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July 28 2011

17:39

Is Digital Education a Luxury for At-Risk Youth?

For schools in low-income communities, the idea of investing money, time, and energy into a digital media program or mobile-learning program might seem superfluous. Administrators and teachers already have so much to contend with — safety issues in high-crime communities, chronic student truancies, debilitating health issues due to poverty, families in constant state of flux, not to mention blocked access to wide swaths of the Internet.

In those cases, the idea of investing precious dollars or the attention of already overtaxed administrators seems unlikely.

But what if some of these very issues could be solved by creative ways of using digital technology in schools? That’s the argument coming from S. Craig Watkins, author of The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future, and a professor of sociology, African American studies and radio-television-film at The University of Texas at Austin.

“My concern is that as schools are now struggling with budget cuts, digital media and digital literacy is looked as a luxury as opposed to a necessity,” Watkins says. “I understand the enormous pressure that teachers and administrators are under, especially in the public school system. But we need to build a more compelling narrative that digital literacy is no longer a luxury but a necessity.”

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Watkins points to research from the recent Horizon Report, as well as the pilot study with Project K-Nect, which clearly show the benefits of engaging students (even those considered “at-risk”) through mobile phone programs and curriculum.

“They're already seeing the potential of mobile devices in science, art, and math classes,” Watkins says. “So it’s no longer a theoretical conversation — it's already happening, but only in ‘islands of innovation.’ The real challenge is, are those opportunities to encounter those types of learning being evenly distributed?”

Probably not, he says. So even though studies have shown that kids in communities that are considered marginalized are actively online with their mobile phones, and we’re seeing plenty of evidence showing the benefits of mobile technologies in learning, the discussion around the achievement gap gets pulled back into the “no money” conversation.

BEYOND TEXTING AND FACEBOOK

Beyond just allowing kids to use their mobile phones in schools rather than telling them to shut it off — which is already a blasphemous idea in most schools — Watkins argues in a recent article on his blog that at-risk students need to be taught how to use these important tech tools beyond just texting and posting updates on Facebook.

“The educational environments that will thrive, the ones that will be the most innovative, and the ones that have most impact will be the ones that create opportunities for kids to create digital media literacies that we all recognize as important and that have social implications, educational implications and civic implications, as well,” he says. “So we have to equip kids with skills that help them not just to consume, but to become architects of their information environment and that requires different skills in using mobile devices and using the Internet.”

Watkins witnessed the powerful impact of helping low-income kids use technology to create digital tools that are directly relevant to them: A group of high school students who were charged with designing a playable game about green technology and green architecture.

“Every single day during one of the hottest summers on record, they showed up enthusiastic, and with very little involvement from teachers, created this game,” he said. “The whole project was student-centered, totally collaborative, and it was pretty incredible to see.”

But could a short-term, summertime project result in any kind of lasting impact on these kids’ lives after the project is over?

“For some, it will ignite passion for learning that will translate to the formal learning space,” he says. “They felt like it was a powerful experience and one they could take with them into other endeavors. It gave them confidence, self-efficacy as learner. They felt like they'd developed a new skill, but more broadly, it influenced their disposition towards learning and as learners.”

All of which points to the importance of teaching students how to create content — not just consume, play with, or pass along to friends.

In continuing his work in this realm, Watkins is working on a number of initiatives.

  • Knowing the depth of impact of digital literacy on low-income kids, Watkins is now focusing his efforts on figuring out how to connect these skills to what he calls “civic outcomes” — issues that have a direct bearing on disenfranchised communities. “To teach them how to become community activists, and showing them how technology can be a powerful tool in problem-solving,” he says, such as conducting original research about health challenges in their communities, such as H.I.V., diabetes, asthma — “problems they face in real and tangible ways.”
  • With support from the MacArthur Foundation, Watkins and Mimi Ito, among others will be embarking on a three-year study that examines how kids from low-income communities are “craftily navigating the digital world.” “What are the learning outcomes, what are the learning potentials, what are the obstacles?” he asks. In addition to a national survey of up to 1,000 people, there will be three case studies involving 100 to 150 students in four areas: Austin, Boulder, Southern California, and London.

Tina Barseghian is the editor of KQED's MindShift, an NPR website about the future of education. In the past, she's worked as the executive editor of Edutopia, a magazine published by the George Lucas Education Foundation, as well as an editor at O'Reilly Media and CMP Media. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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July 27 2011

17:59

Rethinking Journalism Ethics, Objectivity in the Age of Social Media

In response to the rapidly changing media environment, many schools and academic programs are offering novel approaches to journalism education.

This seismic change creates tensions within programs, especially when it comes to how to teach ethics for this increasingly mixed media.

In an earlier column, I put forward some principles for teaching ethics amid this media revolution. But these principles do not address some specific problems.

Whither objectivity?

Today, students don't just learn how to report straight news on deadline. They not only learn to write reports that are neutral or objective; they also learn how to write blogs, use social media, write investigative pieces, and explore point-of-view journalism.

Schools of journalism have always taught, to some extent, what is called "opinion journalism," such as learning to write an editorial that supports a candidate for political office. But the amount of opinion and perspective journalism in programs today is much greater than in the past; and media formats for the expression of this journalism multiply.

One problem is whether the ideal of journalistic objectivity should be emphasized in these changing curricula.

The new journalism tends to be more personal. It prefers transparency to objectivity or self-effacing neutrality. Across journalism programs, there is a trend toward teaching a perspectival journalism that draws conclusions, and argues for interpretations. This challenges the previous dominance of objectivity as an ideal.

So the question is: Should educators maintain or abandon objectivity in their teaching?



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Redefining Objectivity

For starters, I think we should address this problem by doing two things: First, we should redefine, not abandon, objectivity as one of the principles that define responsible journalism. Second, we should develop ethical guidelines for specific forms of new media -- guidelines that are consistent with general principles such as truth-telling.


The traditional notion of journalistic objectivity, developed in the early 1900s, defined objectivity as a story that reported "just the facts" and eliminated all interpretation or opinion by the journalist. This notion of objectivity needs to be abandoned. It is an outdated idea that sees everything in black and white: A story is either factual -- and only factual -- or it is subjective opinion. We are given a choice between strict objectivity and un-rigorous subjectivity. This is a false dilemma.

Objectivity is not about perfect neutrality or the elimination of interpretation. Objectivity refers to a person's willingness to use objective methods to test interpretations for bias or inaccuracies. Objectivity as a method is compatible with journalism that interprets and takes perspectives. Every day, scientists adopt the objective stance when they use methods to test their hypotheses about phenomena. The same stance is available for journalists.


Why is the redefinition of objectivity necessary?

Traditional objectivity as just the facts is a false model of how journalists do their work. Journalism is interpretive through and through. It provides little guidance for many forms of journalism, such as point-of-view journalism. In addition, adherence to traditional objectivity can retard curriculum reform. The fear that teaching perspectival journalism entails teaching a "journalism without standards" is unfounded. Perspectival journalism can be more or less supported by the facts, well-argued, and respectful of counter views.

The ideal of objectivity should not be abandoned because it supports important journalistic attitudes such as a "disinterestedness" that follows the facts where they lead.

Guidelines for specific formats

My second suggestion is that educators should develop ethical guidelines aimed at specific forms of journalism.

The evolution of interactive, online media tells us something that journalists have known for years: Ethics of journalism is not monolithic; it's not "one size fits all." To be sure, general principles such as truth-telling, editorial independence, objectivity and accuracy apply across all forms of responsible journalism. However, in addition to these principles, more specific norms apply to certain types of journalistic practice. For instance, the aims and norms of satirical journalism are not the same as those of straight reporting; the aims and norms of column writing are not the same as those of a TV news anchor. What norms are appropriate depends on the form of communication in question.

How do these thoughts apply to the problem of changing journalism curricula?

It means that, while teaching should honor the general principles, ethics courses need to develop "best practices" guidelines for specific forms of journalism. For example, we need to specify what truth-telling and accuracy entail for the live-blogging of events. We need to develop guidelines for the responsible use of Twitter and other social media.

The issue is not whether certain media formats are inherently unethical. The issue is what norms are appropriate for any specific format. We need both comprehensive principles and specific guidelines that allow students to engage new media in a creative but responsible manner.

The first step, then, is to clear away old ways of thinking that act as obstacles to the redesign and the teaching of journalism ethics.

Only a fundamental redesign will allow journalism ethics to make the transition from an ethics constructed for a media from another era to an ethics relevant to today's mixed media.

More from photographer Roger H. Goun on Flickr.

Stephen J. A. Ward is director of the Center for Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the founding chair of the Canadian Association of Journalists' (CAJ) ethics advisory committee and former director of UBC's Graduate School of Journalism's in Vancouver, B.C.

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July 25 2011

19:02

Why Missouri J-School Should Rescind Its Apple Laptop Requirement

This story originally appeared on J-School Buzz and was edited and adapted for MediaShift with permission. It was written by David Teeghman, a recent graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.

To incoming students in the Missouri School of Journalism planning to buy an Apple MacBook just because it's a J-School requirement, don't do it.

Apple computers offer almost nothing to the average journalism student you can't find on a less pricey laptop, and certainly not enough to justify the outrageous price tag. And besides, what sense does it make to require all incoming students buy a laptop in the first place when there are so many computer labs throughout Mizzou's journalism school with all the software we could ever need?

One of the first things the J-School tells you when you show up for Summer Welcome before your freshman year (right after the part about how you will totally find a job, LOL) is that you need to buy an Apple laptop from the MU Bookstore with all the accessories.

The official line from the Mizzou J-School is that you just need a laptop equipped with Windows Office when you enroll. In reality, you will be ostracized and made to feel unwelcome carrying any laptop not emblazoned with the Apple logo. If you have ever seen the picture at the top of this post of a Mizzou journalism lecture class, you can see the J-School has been pretty effective at driving home the message that you need an Apple MacBook to make it there.

The cheapest MacBook option from the MU Bookstore is more than $1,300, while the most expensive one is closer to $2,800. Each package includes such non-essentials as a specially branded Missouri School of Journalism backpack, flash drive, notebook lock and Microsoft Office.

For all the good this laptop will do you as a journalism student, you would be better off buying a cheap Windows laptop from Dell, uploading all of your documents to Google Docs and Dropbox and your music to Amazon Cloud Drive or Google Music Beta, and downloading the free Open Office suite of software. That will save you more than $800 on the cheapest package from the bookstore, and more than $2,000 on the most expensive one.

An unfair 'suggestion'

I wasn't going to say anything about this, but then I read this story in the Columbia Tribune about an incoming journalism student named Katie Bailey:

Right in front of a Tiger Tech booth at a University of Missouri Summer Welcome fair, Lana Bailey is ready to cry.

