skills, and people are asking questions about everything surrounding the games, including the venue itself. Some thought the Zika virus might warrant postponing the Olympic games. In fact, American cyclist Tejay van Garderen was the first U.S. athlete to withdraw from the games because of concerns about Zika. While golf is returning after a 112-year absence, Irish golfer Rory McIlroy and several others will not participate because of virus fears.

Severe pollution in the waters where Olympic events will be held is also a major concern. According to the BBC, there will be 32 tons of dead fish removed from the rowing and canoeing lagoon before the water-based activities take place. In addition to dealing with health concerns, poverty-stricken Brazil has faced extreme financial crises. Public servants, such as police officers and teachers, haven’t been paid in months, and many schools have not been in session as the country transfers many of its resources in preparation for the games. A successful Olympics may well bring much-needed capital to this poor country, but only time will tell if the human suffering justified the means.

speedcabsWhile these health-based and financial worries threaten to overshadow the event, there are other topics to ignite human interest, such as the torch itself, arriving by human relay all the way from Athens, Greece. Then there are the little-known stories, like the taxi drivers of Rio, who have the opportunity to sign up for free online English lessons provided by the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee.

To many, the personal stories of the athletes and events themselves are the real draw, and there are lots to choose from this year. There is the newly introduced sport of Rugby Sevens, in which the U.S. women’s and men’s teams are considered to be medal contenders. While rugby is traditionally seen as a men’s sport, one advertiser is using the Olympic theme to empower girls to play #likeagirl.

One of the most incredible tales is that of the 10 Refugee Olympic Athletes, who will be marching in under the IOC flag. The International Olympic Committee created this refugee team for the first time this year to shed light on this worldwide crisis. These athletes have earned their positions just like every other Olympian, but they are all refugees without countries. There are two swimmers who, fleeing the atrocities in Syria, pulled their sinking raft and 20 refugees to safety. Two are Judo athletes who fled the war-torn Congo and have no idea if the families they left behind are still alive.

Resources and tools

Knowing and sharing the stories behind the athletes make the Olympics that much more vibrant for our students and patrons. Articles can be read using apps that make finding additional content a breeze. For example, Chrome Extension Readability eliminates ads and clutter from the reading page. Using the free app Readability, parents can even save the information to read it later, like during a summer road trip, using a computer or the free iPad or Android apps.

Newsela is another great web resource for all educators, offering a searchable interface where the same news articles are available by Lexile or grade level or correlated to reading standards. This is fabulous for 1:1 teachers who want all their students to read the same content but need to differentiate based on reading level for different learners. Educators can even create quizzes and writing prompts right in the website using current news articles, with student responses going directly to the teacher’s account.

For the truly obsessed Olympics fan, there are still more robust resources. For example, the videos from the National Science Foundation demonstrate the Science of the Summer games, showing Colorado’s own Missy Franklin and Fluid Dynamics, as well as engineering principles, mechanics, math measurements, and more. The Smithsonian Magazine tags articles, and Team Great Britain teaching has some great resources, including Google Hangouts with British athletes. There are also some wonderful history websites, such as the Olympic Hero Museum and Fists of Freedom, which features the powerful story of the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Whatever resource you use to strengthen teens’ vibrant view of the Olympics, I hope you enjoy this year’s events. I know I’ll be watching.

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Phil Goerner About Phil Goerner

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO. He can be found on Twitter @pgoerner. Phil is also an adjunct professor with University of Colorado at Denver in the School Library and Instructional Leadership program.

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.
Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.


  1. The Olympic Glow by Birenbaum isbn 9780935343-465 pap: -458 hc, endorced by the USOC is one of the few books for middle readers about the history and significance of the Olympic torchbearers. Includes pics of orig. torch, how to hold and pass torch, when first used, how many ways it is carried including laser beams, the many different torchbearers. Also included in Curriculum Guide for ACOG. Available from follett school resources and can be ordered from any bookstore. Your Peartree connection .