Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

Digital & Social Media Literacy

July 17, 2012

For the next two weeks, I’m teaching a college-level “Digital & Social Media Literacy” course to high school juniors and seniors through the University’s Pre-College Summer Program.  I decided to create a public blog for the course that can serve as a resource and area of discussion for others interested in the areas of digital media literacy, social media literacy or just digital & social media in general.  I’ll continue to add content to the site throughout the year, after the summer course ends.  I’m teaching a special topics course on Social Media at the University of Hartford next spring and the blog will be a resource and starting point for students enrolled in that course as well.  I’d encourage you to check out the blog and join the conversation.

For the course, I decided to focus the first week on “thinking” about digital & social media, exploring themes, concepts and ideas of digital & social media literacy, disruption and displacement, impact on traditional media, social networks, social media, youth culture, and participatory culture.  I gleaned ideas for readings and assignments from the work of communication scholars Howard Rheingold, Serena Carpenter, and Greg Downey and past syllabi of “social media” courses taught by Barry Hollander and Karen Russell here at UGA.

The second week of my course will focus more on “doing,” the creation and consumption of content through forms and platforms of digital and social media. I’ve been teaching some form of these “week two” assignments, through my “Media & Message: Communicating in the Digital Age” Duke TIP @ UGA summer course, or through my News Editing course, the past three years.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the work of Mark Johnson in advancing the teaching of digital literacies here in the Grady College the past few years.

Developing Digital & Social Media literacies are important and I’m honored to have the opportunity to join others in advancing the cause through teaching and scholarship.

“Learning and leaving footprints:” on Rascals & Pals

January 15, 2012

In every class I have taught since coming to grad school, I have paid tribute on the first day to the UNC journalism professors who inspired me to want to teach journalism.

Jim Shumaker.

Chuck Stone.

Raleigh Mann.

Now, to this list of lions I will add the name of a truly legendary University of Georgia journalism professor.  This man not only reaffirmed my commitment to the calling to teach, but served as a model for what I should strive to become both in and out of the classroom.

Conrad Fink.

Fink, the former foreign correspondent and newspaper executive turned J-school icon, died Saturday after a courageous 20-year battle with prostate cancer.

As I and the rest of the Grady College family mourn the loss of Professor Fink, I am proud to count myself among the legions of Finkites or Finksters whose career was touched by a man whose stature and reputation (like his signature bushy eyebrows) seemed larger than life.

Fink was a mentor, a colleague and a friend.  Fink was and in many ways still is the heart and soul of Grady College.

One of the last occassions I saw Professor Fink,  in his office about a month ago, he was reflective of his life’s work.  He said that he felt fortunate to have had not one, but two, long, successful meaningful careers.  

Fink was the consummate journalist.  I’ve never met a man or woman who loved or cared for the newspaper industry and journalism profession as much or as deeply as Fink did.

 But teaching was Fink’s true calling and where he left his greatest mark.

Look at what Fink wrote in his teaching statement, included in the application material for one of the University system’s highest teaching honors:

For although as a journalist I touched thousands–millions, perhaps, on big stories I covered–my touch was fleeting, the impressions I left soon were washed over by bigger stories that always came rolling along.

In teaching, I found, my touch could be formative, truly meaningful, truly lasting. And isn’t that–learning and leaving footprints–what a creative, rewarding life should be all about?

Fink definitely lived a creative, rewarding life and left behind meaningful footprints. Fink’s impact has been seen by the “rascals” and “pals” he left behind.  There have been many blog posts, newspaper articles, columns, tweets and Facebook rememberances written and shared by Fink’s students, colleagues and friends.

Fink’s reach was far.  Fink affectionately called his students “rascals.”  In this oral history project interview (around the 31:17-33 minute mark on the audio file available by clicking “listen to the full interview” link above the embedded video– I’d recommend the listen, Fink’s warmth and humor comes across in this clip), Fink tells the students, “I’m on a mission to convert rascals to journalists.”