Her daughter, Katie, needs a laptop before she starts college in the fall, but they're not sure which to buy. A pre-journalism student, she has been told the school requires, or at least prefers, a Mac. But she's not sure what type of journalism she's going to pursue, and that will make a difference.

We later learn that Bailey is a first-generation college student and the child of a single mother. She is also making some hefty sacrifices to afford her college education, like paying for this laptop herself and skipping the dorms (er, residence halls) and living with a family friend in Columbia to save on room and board.

Don't put yourself through this misery, Katie. The Mizzou J-School has a habit of putting in place technology requirements whose benefits are not clearly articulated to students, particularly those who come from a lower socio-economic class. It's an intriguing irony for a school based on the art of communication to mass audiences.

I just graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism last month, and I can say with complete certainty that I never once did an assignment in a journalism class that I could not have done on a Windows-based computer. There is no piece of software or functionality in the line of Apple laptops that is essential to a journalism student at Mizzou or any other journalism school.

The Mizzou J-School usually trots out the iLife suite of software programs on MacBooks as proof that these computers are essential to journalism students. The idea is that Apple computers come with programs that allow you to edit video, photos and even audio. But you will never use iMovie to edit video for a journalism class, never use iPhoto to edit photos, and never use Garage Band to edit audio. You will use top-of-the-line software programs like Final Cut Pro, Avid, Adobe Audition and, of course, Photoshop to do that work.

Few Requirements Elsewhere

In my reporting for this post, I heard from graduates and professors at the journalism schools at Loyola University in Chicago, Columbia University, New York University, University of North Carolina, University of Oregon, and Northwestern University, and it was only Northwestern's Medill that has any sort of technology requirements in place like Mizzou's.

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As Loyola graduate Emily Jurlina wrote in a comment on the original version of this post on J-School Buzz, "I am a Mac user by choice and would never think of switching, but I was never once made to feel like I couldn't complete my assignments as well or as good if I didn't have a Mac. Loyola seemed to understand that not everyone chooses the Apple route and made it a point to have the computers available for all students."

Not only is Mizzou unique in that it very strongly recommends students buy the much more expensive (yet not much more useful) Apple brand of laptops, but many journalism schools don't require you to cough up money for any kind of required technology. The journalism graduates I spoke to said their schools did not have any set of requirements on what kind of phone, computer or audio recorder they buy. This came as a complete shock to me, as I have watched Mizzou's J-School go so far as to even discuss the possibility of an iPad requirement (yes, really).

Mizzou's J-School is littered with top-notch computer labs that have the latest and greatest hardware and software that can do everything from edit video in Final Cut Pro to design a graphic in InDesign. Yet every freshman must buy a laptop of their own, preferably one of the most expensive brands out there. That doesn't add up.

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Mizzou's J-School sees things differently. Associate Dean Brian Brooks told me in an email interview, "For years, students and parents asked us for guidance on buying a computer at the start of college. Almost everyone does it -- our survey eight years ago showed that almost 90 percent of freshmen bought a new computer for college."

To paraphrase, the first justification for the wireless requirement is that everyone is already buying one, so we might as well make it a requisite. Ninety percent is an awfully high figure, and though I couldn't see the raw numbers for myself, my own experience has shown that a good majority of incoming students bought new computers, even if they weren't required.

But the slim minority who did not buy one must have had a good reason for doing so. Maybe it was financial burdens similar to the ones Katie faces, a problem that is certainly widespread in this economic recession.

The justification

Brooks also said the school requires wireless laptops because, "The laptop is portable and can be used to take notes and do work while a student is on campus between classes. A desktop provides less mobility and requires the student to go back to the dorm to work."

Now, I don't want to be one of "those" people, but I should point out that a pen and notebook have the same capabilities to take notes on the fly. Estimated cost: the change rattling around in your pocket.

So, that's the justification for a wireless laptop requirement for every incoming student. It's weak, but at least it exists. Why the strong Apple suggestion?

"We wanted to start teaching the basics of audio and video editing as part of the curriculum," Brooks told me. "iLife, while simple, helps students learn the basics. They then easily graduate to more sophisticated programs in their advanced classes."

This makes sense in theory. Students start out with simple media editing programs and move on to more complicated ones. But J-Schoolers don't touch the iLife programs for any class. They might use it to Photoshop their head onto Mike Tyson's body or edit a video for YouTube in their free time, but they won't be doing it for a grade in journalism school.

As Engadget and others have pointed out, Mizzou makes these Apple items "required" partly to manipulate financial aid rules. You see, financial aid will only cover items that are required by the school, not those that are optional or recommended. It's not enough for the J-School to recommend we all buy Apple products; it has to "require" that we all buy them so we can include these expensive gadgets in our financial need estimates.

I'm sure we can find more useful ways to spend that financial aid money than on admittedly non-essential and pricey Apple products. And maybe someone should tell incoming students that this "requirement" is more like a "requirement nudge nudge say no more!"

That said, I am typing these very words on a MacBook Pro I received as a graduation gift from my parents. What's more, I carry this laptop in the Missouri School of Journalism-branded backpack I got as a freshman. It's a great computer, and given a choice between a Windows-based computer and a MacBook I would go with the MacBook every time.

But I have been blessed to come from a family that can afford such extravagances. Not every potential journalism student is so lucky, nor should they be. Diversity in every respect should be encouraged in this journalism school, be it financial or racial or intellectual.

From rising tuition to the journalism industry's reliance on indentured servitude to stagnant salaries, it is becoming less and less feasible for students who don't come from at least a middle-class background to make it in journalism. Mizzou's J-School should not make it even harder for the less economically fortunate to succeed in journalism with superfluous Apple laptop requirements.

MacBook photo by Mikael Miettinen on Flickr.

David Teeghman is a recent graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, and the founder and publisher of J-School Buzz. Teeghman will soon be a Secondary English teacher in Indianapolis as part of Teach For America.

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A version of this story originally appeared in JSchoolBuzz.com, a site dedicated to reporting the latest news and analysis about the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Founded in October 2010, J-School Buzz is produced by current J-Schoolers. You can follow JSB on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

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July 19 2011

19:15

Wikipedia Taps College 'Ambassadors' to Broaden Editor Base

From what I can tell, most of my fellow educators spend more time criticizing Wikipedia than engaging with it.

The conversation tends to go round in a fairly tiresome circle: The first educator points to an article on the subject of his/her expertise and points to a glaring error to demonstrate that the whole enterprise is worthless. The interlocutor responds with a (highly debated) study to argue that "Wikipedia is more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica."

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But neither side comes to terms with the real Wikipedia revolution: It represents a restructuring of the architecture of knowledge. In the decade since its founding, the crowdsourced platform has grown exponentially, radically improved its content, and established a firm foothold in the online environment, now ranking as the fifth most-visited site in the world. The entire enterprise is based on Wikipedia's utopian vision, as spelled out on the back of the staff business cards: "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge."

Campus Ambassadors

That said, many observers -- starting with the Wikimedia Foundation itself -- realize that this vision is far from realized. This has led the foundation to launch a series of initiatives designed to improve the infrastructure and broaden participation. One of the most intriguing developments is the Public Policy Initiative and its corps of campus ambassadors.

The challenges are formidable. Let's leave aside, for the moment, the two-thirds of the world's population that has yet to gain access to the Internet. The creation of Wikipedia content has striking limitations, even among the 400 million users who visit the site every month. According to Wikipedia's own estimates, only 0.02-0.03 percent of visitors actively contribute to articles.

And although technically, content can be created by anyone with an online account, the pattern of participation is admittedly skewed. According to Barry Newstead, the foundation's chief global development officer, "Eighty percent of our page views are from the Global North, and 83 percent of our edits." The English language Wikipedia's content and participation far outstrip those for its 270 other languages, especially non-Western. Of the active contributors, between 80 and 85 percent are male, and half are under 22. Furthermore, participation has plateaued (and even declined) over the last few years, settling in at somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 active editors per month in all languages.

What are the obstacles to growth? First of all, "Wikipedian" culture is known for its contentious behavior, especially toward newcomers who haven't mastered the arcane style and coding. One result is that the content has become skewed toward geek topics, featuring state-of-the-art articles on technology, science fiction and military history, with more erratic offerings in the humanities and social sciences.

straightening a skewed pattern of participation

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In early July, the Wikimedia Foundation renewed its efforts to improve the balance by holding its first Higher Education Summit as part of the Public Policy Initiative. According to the foundation leadership, the goals of the year-old project are to:

• bring in more quality content in underserved fields, starting with public policy;
• narrow the gender gap by recruiting increased female participation;

• improve diversity of contributors, and

• make the initiation process more user-friendly.

Backed by a new strategic plan and a $1.2 million grant from the Stanton Foundation, the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative was born. The foundation decided that the natural focal point for the effort was academia. Colleges and universities were, after all, the traditional centers of learning -- and it made sense to look to students who were researching and writing papers as potential contributors of content.

Mentoring Professors and Students

The missing link was the Wikipedia knowledge. This was addressed by the creation of a cohort of Wikipedia "ambassadors" to coach and mentor professors and students through the wickets. Fifty-four campus ambassadors were selected over 2010-2011, charged with offering on-site support in classroom and personal tutorial settings.

These were often students with an extensive (and successful) record of creating and editing Wikipedia content. In other cases, they were university librarians, tech support, and other staff who took on the challenge as part of their classroom support services. (At the summit, Sue Gardner, director of the Wikimedia Foundation, proudly pointed out that almost half of the campus ambassadors are female.) The campus ambassadors were complemented by 91 online ambassadors, experienced Wikipedians who offer support to students in any school.

The United States was divided into 10 regions, each assigned a regional ambassador. Professors from 24 colleges and universities signed up as inaugural Wikipedia Teaching Fellows to participate. In return, the professors made a commitment to assigning Wikipedia content creation as part of their course requirements, and to stage the assignments over the course of the semester, to allow for an editorial learning curve.

By coincidence, I had created an unwitting control group for this effort. Last fall I assigned my Media & Society class at Bard College to write or edit a Wikipedia entry, unaware that there was a Wikimedia program for classroom support. I had a few Wikipedia edits under my belt, but I was unprepared for my students' struggles with Wikipedia policies on issues such as notability, verifiability and sourcing. These policies are highly specific, not always intuitive, and don't necessarily mirror academic practice.

My international students writing on foreign subjects had far more trouble than my U.S. students in publishing their articles, even if they were of comparable quality (partly, I believe, because it's harder to provide approved citations for local information about countries such as Afghanistan and Burma). I was also remiss in not directing my students toward the sandbox to develop their articles before posting them -- leading to some swift and merciless deletions.