Mission accomplished, pal.

The value of social media education in journalism

September 20, 2010

With 5 minutes remaining in my News Editing and Design class today, a student asked a thought-provoking question.  To paraphrase, she basically asked if I believed teaching social media in journalism was more valuable than teaching the basics of headline writing, page layout and design.  She prefaced her remark on the assumption that young persons who have grown up around this technology (i.e. digital natives) already know how to use these tools, perhaps better than adults (digital immigrants). That’s a doozy of a question.  Realizing the weight of the question, the other students pleaded that I answer that question on Wednesday, when the class meets again.

I decided to post my thoughts here.  First, I tweeted my immediate gut reaction to the question: “yes, but it’s more complicated than that.”

As to the first assumption, let me state that while young people have a familiarity with how to use social media and digital tools in their personal lives, I’ve found they often lack the conceptual knowledge of how to use these tools for professional means and fail to see the contextual bigger picture of what our changing digital culture means (I base this, in part, from my experience teaching a digital media course to gifted teenagers the past two summers).  If digital natives are indeed ahead of the news industry on how they process new media and emerging technologies, as this excellent Nieman Reports article suggests, then the need for journalism educators to address the value of social media in journalism becomes even more important.

To address the student’s larger question about the relevance, role and importance of teaching social media in journalism, let me first echo University of British Columbia journalism professor Alfred Hermina’s sentiment that journalism educators must not lose sight of the journalism in teaching the technical.

For me, the question is not an either/or proposition.  Teaching social media in journalism is not in and of itself inherently more valuable than teaching traditional editing and design skills.  Nevertheless, when the publisher of arguably the most esteemed newspaper in America declares that his publication will go out of print in the future it makes little sense to place heavy technical training emphasis on traditional print-centric skills in jobs that will vanish along with the ink-on-paper products.

To my knowledge, few students in the Editing and Design course are clamoring for jobs as copy editors or page designers.

In my opinion, journalism education should be contextual and conceptual (how technological changes in digital media are changing the very tenets of journalism and roles of journalists and more importantly what does this mean), even in an introductory skills course.

As such, my job is not to teach you a particular technology or platform per se, whether that is a “print-centric” tool such as InDesign or a social media one such as Twitter.  My job is to teach concepts that transcend those technologies.  Whether in print or on the Web, there are characteristics to good design that hold true, regardless of the platform.  Basic skills such as editing (text, audio, video, still photography), design (web, print) and writing do not change.  The “how-to’s,” where’s and why’s may change, but the fundamental concepts remain the same.

Thus, the challenge is not to replace the teaching of one medium with the teaching of another.  When I teach students Twitter and require that they tweet Web friendly headlines, I’m not just teaching the latest social media platform that could be gone from the digital landscape in a few years.  What I’m really teaching are skills such as engagement, crowdsourcing, personalization, collaboration, connectivity, curation, branding, and experimentation, that have become essential to the job of being a journalist today and in the future.   These are concepts, not technologies.  But Ann Handley’s post provides an excellent example of how traditional journalism mantras of yesteryear influence the use of today’s social media technologies.  In short, Handley’s post is a reminder of the importance of following Alfred Hermida’s advice to not lose sight of the journalism in teaching the technology.

The basics still matter.  That’s a given.  When you boil it down, the basic question my student wants to know is this.  In journalism, does Social Media matter more?

Given that this Mashable series goes as far as to say that all media as we know it today will become social, I think you could argue that yes indeed it does.

The real issue is not whether one matters more than another.  The real question is: does social media matter in journalism?


But in true social media fashion, that is not entirely for me to decide.  I pose these questions to my readers and followers.  Let the discussion and debates begin.