For many of us, the Higher Education Summit was a welcome opportunity to meet campus and online ambassadors and to hear how fellow professors worked with the project in the classroom. I was surprised to learn that while some of the professors were experienced Wikipedians, many of them had little editing experience with the platform. This was not regarded as a problem. The program was structured to task the ambassadors with Wikipedia skills, allowing professors to focus on shaping syllabi and course content. (The summit's invitees included professors of law, anthropology, political science, and literature.)

More User-Friendly Editing

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At the same time, there are many signs that the Wikimedia Foundation is eager to make the editing process more user-friendly. It has been conducting usability studies to see where the bumps are. Wikipedia has been expanding its live help and a rich trove of learning materials for newbies. These resources are scattered across the Wikipedia terrain and not easy to locate, but the foundation is taking active steps to both build out and codify the materials. It's also sponsoring some friendly competition with a leaderboard to monitor which classes are posting the most contributions over the semester, as well as a "What's Hot" list of most edited articles by students.

The Wikimedia Foundation states that over the next five years it hopes to increase the number of readers to a billion, and the percentage of editors in the Global South to 37 percent. The international initiative is starting with Brazil, India and the Middle East/North Africa, which have already begun to receive advance guards of campus and online ambassadors. (The summit included academics from Brazil, India, Germany, the U.K. and Canada, as well as the U.S.)

The Wikimedia Foundation's Newstead told the summit attendees that the organization is still struggling with the challenge of adapting to mobile platforms, the bridgehead for online media in much of the world. "At this point you can't edit on mobile; it's read-only," he reported. "Most people who move to mobile stop surfing the web. They just surf apps."

Whatever the challenges, the Wikipedia ambassadors are recruiting a new generation of professors and students to carry the vision forward. There are all kinds of creative challenges to adapting classroom assignments to the mission. Students like publishing their classwork online, but express frustration at team members who don't pull their weight. Professors enjoy the classroom enthusiasm, but struggle with the mechanics of grading collaborative writing projects and articles that are edited by a broader community. Nonetheless, there's every indication that the Wikimedia Foundation's experiment in higher education will take Wikipedia to another stage of its wildly unpredictable ride.

Anne Nelson is an educator, consultant and author in the field of international media strategy. She created and teaches New Media and Development Communications at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). She consults on media, education and philanthropy for Anthony Knerr & Associates. Her most recent book is Red Orchestra. She tweets as @anelsona, was a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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July 11 2011

18:13

College Students Miss the Journalistic Potential of Social Media

This piece was co-written by Alexa Capeloto.

A couple of days after news broke of Osama bin Laden's killing in Pakistan, a group of students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where we teach journalism, sat in a classroom and talked about how they were first alerted to the story. Most said Facebook. Some said friends or family, primarily via text message. No one named a newspaper. One student, Josh, said CNN.

CNN? So Josh just happened to be watching cable news late on a Sunday night when the bin Laden story broke?

"Oh. No," he said. "I heard about it on Facebook, then I turned on CNN to find out more."

In these days of social media, it was surprising that Josh didn't give Facebook due credit.

After all, the discussion was about the first source, not the best. Did seeing comments on his status feed not count as information delivery in the same way a CNN report did? Was it not real for him until a traditional news outlet confirmed it?

We're used to our peers and mentors privileging legacy media -- be it broadcast or newspapers. But this is not what we expect of today's college students, a.k.a. tomorrow's journalists. In their wired world, there are increasingly fuzzy distinctions between professional and citizen, fact and rumor, confirmed and unconfirmed. We see their iPhones and Androids, iPads and laptops, and we figure part of our job as journalism instructors is to call attention to those distinctions. Yet, as Josh's answer suggests, students might be overcorrecting toward the old school, and in the process psyching themselves out of the journalism game.

Marrying the digital revolution to journalism

We consider this tendency the "digital divide 2.0," an updated version of the gap that long existed between those who could afford pricey personal computers and dial-up Internet connections and those who could not. Despite the growing affordability of Net-based personal technology, the basic class disparity still exists among our students. Now this new version of the divide adds a psychological dimension that cuts across class lines and might be harder to define, diagnose and fix.

Although our students know how to act the part of digital natives, they're inclined to see the Internet as a tool for entertainment and socializing, rather than as an information source. Facebook is for photos and "status," YouTube for cute or crazy clips to pass along to friends, and the rest a treasure trove of music, movies and TV shows (unless, of course, that history paper is due tomorrow and they need to visit Wikipedia).

Despite all the time they spend online, they're behind the curve in terms of understanding the journalistic potential of social media. In fact, some of them are reluctant to recognize the connection between legacy media and web 2.0, as if in doing so, they'd be assuming a power best left to professionals.

When our recent crop of digital journalism students were asked to create their own journalistic blogs and market their content through social media, they were uncomfortable. Although they habitually post to Facebook, the thought of actually reporting on a topic and putting their work into the public domain as journalism, versus a personal narrative of candid pictures and random Friday night ephemera, was scary.

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In fact, a few students said that they didn't see blogs as journalism, because anyone could do them. They were in class to learn about reporting and writing -- capital-J Journalism -- and not to repeat what they already do on their own time.

When one of our colleagues at John Jay published a widely circulated Op-Ed in the New York Times in March suggesting, perhaps polemically, that students be taught to write Twitter feeds and YouTube captions in composition class, our students were more horrified at the thought of bringing those activities into the classroom than many of their professors.

In some regards, it's refreshing that students already know what we think we're supposed to teach them. There is a difference between what they post on Facebook and what they see on CNN. Not anyone can do journalism, or at least do it well. It does take time and training and some hard lessons to become responsible, thoughtful purveyors of information.

But no one ever gets to the point of responsible purveyor if they are too scared to test their capabilities as reporters, or too conservative as readers to trust beyond the mainstream media. If students can't see that there's journalism lurking in the everyday things they do with information, especially now that technology has made such things constant, instant and ubiquitous, then we truly do have reason to worry about the future of journalism -- particularly if the original digital divide is still a factor.

A new digital gap emerges

The digital divide reared its head this semester when one of our strongest journalism students said he wanted to sign up for an online section of Intermediate Reporting, but he was afraid to because he didn't have Internet access at home. During the summer break, the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper can't access the paper's new website for the same reason.

"If I did have the Internet, what would I use it for?" he said.

If students who know, own and regularly access technology aren't inclined to put it to journalistic use, then what of the students who don't have such access? Not having the Internet at home -- or perhaps having parents who don't possess the time or means to demonstrate the web's legitimate capabilities -- pushes some students even further
back in the march toward careers in journalism.

The digital divide 2.0 is a psychological and sometimes economic divide, but it's also a generational one. When we started college in the early '90s, the library or the campus lab was the prime source of connectivity. As a consequence, we conceived of the Internet as a tool for doing work and getting information as we would on an old-fashioned terminal-based database or card catalog, or we used it to read primitive newspaper homepages.

When connectivity comes quickly and easily via intuitive mobile devices, and when the web becomes more about entertainment than information, then the associative power of Internet and workspace is undermined. Go to any college library now and count how many screens are on YouTube, Hulu or Facebook for purposes that have nothing to do with news or research.

As for Josh, it's possible that he overlooked Facebook because it has too much power, not too little. He may not see it as an information source because it's so ingrained in his world, such an extension of the self, that he doesn't see it as an external source at all. Like the air around him, it's so essential that it doesn't need to be acknowledged.

But how can students properly examine and harness the journalistic potential of digital media if they don't even see it as media, and how can they become content creators if they don't believe their content counts?

In addition to teaching nuts-and-bolts journalism, these are questions that we need to consider as we prepare our students to be media producers and consumers in the 21st century.

Reporter's essential tools photo by Valerie on Flickr.

Alexa Capeloto and Devin Harner are assistant professors of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York where they direct the journalism program. Alexa earned her master's degree at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and spent 10 years as a metro reporter and editor at the Detroit Free Press and the San Diego Union-Tribune before transitioning into academia. Devin has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Delaware and a background in journalism. His recent work has included essays on Chuck Palahniuk's non-fiction; on the film Adaptation's relationship to Susan Orlean's, The Orchid Thief; and on virtual time travel through YouTube.

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July 06 2011

21:02

How Important Are Writing Skills for Modern Journalists?

When I ask my university journalism students why exactly they want to be journalists, a majority tell me it's because they "like to write."

Considering most of them are in their 20s and grew up with the Internet, this response always surprises me. With a seemingly endless supply of emerging technology and digital storytelling tools at their fingertips, why pursue journalism exclusively for love of the written word?

A love of writing is one of many reasons I chose to pursue journalism, so I understand where they're coming from. But after working as a newspaper reporter from 2000 to 2004, I took a job as assistant editor at an online magazine in San Francisco, where my priorities shifted from words to podcasts and audio blogs. During a fellowship that followed at a national magazine, I took on all sorts of web duties: blogging, content management systems, video, digital audio, and visualized data projects. I continued to write, but it was only one of many daily newsroom tasks. The web was opening the floodgates in terms of how journalists tell stories, and I've been embracing it ever since.

I relocated from San Francisco to London nearly three years ago when my wife took a job here, and I've been lucky enough to take these web experiences and apply them to teaching postgraduate and undergraduate journalism classes at City University London and the London School of Journalism. Because students come to me for classes in online journalism -- in which writing takes a backseat to widgets, HTML, audio, video, live-blogging, tweeting, and data visualizations -- I often feel like telling my students who really love to write: "Sorry, you've come to the wrong place. The creative writing lecture is down the hall."

Writing is low on the priority list in our online journalism classes, not because I want it to be, but because we've got limited time to focus on other things. During two-hour classes, students create individual or group websites and learn how to operate online content management systems. They produce audio slideshows, podcasts and videos. They join online communities or create their own. They gather raw data and use it to create online visualizations. They tinker with HTML and CSS, and dissect their website's analytics, among many other tasks.

By the end of term, students will produce a body of multimedia journalism work and become active participants in an online network throughout which they can disseminate their work. Students complete many of our projects without writing a piece of text longer than an average tweet, which can be a major letdown for budding wordsmiths.

Wait, this is what I signed up for?

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The student journalists my colleagues and I teach are not being trained to be writers; they're being encouraged to become multimedia producers, mobile reporters, hackers, graphic designers, website scrapers, and web entrepreneurs. With these goals in mind, we give them tools to help them get started. But how happy are they about it? Sometimes, not very. This past term, student uneasiness and confusion over the online journalism curriculum became so heated that one large hall lecture was interrupted by a large group complaining that the assignments were confusing and did not benefit their journalism career ambitions. At least one special discussion session with an instructor had to be scheduled outside of lectures to soothe the tension, and I spent several subsequent classes explaining the purpose of the assignments, rather than teaching actual skills.

This incident made me wonder if we, the lecturers, are more excited about the possibilities of web journalism than the students are. Their dream to write is easily deferred by a curriculum that leaves little room for discussion about writing style and technique. We're constantly telling them to write snappier, say what they need to with as few words as possible, and link to the rest, so how can they truly develop a unique writing voice in our classes? They need to do that on their own time or in another class, which inevitably causes some of them to then draw a line between "real" journalism and "web" journalism.

Maybe half of my students are from the U.K., and the others come from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Their online journalism perspectives vary greatly. Some have already created websites, utilize multiple social networks, can produce digital audio, and know Final Cut Pro. Some do not know what a memory stick is, what acronyms like "CSS," "HTML" or "CMS" stand for or how to connect to WiFi. Some are eager to learn tech skills, but many spend a lot of time asking what all of these digital tools have to do with journalism in the first place, and are eager to get back to writing.

The strange thing is, when I do set aside time to discuss or critique their online writing, I'm surprised at how lackluster some of it really is. Many lack a firm grasp of the Who, What, Why, Where and How. They have a difficult time explaining seemingly simple but important details such as "what has happened?" and "why does it matter?" or "how did it happen?" and "who is affected?" When they do write, it often lacks specificity. For some, this is partly attributed to the fact that English is not their native language. But the majority of them are anxious to throw content up on the web quickly without properly explaining what the content actually is.

Techie or journalist?

Some students, consciously or not, separate "online" journalism from "print" journalism because the former doesn't involve the traditional type of writing they're used to. If my students are a legitimate qualitative litmus test, it's safe to say there's a gap between student ideas of what journalism is, and how we actually train them to do journalism in 2011. Since we, as online journalism instructors, focus on instruments of technology rather than artful prose, there's an element of confusion among students as to what online journalism really is. Is it journalism, or is it technology? For many, the combination of both is jarring, and bridging the gap between the two is a struggle, especially for aspiring writers.

Because of this gap, many students confuse online journalism with information technology or tech support, which makes me think that we need to do more to help close that gap. For example, one of my students, in a recent email request to join their LinkedIn network, included a message that sums up this confusion in one brief sentence: "Hi Gary, I was in one of your IT classes last year. Hope all's well!"

I don't teach IT classes. Or do I?

Written word photo by Jeffrey James Pacres on Flickr.

Gary Moskowitz is a freelance journalist based in London. He blogs for the New York Times and Intelligent Life and has written for TIME Magazine. He teaches at City University London and London School of Journalism.

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June 30 2011

17:35

Virtual Worlds Are Scary for Parents, Liberating for Kids

There are more than 1 billion users of virtual worlds, online communities where people have avatars and participate in various simulated environments. Even more impressive than that number: Roughly half of those virtual world users are under age 15.

With a number of news stories lately about kids under 13 on Facebook (violating the social network's Terms of Service), you'd think there weren't any other social networking sites that were geared for kids or where kids wanted to be. But clearly that's hardly the case, and many social networks, gaming sites and virtual worlds are aimed at the under-13 set: Club Penguin, Whyville and Webkinz, to name just a few. (Here's a list of eight social media sites just for kids.)

Security and Safety

Allowing children under age 13 to participate in online communities often raises questions about security and safety, and many parents fear predators and cyberbullies. Kid-oriented websites have a number of measures to prevent these dangers for their members, including logging chats and flagging questionable content and suspicious accounts.

But there may be other problems with these sites too, including the intense commercialization of many of them. Often virtual worlds (for children as for adults) encourage not just game-play but consumption, and kids need to buy virtual goods (sometimes with real money) in order to dress their avatars and decorate their virtual homes. Purchasing in-game items often gives users more status, and that's a lesson in itself that parents may or may not wish to have imparted to their kids.

Learning Opportunities

Virtual worlds are often dismissed as merely games, and most do not claim to be educational websites. But there are plenty of informal learning opportunities for kids in these environments, particularly as these are often their first experiences with online communities. Participating in a virtual world can help kids learn how to communicate and behave online.

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They can also be utilized to help bridge online and offline ethics. One virtual world, MiniMonos, for example, has an environmental theme and tries to make sustainability lessons clear to its users. If you don't keep up with the recycling around your avatar's treehouse, there are in-world consequences. The virtual world also ties this to the real world, rewarding users for various environmental actions they take in their own communities.

Here's a list of five virtual world sites that can unlock all kinds of adventures, curated by a teacher who's tested many of these sites in his classes.

Liberating for Kids

It's this connection to community -- again, on- and offline -- that may be one of the greatest benefits of virtual worlds. Despite fears about predators, virtual worlds do offer kids a place to experiment and expand socially. Virtual worlds give children an opportunity to participate in a large social environment, with people from all over the world, often unsupervised by their parents. That may sound scary to parents, but for kids, it can be very liberating.

As always, parents should make sure they know where and what their kids are doing online. The best virtual worlds offer reporting features for parents and keep in contact with them should any problems arise. They also allow parents to enter alongside their children.

Although virtual worlds may be a relatively new phenomenon, the fact that kids under 13 are embracing them suggests that we're only beginning to see the potential of these online communities.

Audrey Watters is an education technology writer, rabble-rouser, and folklorist. She writes for MindShift, O'Reilly Radar, Hack Education, and ReadWriteWeb.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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June 27 2011

18:00

Silicon Sisters Builds Videogames for Women by Women

The stereotypical videogame player is a young male under age 18, but study after study has shown that the majority of the game-playing population does not fall into that demographic. Only 18 percent of gamers are under age 18, and women over 18 represent a significantly greater proportion of this population (37 percent) than do boys age 17 or younger (13 percent).

With the explosive growth in social gaming, particularly on Facebook, more games are being targeted at women. Games like Farmville and Pet Society, while not explicitly aimed at women, have been embraced by an older, female gaming population.

But what about girls? Videogames are increasingly considered an important tool for learning. And even though plenty of women do play videogames, there is still a sense -- particularly among girls -- that games are a "boy thing."

Building Games for Women, Girls

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That girl-gamer audience is the focus of the Vancouver, B.C.-based gaming studio Silicon Sisters. The first female-owned and run videogame studio in Canada, Silicon Sisters is committed to building games for women and girls by women and girls.

Founded by former Radical Entertainment executive producer Kristen Forbes and former Deep Fried Entertainment COO Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch, the studio released its very first game, School 26, to critical acclaim back in April. (We featured the game in an April round-up of the best new educational apps of the month.) The studio plans to release its next School 26 game -- Summer of Secrets -- next month.

The School 26 games are geared toward tweens and teens, and the storyline is built around the very complicated social hierarchy of high school. You play the game as a young girl who's a newcomer to a school. She comes from a nomadic family, which has made it difficult for her to maintain long-term friendships. As she enrolls in this, her 26th school, she strikes a bargain with her parents: If she can make friends, they'll stay put.

So the player of School 26 must help the character do just that: build friendships and navigate the sticky, awkward and sometimes awful moral dilemmas of school. These range from power struggles to peer pressure, romance, betrayal, alienation, acceptance -- all real and relevant situations that girls face every day.

The player must select appropriate emotional responses to certain scenarios and answer quizzes that provide insights into players' personalities. The emphasis here is on empathy and networking.

All talk, no action

That's a very different set of goals and behaviors than what most videogames encourage. There isn't swordplay here. No princesses to rescue. No alien invaders to vanquish. There isn't “action.” There's “talk.” The rewards aren't cash or weaponry. The skills honed in School 26 aren't the ability to time your jumps or dodge bullets or land killing blows. Of course, there are plenty of casual games aimed at tweens that aren't action-oriented, and there are lots aimed at girls. But unlike many games that target this girl market, there is no emphasis on shopping, fashion or beauty in School 26.

The Silicon Sisters say all their games will emphasize this sort of “social engineering” — an emphasis on relationships and communication. These are important skills for girls and women to develop, the studio argues, and will allow them to navigate the sometimes treacherous social situations.

As the female gaming population grows, it's likely that more companies will begin to cater to this market. But as it stands, there still aren't a lot of games that meet women and girl gamers' needs. A recent report by the entertainment market research firm Interpret, titled "Games and Girls: Video Gaming's Ignored Audience," argues that the female gaming market is far more nuanced than some of the “casual-centric reputation” suggests. Indeed, 44 percent of those who responded to the survey say that they prefer genres other than exercise, music, and casual games -- the kind that are most often marketed to women and girls.

But making games for girls isn't simply about providing good entertainment. Some of girls' reluctance to play videogames may have other repercussions: a lack of familiarity with or comfort around technology, for example, and a missed opportunity to learn more about science, technology and engineering.

Audrey Watters is an education technology writer, rabble-rouser, and folklorist. She writes for MindShift, O'Reilly Radar, Hack Education, and ReadWriteWeb.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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May 27 2011

22:15

Scienceline: A Case Study in Teaching Specialty Journalism

I learned how to be a journalist at my college paper. I didn't go to journalism school. But I teach at one, and from the time that I became an adjunct at New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) in 2002, I would periodically think about how to recreate the experience of working at a college paper for a small group of graduate students learning how to do specialized journalism.

More and more outlets are looking for reporters and editors with expertise, whether it's so they can hit the ground running when they're hired, or curate more effectively. That's certainly true at the magazines, websites, and broadcast outlets where SHERP graduates want to work, and at my own, a specialized health wire service.

So when SHERP Director Dan Fagin, who also learned how to be a journalist at his college paper, and I realized in 2005 that we were thinking along the same lines, we did some brainstorming. How could we create a site that gave students the opportunity to run a specialized news organization? We wanted a versatile, adaptable platform that would let students jump in and enjoy the rewards -- and headaches -- of online publishing.

We settled on WordPress, and hired a great designer. We included students from the beginning, letting them decide everything from content categories to color palette. And they came up with the name, too: Scienceline.

Since 2006, Scienceline has been the online magazine of science that's written, edited and produced entirely by SHERP students, who call themselves "SHERPies." They have published hard-hitting news, features, blogs, videos and podcasts, and encouraged interactivity through comments and polls. Students typically post new stories three times per week, in addition to blogs. Here's a recent video on Scienceline about e-cigarettes:

E-Cigarettes in New York City from Scienceline on Vimeo.

A specialized sandbox

The site's content is divided into four categories. In Physical Science, visitors find stories on everything from the fates of universes to how scientists helped resolve a dispute over a massive telescope. In Health, they'll read about whether a walk in the park can replace a psychiatrist, and about research into using parasites to treat diseases.