How TIP has made me a better teacher

August 3, 2010

I just finished my second year of teaching the “Media and Message: Communicating in the Digital Age” course at Duke TIP.  I wanted to reflect on a few ways how  TIP has made me a better teacher.  Here they are:

1)Innovation: For me, I had the opportunity to create the curriculum for a brand-new digital media course from scratch.  The digital media course allows me to teach, learn and study areas different from and beyond the largely “traditional” journalism courses I teach the other 10 months out of the year.  TIP often offers courses you wouldn’t find in your mainstream classroom, such as courses on Villains and Zombies.  Each term, Durham solicits proposals for new courses so as an instructor you have the opportunity to suggest and potentially create new classes.

2)Experimentation:  TIP allows me more flexibility to try new approaches, test out new lesson plans and experiment with new tools and technologies.  Because some of my TIP colleagues come from the College of Education, they have lots of wonderful teaching “TIPs” (nyuk, nyuk) to share that I’ve found success with in the TIP classroom.  If something works well in my TIP course, I can incorporate it into my own college courses.  If a new approach is a miserable failure, I fail quickly, learn from it and move on in a short time frame.  TIP can be a great testing ground, however.  This summer I tried out the new Kodak zi8 cameras that we’ll be using in our revamped JOUR3510 Editing course.

3)Mentoring:  At Grady, I teach mostly college upperclassmen who have a pretty good idea at that point of what they would like to do for a career (or at least a general subject area).  At TIP, I teach middle and high school students who either a)have a slight interest in journalism that use the TIP class as a means to see if they want to take some more journalism electives in school, b)have zero interest in journalism and media or c)definitely want to pursue a journalism career.  For the first and third of those, mentoring is important.  I can help guide these aspiring young journalists in their studies and advise them on the next steps in pursuing a journalism career.  I can see a more direct, instant, meaningful impact on a young TIPster’s life and that is gratifying.

4)No Fear of Fun:  Let’s face it, college journalism classes can be intimidating.  I aim to be fair, but tough in my grading of student assessment.   A single fact error costs you 20 points off your grade on an assignment.  At TIP, there are no grades.  And while TIP provides  a rigorous curriculum for advanced, gifted adolescents, it’s still a summer camp for children.  As such, fun in the classroom is the goal — far from the stereotypical image of a stuffy, boring college lecture.  Teaching at TIP is fun and my students and I aren’t afraid to show it.  TIP allows me to try silly approaches, such as using the “fish hook dance” and playing Blues Traveler when describing the importance of a lead.  Or having TIPsters “do the John Wall” after a lesson on viral video.

5) Classroom Management:  TIP has made me a better classroom manager.  For starters, I rarely if ever have to deal with behavioral issues in a Grady classroom.  I teach young adults afterall.  At TIP, well…kids will be kids.  As brilliant and academically advanced as the TIPsters are, they’re still adolescents who are developing emotionally, behaviorally and cognitively.  As a TIP instructor, you must learn how to deftly address short attention spans, combat bouts of ennui, and deal with relationTIPs, homesickness and medical maladies, among other challenges.  There’s also the time factor.  In college, I teach a few hours two days a week over the course of 16 weeks.  At TIP, we’re in the classroom 7 hours a day on weekdays and three hours on Saturday over the course of 3 weeks.  TIP is intense, and planning 7 hours of daily curriculum can be a daunting task at first.

6)Engagement:  My TIP classroom stresses engagement.  Engagement with the students.  Engagement with the material.  Engagement with the community.  I focus heavily on student-centered learning at TIP, where student editors lead the way in assigning stories for coverage of TIP for the tipatuga blogaThEENs also allowed the TIPsters to engage with the Athens community in a way that, honestly, my college students fail to do.  We had lots of prominent Athenians in the classroom, ranging from Athfest Director Jared Bailey to Darius Weems, the star of “Darius Goes West.”   TIPsters were out in the community, covering Canopy Studios’ trapeze camp and even interviewing Mayor Heidi Davison at the DGW Days Carnival.

Overall, TIP is a wonderful program that I’ve been privileged to be a part of these past two years.