In Environment, visitors can learn how a proposed road in the Serengeti is dividing people as it divides land, and about a scientist who, somewhat reluctantly, dropped everything to study the BP oil spill. And Life Science pieces explore what language says about the way we think, and how the state of Hawai'i used a natural predator to fight an invasive species, among other subjects.

All of those categories offer a rich selection of blogs, as well as audio, video and graphics.

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The Scienceline staff -- which is made up of SHERP students, usually 15 per year -- plans every piece of content on the site, from pitching to editing to copyediting and posting. (I'm the faculty adviser, and Fagin is the publisher, but it's the SHERPies who run Scienceline.) Some stories are written for class, while others go directly to Scienceline. They have rigorous standards for copy, including multiple layers of editing and a transparent corrections policy. They hold weekly meetings, and publish throughout the year, even during the summer.

Scienceline content is highly regarded, and is frequently republished in leading science journalism outlets including Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science and LiveScience. It's on Scienceline itself, however, that students do what many news organizations are hoping to do: orchestrate a conversation around their content, whether it's text, audio or video. Visitors can even ask questions that the staff answers with reporting, in the Ever Wondered column. Readers apparently like what they find on Scienceline, since on a typical day about 3,000 of them stop by for a visit. There have been 4 million visits since the site launched in mid-2006.

The pros like it too: Scienceline is a three-time Region 1 finalist in the Society of Professional Journalists' Mark of Excellence Awards. Perhaps more importantly, students have tons of clips, which are attractively archived on the site, with each current and former student with his or her own author URL. Employers are impressed.

And so are Fagin and I. The site has been everything we imagined and more, allowing students to create rich, specialized content that shines. We learn something with every new Scienceline experiment, as the site changes with each class of SHERPies. It has recently been redesigned to improve the user experience and add various content types. And the students are even creating an iPad app.

We never know what's next for Scienceline, but we do know it's making SHERPies better prepared for an evolving job market -- and that's a big task.

Ivan Oransky, MD, is the executive editor of Reuters Health. He teaches medical journalism at New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program, is the treasurer of the Association of Health Care Journalists, and blogs at Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch. He has also served as managing editor, online, of Scientific American, deputy editor of The Scientist, and editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Praxis Post. For three years, he taught in the health and medicine track at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Ivan earned his bachelor's at Harvard, where he was executive editor of The Harvard Crimson, and his MD at the New York University of School of Medicine, where he holds an appointment as clinical assistant professor of medicine.

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May 20 2011

19:57

Children and Facebook: The Promise and Pitfalls for Social Media

With more than 500 million Facebook users across the world, it's hard to refute that the social networking site has profoundly changed the way we communicate and share information. But what's the Facebook effect on kids? When it comes to navigating the social networking world -- whether it's Facebook or fan fiction sites -- the terrain becomes even murkier.

Parents worry about what's age-appropriate, what should be kept private, and exposure to cyberbullying, among many other issues. And it's true -- there's a lot to navigate, even for adults. But Facebook and social networks aren't going away anytime soon, and the better parents understand this, the more they'll be able to help their kids comprehend the medium.

Rather than block all access to the Internet, parents can see that for every pitfall, there's a potential promise.

"Parents can and should moderate sites, but they have to give kids the opportunities to figure out what it means to be digital citizens, and allow kids to be empowered," said Carrie James, who's conducting a qualitative survey of kids and social networks at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "They need prompts and supports to develop guidelines together."

CONNECTION AND SELF-EXPRESSION

For better or for worse, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and their ilk provide ways for kids to connect with each other and express themselves.

This level of unchecked expression, some argue, is too much for young children who can't handle the complexities of social networking sites. "The amount of angst has increased in my school in the past few years," said Anthony Orsini, principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J. With three suicides (including Tyler Clementi) in the past year, he said, "it's been a fearful time in our town for our parents."

The irony is that the fear doesn't come from the traditional so-called stranger danger but from how kids behave toward each other online. "Stranger danger is unbelievably minute compared to the social and emotional damage they receive from each other everyday," Orsini said. And the matter becomes much more complicated when you consider that strict anti-bullying laws render schools responsible for kids' online behavior, he said.

But for administrators like Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, N.J., privacy and cyberbullying issues are a red herring. "What if a kid swears in the hallway? It's the same thing. People want to hide behind the legal issues, but it's the same as swearing on Facebook," he said.

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Either way, kids will have to learn that their digital footprint is born from the moment they start posting on each other's walls and create their first online avatar. They'll have to figure out that every YouTube video they upload will be a reflection of themselves as the public sees them. With guidance from parents and educators, they can figure out what the world knows about them.

But at the moment, it's not a high priority at most schools, Sheninger said. "Schools aren't teaching kids to be digitally responsible," he said. "We can't fault kids for doing something wrong on Facebook or Twitter because we're not teaching them. We need to have digital citizenship curriculum in schools."

It's important to note that Orisini is the principal of a middle school, while Sheninger is the principal of a high school, and the age difference can be a factor in how kids behave online.

LEARNING

Chances are, anytime the computer is on near a kid (and let's face it, even adults), some kind of social networking is happening. Whether it's Facebook or instant messaging, or watching or uploading videos to share, the distractions are endless. As we all know, one link can easily lead to another, until suddenly an hour and a half has passed and we've lost track of the task at hand.

Last year's comprehensive study by Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids age 8 to 18 actually manage to pack in almost 11 hours worth of media content into 7½ hours of using media.

So is there any time left for learning? Researchers like Henry Jenkins would argue that the best kind of learning -- engaged and collaborative -- is happening on social network sites.

Jenkins, who is a professor at the University of Southern California, talks about "deeply meaningful forms of learning...taking place through engagement with affinity groups and social networks online" such as the Harry Potter Alliance, which has mobilized more than 100,000 people against the Darfur genocide and labor rights at Wal-Mart.

But because of privacy laws like the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, most schools shut off access to social networking sites -- with a few exceptions. To principal Sheninger, "if you're not on Facebook, you can't really communicate with us. Our new hub of real-time information is Facebook. I post things about what the kids are doing, and when they comment or parents comment, as a principal, I'm proud," he said.

PRIVACY

Facebook's changing privacy settings and its tendency to default to more open information is a source of constant annoyance for many of its users. We have to keep close tabs on those changes, especially when it comes to kids.

But young children are not the primary target user for Facebook, which officially does not allow kids under 13 to sign up for an account. Parents must decide whether they'll allow their children to become a part of the vast Facebook network, or to harness the social networking world into smaller, more contained sites like Togetherville or Club Penguin.

Parents can use the subject of privacy settings as an opportunity to teach kids about navigating the online world. They can talk about social media etiquette and what information they agree is acceptable to be shared with friends and the public at large. With guidance and support, and with parents setting examples of what they think is appropriate, kids can learn their place and responsibility as part of a worldwide community.

Photo of girl with an iPad by Alec Couros via Flickr.

Tina Barseghian is the editor of KQED's MindShift, an NPR website about the future of education. In the past, she's worked as the executive editor of Edutopia, a magazine published by the George Lucas Education Foundation, as well as an editor at O'Reilly Media and CMP Media. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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17:00

Mediatwits #8: LinkedIn's Bubbly IPO; Grueskin on the New York World

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Welcome to the eighth episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show looks at the big IPO of business networking site LinkedIn, with the stock price doubling to more than $90 per share in its first day of trading, valuing the company at nearly $10 billion. Things are getting a little bubbly out there.

This week's special guest is Bill Grueskin, the dean of academic affairs at Columbia University's Journalism School. Grueskin talks about the upcoming launch of the school's new online publication, the New York World, as well as how Columbia is putting greater emphasis on students learning about the business of journalism. Finally, Amazon had an important milestone recently, saying it is now selling more e-books than print books. How has the Kindle survived the onslaught of the iPad and tablets?

Check it out!

mediatwits8.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

NEW! Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Mark gets Sonic.net; Rafat get into co-working

1:00: Rafat doesn't miss planning PaidContent events

2:45: Co-working space might motivate Rafat to work

5:10: Rundown on the podcast's stories

LinkedIn IPO

8:10: The market is lacking tech IPOs

10:30: Premium subscriptions isn't a big revenue driver

11:10: Mark gives more to LinkedIn than he gets in return

Interview with Columbia's Bill Grueskin

13:10: Background on Grueskin

15:00: Columbia wanted consistency with student website

18:15: New York World will offer stories to other sites

21:10: Columbia has same challenges as legacy news orgs

23:20: Grueskin explains how Columbia is teaching business to J-school students

26:50: Comparing New York City J-schools

Amazon sells more e-books than print books

28:50: Book industry last to go digital -- but fastest, too

29:45: Mark compares Kindle to Flip cam as utility device

32:00: Rafat thinks of Kindle as "peaceful device"

More Reading

LinkedIn Shares Soar After IPO at WSJ

The LinkedIn Pop at Reuters

LinkedIn's $8B IPO -- Silicon Valley, get ready for housing recovery at VentureBeat

LinkedIn IPO Doubles, Reid Hoffman Now A Billionaire at Forbes

Does LinkedIn signify a bubble? at Globe and Mail

The LinkedIn IPO Millionaires Club at WSJ

Columbia Journalism School to launch The New York World at Columbia University

Amazon Now Selling More Kindle Books Than All Print Books at PaidContent

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about the LinkedIn IPO:




What does the LinkedIn IPO signify?Market Research

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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May 04 2011

18:41

Columbia J-School Students Try to Keep Professor Off Social Media

News of Osama bin Laden's death brought a huge surge of activity to Twitter and other social media platforms Sunday night and Monday. So it's a strange quirk of timing that this is the week that Sree Sreenivasan -- digital media professor, dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and longtime social media enthusiast -- has agreed to go silent for 24 hours on Thursday.

It's no accident that Sreenivasan shows up on such lists as Poynter's "35 Most Influential People in Social Media" and AdAge's 25 Media People to Follow on Twitter. When news began leaking out about Bin Laden's death on Sunday night, @sree was right there with:

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He followed with tweets pointing to background information about Bin Laden and even an explanation of how a city in Pakistan came to be known as Abbottabad.

How many messages does he send out on social media?

"I get a boatload, but it's a good boatload," said Michael Cervieri, co-founder of ScribeLabs, a media production and digital strategy firm, and founder of the Future Journalism Project. "It's mostly tips, tricks and insights from sites I don't visit too much on my own. So, if I think about it, he's an ambient bookmarker I can turn to when I want to learn about new apps or changes in existing ones."

But it's not all business with Sreenivasan. His Facebook page is sprinkled with photos from family vacations or his brief forays away from his computer, BlackBerry in hand, out onto the sidewalks of New York.

SPJ Capitalizes on Loud Voice

So what could possibly silence him for 24 hours? The student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) at Columbia.

"A few years ago, Dean Sree was known for sending school-wide emails known as 'Sree-mail,'" Columbia student LaToya Tooles told me. "He sent a lot of it and students begged him to stop. Now Sree does a lot of tweeting, and while we don't mind the tweeting, we thought we would adapt a few fundraising models and capitalize on his rather loud web voice."

When Tooles and her fellow student Andrew Seaman approached Sreenivasan with the idea, he said "absolutely not." He reminded them of the Digital Death campaign last year in which a group of celebrities vowed to stay off Twitter until a certain amount of money was raised. He insisted that he would not engage in something he called "egotistical," something that suggested his messages were so valuable that people should pay for them.

sree sreenivasan.jpg

A clarification caused him to relent: This would be the opposite of the Digital Death fundraiser. Contributors would not be paying to receive his tweets; they would be paying to keep him quiet. "This is the idea that nobody really wants my stuff," Sreenivasan said.

So a Silence Sree web page was set up and if 200 people donate $5 or more, Sreenivasan's 4,999 Facebook friends and 19,400 Twitter followers will not hear from him for 24 hours. Columbia students who donate cash can give as little as $1. If fewer than 200 people donate, the silence will last for a comparable portion of the day. All the money will go to charity: 85% to scholarships for Columbia journalism students and 15% to earthquake/tsunami relief in Japan.

So far, the campaign is nearly halfway there, with 51 donors giving $443.

A Tall Order

Sreenivasan and everyone who knows him acknowledge that this is a tall order.

"I think Sree can do whatever he puts his mind to," Tooles said. "He isn't allowed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare or Posterous. If he invents another social media between now and Thursday, I'll be very upset with him, but probably not surprised."

Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said: "Sree is one of the most generous persons I know. He naturally has countless social media connections and he spends a lot of time coaching rookies on the tricks of the social media trade. He is a tireless facilitator, desiring for everyone to know everyone else. All that said, I'm sure he has the willpower to keep silent for a day -- but just barely."

Vadim Lavrusik, who just left Mashable to become journalism program manager of Facebook, had a devilish take on what might transpire tomorrow.

"I think that secretly, he will create a fake Facebook page for something entertaining and grow a following of a million people, all while being anonymous. We will never know," he told me.

Computer in the Delivery Room

Perhaps the person who best appreciates the degree of difficulty is Sreenivasan's wife, Roopa Unnikrishan. She awakened her husband on Sunday night when she heard the news about Bin Laden. And she remembers well that in 2003, when she gave birth to twins, Sreenivasan got permission to have his computer in the delivery room, "although he was mostly focused on video."

Andrew Lih, an associate professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, takes credit (or blame) for getting Sreenivasan involved in Internet journalism back in 1995 and he remains skeptical.

"Asking Sree to step away from social media communication?" Lih said. "You'd have better luck getting TMZ to ignore Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen for 24 hours."

But Daniel Dubno, founder of the consultancy Blowing Things Up and president of the Hourglass Initiative, thinks there might be a future in "Silence Sree."

"Perhaps next year, if he survives this challenge, he might give up the use of his iPad, Android, video chat, TV appearances, radio interviews, blogging, flogging, emailing, Gmailing, and the like," Dubno said. "But I still wouldn't take away his Xeroxing, faxing, Morse-coding, semaphore flag-waving, and his potential for nailing 95 theses on some door."

Ironically, Sreenivasan is organizing the first Social Media Weekend at Columbia from May 13 to 15. It's a good thing he won't be silenced then.

Carla Baranauckas is a freelance journalist, director of Round Earth Media and adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She made a small contribution to the "Silence Sree" campaign.

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April 28 2011

17:57

Live-Blog at RJI: Fellows Share Lessons from Spot.Us, NoozYou

COLUMBIA, MO. -- I am live-blogging from the Reynolds Journalism Institute, which is holding a week-long RJInnovation Week. It's a chance for the Institute to look at an incredible number of projects and ideas that are flowing through the organization. Today is focused on the 2010-11 class of RJI fellows. Each fellow gets 45 minutes to present what they worked on for the last nine months. (Note: I am an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was in the first class of RJI fellows in 2008-09.)

rjinnovationweek.jpg

David Cohn - Did That Really Happen?

Carnival of Journalism
Cohn brought this blog roundup back. It went on for about a year in 2007 and was a group of journalism bloggers who would write about the same topics together. This was back in the day before Twitter really took off and the best way to talk back in the day. Dave asked if he could have carnivalofjournalism.com URL and brought it back

Cohn established existing and new rules:

  1. Never apologize (new)
  2. A different host every month (this starts next month - Cohn ran the first three months on his own)
  3. Everyone publishes to their own blog around the same time about the host's topic (This month's topic is #fail: your failure and take responsibility for it)
  4. Host does a round-up of everyone's posts

It became a hashtag on Twitter: #jcarn
On average there were 40 participating bloggers in the first three months. Many of the participants took part in Hardly Strictly Young event at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Hardly Strictly Young
This event was focused on alternative recommendations to implement the Knight Commission report. It came out after Cohn attended the Aspen Institute where many thought leaders tried to go from the idea phase to the implementation phase. Some of the recommendations weren't the first things that came to Cohn's mind, so he thought it would be a great idea to create an alternate group of people who are not considered at the centers of power but are creating their own centers of power.

Lots of love and a good time was had by all. Interviews were conducted with the participants along with a live broadcast which was archived. One of the overall hits was catsignal.org and a twitter account was started during this event.

Community Funded Reporting Handbook
This is looking at different players in the space - including broad fundraising platforms. Kickstarter, gojo, crowdtap, kachingle, youcapital, emphas.is

Chapters include:
Primer on Crowdfunding

Art of the pitch

Introduction to other players

Process of Screening

Licensing considerations

Glossary of terms

Audience perspective

Journalism concerns

It will be released as a "book" format and downloadable online.

Spot.us
What does this represent? It's an experiment, a new transparency and collaboration in journalism. In many respects he says where it was as a Knight News Challenge, it was an experiment to see if there is life out there. He says, yes, there are signs of life. The rover was sent out and it was worthwhile experiment back in the day. The big problem now is scale. It isn't a unique problem. It's a problem for many startups. Can you build up enough traffic to get larger and larger.

During his time at RJI, he did more professional redesigns by cleaning it up. He's seeing regular growth The number of registered users has jumped above 10,000 and continues to grow. It doubled from 6,000 to 10,000 since September. 54 percent of the members (5,436) are donors.

His passion: The difference between how it worked and how it is now working. Back in th day you could only help by giving credit card payments. That worked for almost two years. It worked but they had about one percent donating. He wanted to come up with alternatives. Now there's more.

You can click on "free credits" where you provide an act of engagement - provide anonymous feedback to the sponsor. Then you get to fund a story and decide where to fund it. It's kind of like advertising, the public gets to decide where the money goes.

Spot.us launched the first community sponsored credits. There was an immediate spike in participation and donations each month.

Need to verify:
IN the last 12 months, 4,797 unique donations (compared to 1,000 or so in the first year). 4,379 have participated by taking a survey. There is an overlap between those two numbers. 20-25 percent of donors are repeat donors. (That's jumped up thanks to the surveys)

Spot.us sponsorship kits. That's the hardest thing to do. Cohn has been able to raise about $5,000 a month. He worked with students to come up with a sponsorship kit and come up with unique materials to present to potential sponsors.

They're working on more market research on the readers to help with sponsorships. They're selling acts of engagements. Examples:
Jeans - if you take a survey you could also get a coupon. Acts of engagement that help connect with Facebook and Twitter where you share the experience you just had with the sponsorship experience on Spot.us. The results of the survey can become a topic of conversation if the sponsor is willing to let the survey go public.

Increased consumer feedback could play a role in this. (A good example is how people provide feedback on products on Amazon. Spot.us members could try it too.)

Pictures of the Year archive photos - community members could help tag the photos to help with the POY database and earn credits for each photo and help POY's archives.

Outsourcing surveys - His major bottleneck is he has to sell them himself. What if he incorporated already existing surveys. So far, he has found Research for Good. It's a startup as well and can't embed polling technology on Spot.us yet. That would dramatically decrease the challenge of sales for the site.

Increase pitches by expanding the API. They're going to be on PRX's website and even on a Louisville NPR affiliate site. Spot.us may not even be officially visually connected. If someone is signed up on their site, it is automatically linked to Spot.us, they may never know it was links to Spot.us. That would dramatically increase the number of pitches in the system.

Working with a business class. He benefitted by working with business students and created the "Spreadsheet of Amazing." He was able to create different scenarios. He decided to increase the take of Spot.us from donations from 5 to 10 percent. Huge benefit for the site. This looks at the benefit of hiring more people. For a long term plan, it looks like the best way to go. There are all kind of early numbers, but it looks smart to hire a sales person and it will grow.

Strategic options for Spot.us

Boldness Scale
1 - consider it a successful experiment. Extrapolate lessons until funds run dry

3 - Continue as open source lab experiment with incremental additional effort. Would require a sustaining grant in late 2011 early 2012 ton continue pace

7 - Scale aggressively remain not-for-profit

10 - spin off as a for-profit

He thinks the ingredients are all there and can make a meal out of it.

NYT subscription model. They're the whale. But they're asking people for money and it isn't for access. They're a step towards a membership program. It's convenience or ignorance. The two things Spot.us is doing can be operated by NYT. When you get a pay meter/wall what if you created acts of engagement to give the reader an opportunity to read five more articles. Or let the members engage with the paper to contribute content or thought to the product.

Most important - if it can be scaled and tangible. The concept is much bigger than any implementation he can do. The concept has potential to work with any product if money is exchanged for

Who are your donors? Why do they want to play?
Many of the surveys help gather demographics. It's almost 50/50 male/female. 67 percent defined as liberal and most are on the West coast. For a month an a half, Spot.us had more traffic in the midwest (during the Wisconsin protests). It's similar to NPR demographics but scales 10 years younger. It scales caucasian. Average income is $75,000. It's encouraging that he can answer these questions.

First time donors are often there because they have a direct connection to the reporter. Repeat donors say they want to feel connected to their community. Those who do come back have civic minded purpose.

Scalability - making it more transparent and more participatory. Spot.us is an implementation of that concept. We normally don't let the public understand the cost of what happens before a story. Opening a part of journalism could be implemented by any organization. Spot.us is one way to do it. Let people know what is most important to them, they the journalists will know how to serve them.

OpenFile.ca is the for profit version of Spot.us. It does require mental shifts of how we think about our role in journalism and as journalists.

If you really focused on the concept and not the site, could it advance journalism? The API is Cohn's way of saying Spot.us is not a destination site. He doesn't want that to be the case. The high growth view of the Spot.us requires other sites to implement the technology into their own site. He's always evangelized the concept of community funded journalism, not Spot.us. The handbook will be useful for independent journalists who are freelancing. But he agrees this is a cultural shift.

What stories get funded?
From the first year data: Civics and politics were not popular. Criminal justice was very popular. He isn't sure if there's enough data to really know. He'd like to look more into it.

Have you seen any attitude change while you were here?
Crowdfunding is becoming more of an accepted concept. There is still much more education to be done.

Mentioned in the group - look at the TED model. It has played the ends of exclusivity and openness.

Anne Derryberry - Games and Journalism: An Epic Win?

Everybody's Talking the Game
Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR is quoted saying "This is the decade of the game layer." Business leaders and beyond are seeing the trends and opportunities for games and their applications.

Compelling Factoids:

  • Videogames are #1 category for consumer/end-using spending (PWC)
  • $10.5B in US in 2009 (was 11.7B in 2008) (ESA)
  • 10.6% CAGR for 2010-2014 (PWC)
  • Global market - $70.1B by 2015 (KPCB)

The reason this is true is because of the widespread appeal of games to all ages. The average age of a gamer is 34 (ESA). 45-60 year old women are the fastest growing demographic. 67 percent of Americans play games (ESA).

The rise of social games and Facebook-based games are a principal reason behind this rise. Most games are being played with social networking, tables, mobile, broadband access.

Games are fun, but what are the other compelling reasons to use them? Games play mechanics and rewards (usually embedded within a web- or mobile site). It helps: promote brand awareness, adoption and attachment
Induce participation

raise comprehension and retention

make tedious content/activities seem less odious

What does this have to do with journalism? Ian Bogost at Georgia Tech is quoted from Newsgames: Journalism at Play: "We shouldn't embrace games because they seem fun or trendy, no because they dumb down the news but because they can communicate complex ideas differently and beter than writing and pictures and film. Games are raising the bar on news, not lowering it."

It's been echoed in many spaces. Kotaku (a game review publication) writer, Brian Crescente wrote "wouldn't it be wonderful , for instance, if [there were] News Games for The Daily, allowing readers to not just passively absorb the news."

How Far Can We Take This?
Bring some clarity to the thinking behind this conversation.

So she put together a prototype: NoozYou - a game driving news outlet
It focuses on three types of News - current events, issues and editorial. You can create tools that are available for people who are going to develop these categories of games.

You need a platform for people to find these kinds of products. It should offer access, community engagement and management along with a workflow process.

How is this paid for? Are there revenue models that can come out of this? Advertising and licensing is needed. All of these questions weren't able to be tackled during a nine month proces.

They focused on the current events category for news telling. There are already a few games developed under this category, but current events was a bit more tricky. They adopted tools, built their own platform and the revenue model is still under construction.

It Takes a Village
She worked with an external development for the platform. Incoming fellow Peter Meng helped put this together. She brought in a tool from Impact Games "Play the News" for authoring story/games. Newsy agreed to be a media partner. Students helped become a news team (convergence capstone team), SEO team (interactive advertising team) and many different people attended game salons.

13 story games were produced in a short amount of time. You can look at it all on the NoozYou site. It is a prototype but is rich with content.

Players get to look at the last 10 stories published on Newsy.com and then vote about which topics they'd like to see made into a game. Not a lot of stats just yet, but it could be great background data for media suppliers. You can see the top three vote getters. You get to "noozify" them.

News quizes are published weekly based on news events. Questions and feedback come from Newsy content. When you answer one of the quiz questions, you get feedback that tells you if you answered properly. If you need help, you get to watch the video.

The site has user comments and they are already getting feedback. Most happens on the noozYou site and on individual games. Most people who wrote comments were positive about their experience. There were some recommendations and suggestions for changes. Anonymous survey turned up rich feedback for the site and helpful for what needs to happen next.

By the numbers: So far it's a two month experiment.The site went up at the end of February for the game developer conference, but no promotion at first. There's been a nice bump recently with a more stable platform. So far, there's an absolute unique of 1539 which Derryberry considers very encouraging. Only 50 percent were first time. That means most people are coming back to participate in the site. Users come from 30 countries/territories visited the site.

Big questions remain:
New template?

The Play the News template constrains the type of games you can create. They'd like to look at new templates might be appropriate for the site.

How do they handle original reporting?

She decided not to do that because it would require stories that would be hyper local with a limited audience outside of the geographic regions. She wanted content that would encourage mass use. Also, it would require a generation of a lot of media. But it's something she's like to tackle.

What kinds of advergames are most effective?

Advertising and Advergames is a hot topic, but noozYou hasn't deeply explored this so far.

What is the right rubric for journalytics to ensure good journalism experience design?

She believes in data driven design. Right now she has marketing data, but she wants more. How do you generate the right interactions for news consumers. That hasn't even gotten started.

Most Important Lessons
Use game techniques - but dump the moniker. There continues to be a knee-jerk negative response to the word "game." Many people feel as though it indicates the cheapening of the news experience. If there's another label to put on this, adoption will grow quickly. Let the contest begin.

News-telling in this way fores and increased awareness of users' journalism experience (JX) - The kind of rigor that is required to tell news stories forces an even greater awareness of what is happening on the recipient end of the communication equation. You really have to think about the news consumption experience. It makes the storyteller think deeper.

Ever more powerful news-telling and analysis potential by focusing on journalism experience. You can enhance the kind of news telling and analysis of the news. You can immerse people into the story (with the goal of not drowning). You give the consumer the control - a non-linear (even non-chronological) narrative. Take in the story in the way that makes most sense to the individual. You can make assumptions, but the consumer will make the call. By chunking content in manageable ways and organizing it in logical ways on a single screen and successive screens, we give them the ability to create the experience. As troubling as that may seem to some, that experience may be non-linear and non-chronological. It will happen through the interactive pathways offered by the information designer. This is a storytelling format that allows all of the multimedia opportunities and multi-channel opportunities. Many substories can be followed and tracked. The interactivity and choices given to the users, they can jump back and forth and follow their muse as they track through the stories. A cross media experience is a great benefit for users and the flexibility they have in the stories told. It's also the big challenge for the creators of the delivery.

Next steps for noozYou -
Revise and extend

Platform, tools, services

-- high school/HED journalism programs

-- commercial license - it could be white labeled for media outlets of all kinds

-- content aggregation and syndication of stories and games

The Power of One to the Many
-Massively Multi-participant Online Collaborations (MMOC) - she sees a great opportunity for us all to collaborate to make the noozYou concept happen. With the rise of social media and other tools. There are lots of skunkworks projects where people are coming together to solve problems together as a society. Some are organized (Wikipedia, Crisis Camp), some are not.

-massive group problem-solving

-using interactive design and game mechanics

-informed and facilitated by journalism

David Herzog - OpenMissouri
Herzog spent his fellowship focused on launching a website that will help bring more awareness and access to government data.

He launched the site OpenMissouri.org on March 17th during Sunshine Week and also held Open Missouri Day at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

So many sites are out there with a look at open records, but many have some data, but not a lot of context. Herzog says the Sunshine Foundation is doing great work helping open up federal government records. The advent of Web 2.0 has really helped make it more possible to share, search and learn from data.

Whatdotheyknow.com helps you see Freedom of Information requests, in England, MuckRock is a very open look at search and records.

The big question:
How do we use simple, freely available technology to connect citizens and journalists with public data?

Features
Catalog: Nearly 150 data sets listed

Search

Comprehensive MO department listing: 19

There is no comprehensive state contact list for Sunshine requests. You can do that on OpenMissouri.

It's five weeks old and currently has 35 registered users. The site's automated Sunshine letters will make it a lot easier to request data.

More features

Suggest a data set - users can suggest the collection of a data set. If you hear about a data set, click submit and the managers of OpenMissouri, it's reviewed and verified.

Commenting -

Potential enhancements -
Upload a dataset to share with other people. The primary goal is not for OpenMissouri to be a place to get data, it's a place for people to share data and make sure more people can get access to the information gathered.

APIs (application programming interfaces) to share catalog and agency information some day. It would help programmers interact with the data collected on the site - especially the agency list.

Develop a site and social media activity stream. You'd be able to see what new interactions have happened on the site about user activity.

How-to materials - Tips on how to file a Sunshine request, what to do when the agency ignores your request or says no.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).

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April 21 2011

18:02

5 Great Media Literacy Programs and How to Assess Their Impact

Increasingly, Public Media 2.0 projects are moving not only beyond broadcast to social and mobile platforms, but into the realms of digital and media literacy training. Producers of such projects recognize that in order to participate fully in the new media world, children and adults need to be able to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms.

Over the past two months, on the Center for Social Media's Public Media 2.0 Showcase, we profiled a series of such initiatives, examining in particular how project leaders evaluate their impact.

While there has been some controversy over semantics, for the purposes of this series, we used the term "digital and media literacy," which encompasses the foundations of traditional media literacy while emphasizing the importance of access to and informed use of digital tools. These types of programs help people to create their own media messages, participate in cross-platform civic dialogue, recognize and evaluate the messages implicit in media, assess the credibility of news and information sources, and understand the risks and responsibilities associated with social media and media production.

Strong, national support for digital and media literacy initiatives is currently lacking -- both in the public broadcasting and educational sectors. However, innovative programs are popping up across the country, sometimes in unexpected locations.

Snapshots from the Field

Our series examined initiatives from diverse sources, including public broadcasting stations, non-profit organizations, museums, schools and federal agencies, all designed to help users become fully engaged media consumers and producers. Each of the initiatives had a different focus (building students' journalism skills, recognizing hidden advertisements, bringing public media to underserved communities, etc.) They took place in person and online, in school and community-based settings, and in both kid- and adult-focused arenas. Five of the most interesting projects included:

  • The PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs: This program, which recently completed a successful pilot year, pairs high schools with public media professionals in order to create investigative video reports. The program combines digital and media literacy, media production, news and current events and journalism education and includes a flexible curriculum developed by Temple University's Media Education Lab.
  • Admongo: Last year, the Federal Trade Commission launched Admongo, an online gaming initiative aimed at helping 8- to 12-year-olds "become more discerning consumers of information." The centerpiece of the Admongo campaign is a single-player online game in which users navigate everyday settings, searching for hidden advertisements. The project includes an accompanying curriculum, developed by Scholastic. While Admongo provides a fun new way to look at advertising in the classroom, it is lacking in meaningful engagement, as it doesn't encourage students to critique or analyze advertisements so much as recognize them.
  • Common Sense Media: Common Sense Media recently released a new K-12 curriculum focused on digital citizenship. According to the Common Sense Media website, this curriculum aims to "teach students to be responsible, respectful, and safe digital citizens." The curriculum focuses primarily on digital ethics and responsibilities, using engaging classroom activities to tackle issues like privacy, cyber-bullying, online identities, and copyright/fair use.
  • City Voices, City Visions: City Voices, City Visions, a program from the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo, provides summer professional development institutes for middle and high school teachers. These sessions educate teachers on how to incorporate digital video into their classrooms in both interdisciplinary and subject-specific settings. Teachers use handheld digital videocameras and basic editing software to turn academic concepts into familiar video formats and work with the City Voices, City Visions team to create appropriate classroom assignments, evaluation rubrics, and sample videos.

At the Center for Social Media, we are using our examinations of how these projects are assessing themselves to inform the evaluation of a project the Center has been incubating: the Public Media Corps (PMC), a public media and community engagement initiative from the National Black Programming Consortium. A service corps model, the PMC aims to increase both broadband adoption and public media creation/use in underserved communities. Last year, 15 fellows worked with Washington, DC, community organizations and public media stations to create a series of engagement models, which combined media production, media access and civic engagement. CSM will be releasing a report on the results in May.

Evaluating Media Literacy Projects

DigitalandMediaLit2.jpgAs with public media engagement projects, digital and media literacy initiatives face a challenge when it comes to evaluating success. There are currently no standard tools for assessing baseline digital and media literacy skills -- although in her white paper, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, Dr. Renee Hobbs strongly advocates for their development. She notes that "there are so many dimensions of media and digital literacy that it will take many years to develop truly comprehensive measures that support the needs of students, educators, policymakers and other stakeholders."

Because the initiatives we looked at varied so much in scope and size, each took a slightly different approach toward evaluating programmatic success. Not every organization we profiled implemented a comprehensive evaluation plan. However, many of them did, and some key themes emerged:

1. Set clear and ambitious goals, and assess against them: It is important that digital and media literacy initiatives move beyond "raising awareness" and move instead toward
empowering users to make their own meaningful choices, critiques and content. For example, Admongo does not go far enough in allowing users to evaluate and analyze the game's advertisements, nor does it offer users much in the way of content creation. Successful digital and media literacy initiatives must set goals beyond awareness-raising, and evaluate their success based upon clearly-defined criteria.

2. Evaluate both media literacy and media production quality: One of the major tensions in evaluating youth and community media production initiatives is the extent to which media production values should be considered. Leah Clapman, director of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, noted that, as the program progressed, program leaders moved away from evaluating the production values of student projects and towards measuring what students have learned in the process. City Voices, City Visions is able to negotiate this tension with a multi-pronged evaluation strategy. Students are judged in class primarily by how well they convey academic concepts through video, but an annual film festival showcases high quality student productions, as determined by external judges.

3. Evaluate both teachers and students: Staffers from almost every initiative we talked to expressed that feedback from both teachers and students is necessary in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of how well a given project worked. Both Common Sense Media and City Visions, City Voices, for example, combined student assessments, teacher interviews and case studies. Dr. Suzanne Miller, director of City Voices, City Visions, stressed that evaluating teachers beyond the confines of teacher training institutes is key, as "not enough research follows teachers out of professional development institutes and into the classroom."

4. Examine a variety of data: While most of the data collected in these projects was qualitative (a potential problem for some funders), it took many forms, including case studies, teacher and student interviews, and student pre- and post-assessments. Some of the data was collected through less traditional methods: the teachers involved in the PBS Student Reporting Labs spent a day in Washington, DC to discuss and debate the program and analyze strengths and weaknesses with external evaluators. Most of the programs hired external evaluators at least for part of the analysis, which helped to ensure depth of analysis as well as objectivity.

PMCToolkit.jpg5. Share evaluation data with the field: Many of the programs are planning on publishing evaluation data in order to inform best practices. Common Sense Media plans on sharing video case studies on its blog. The Public Media Corps published a toolkit outlining the lessons learned from the program's pilot year. This toolkit is designed for use by public media stations looking to implement similar programs but can also be employed as a general guide for community-based media programs. The Center for Social Media will also be working with PMC leaders to release a more comprehensive evaluation next month.

It is this last point -- sharing information -- that may be the most crucial for measuring the success of digital and media literacy initiatives. Developing shared best (and worst!) practices and lessons learned through smaller-scale media literacy programs will help to ensure the development of the field and the success of future programs.

Katie Donnelly is Associate Research Director at the Center for Social Media at American University where she blogs about the future of public media.

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March 31 2011

18:10

March 15 2011

22:16

Why Missouri's J-School Should Rethink Its Approach to Twitter

Do you check the official Twitter feed for the Missouri School of Journalism on a regular basis? Probably not, based on its dismal number of followers.

As of today, the official Twitter account of Mizzou's J-School had just 630 followers. That is a far cry from most other top journalism schools and a negative reflection on our own.

How does the Mizzou J-School Twitter feed compare to other journalism schools? Well, let's look at how many people follow the Twitter accounts of a randomly selected sample of top undergradate and graduate J-Schools across the country:

* Columbia University: 5,624
* Arizona State University: 4,893

* University of Southern California: 3,826

* University of North Carolina: 3,047

* Northwestern University: 2,312

* New York University: 1,988

* University of California - Berkeley: 1,107

* University of Kansas: 549

* University of Illinois - Urbana: 301

Why Twitter Matters for J-Schools

As students at the Missouri School of Journalism, we're familiar with the J-School's reputation as one of the top journalism schools in the country. For years, Mizzou has sat comfortably at the top, alongside universities such as Columbia and Northwestern. But because we are a school that prides itself on innovation in online media, why is it that our Twitter efforts are lacking?

At least we have more followers than arch-rival Kansas... but not by much. And that's important: The number of followers is the most objective way to measure the value of the content one posts on Twitter. Simply put, the Missouri School of Journalism does not have many followers because it is not posting enough valuable information.

A quick look at the Missouri Journalism School's feed reveals that its tweets are made up entirely of press releases. They're about J-School students and professors winning awards and other news that boosts the school's reputation. This information is important to include, as Twitter is a great public relations tool. At the same time, press releases can be boring, and unless one is mentioned or knows someone who's mentioned in the release, most people on Twitter won't bother to read them -- or, it turns out, follow @mojonews.

Plus, the feed has had a measly 15 tweets since the Spring 2011 semester began, so Mizzou students can hardly count on Twitter to keep up with the happenings in the J-School. Maybe that's why just a month and a half after we began publishing J-School Buzz, a blog about the Missouri School of Journalism, our Twitter account already has 931 followers, about 300 more than the journalism school's.

How Other J-Schools Are Using Twitter

Columbia Journalism School uses its Twitter feed to remind students of workshops and lectures as well as to publicize content that its students have published. It even engages in conversations with students, sometimes @ mentioning them and responding to their comments. Its Twitter presence is friendly, interesting and consistent, with about two tweets per day.

The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications has a similar approach. It also retweets students and other UNC accounts on a regular basis. One can read tweets about upcoming events, view students' work and even find links to internship and job opportunities.

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The University of Southern California's Annenberg School has one of the most conversational Twitter accounts I saw, with an average of 10 tweets per day. It uses the hashtag #ascj, for Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism. Students, alumni and professors have joined in, so it's easy to communicate. They even encourage prospective students to use the #ascj hashtag to chat with current J-School students.

New York University's J-School does such a good job of filling their Twitter feed with interesting content that it took me a full five minutes of scrolling through tweets to find an actual press release.

More than just Content

Of course, the relationship between Twitter followers and the quality of content or interaction is not a direct one, as the millions who've read @charliesheen can attest.

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In the case of J-School Twitter accounts, the size of a J-School program or its location may matter.

But look at Columbia University: Its graduate program has only 400 students. By comparison, Mizzou's J-School has a combined 2,300 journalism students in its undergrad and graduate programs. Yet Columbia's Twitter feed has about nine times as many followers.

Of course, Columbia benefits from being located in America's largest city, so it's likely that it has a following in the community beyond its Morningside Heights campus. That's certainly not the case for UNC's J-School in cozy Chapel Hill, which had a population of only 54,492 people in 2007. @UNCJSchool has thousands more followers on Twitter than the University of Missouri, despite Mizzou's location in Columbia (2010 population: 108,500), a city nearly twice the size of Chapel Hill.

A Twitter Model for J-Schools

Like many other typical college students, checking my Twitter account is one of the first things I do when I sit down at my computer. And because we spend so many of our waking hours (and some of our non-waking ones) in the J-School, it's only natural to expect more communication from it.

I want to visit @mojonews and find links to students' work, reminders about club meetings, and announcements of speakers and films being shown in the J-School. These are the kind of tweets we feel obliged to send out at J-School Buzz because @mojonews does not. I want to see links to relevant news stories and other content that students would find helpful and interesting. The Mizzou J-School should be using social media not just as a mouthpiece for its own achievements, but also as a learning tool for students.

Suzette Heiman, director of planning and communications for the Missouri School of Journalism, maintains the J-School's Twitter account. Heiman says the account is used primarily as a publicity tool. And while including more information on Twitter is a good idea, it's more complicated than it sounds.

"It's a matter of how it's going to be monitored, and having proper organization," said Heiman.

Currently, J-School students receive relevant news and information via email. Heiman says for the foreseeable future, that system will remain in place.

How do you think the University of Missouri School of Journalism can better use its social media? Let us (and the J-School) know in the comments below, or better yet, tell them yourselves on Twitter.

*****

Jennifer Paull is a senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in convergence journalism and minoring in psychology. She is also the social media editor for J-School Buzz. While journalism is her first love, after graduation she plans to pursue her masters degree in school counseling.

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A version of this story originally appeared in JSchoolBuzz.com, a site dedicated to reporting the latest news and analysis about the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Founded in October 2010, J-School Buzz is produced by current J-Schoolers. You can follow JSB on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

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March 10 2011

16:30

What John Keats Can Tell Us About Teaching Journalism

Perhaps it's because I've got a Ph.D. in English and a background in print journalism, but when I consider the state of the press today, it brings to mind the poet John Keats' idea of negative capability. In a letter he wrote to his brother in December 1817, Keats described the concept as "when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."

Comfort when faced with conflicting ideas, or ambiguity, is required today of any thoughtful consumer of journalism. How can I get the news the way I want it while also doing right by the struggling industry which produces and delivers it? My hard-copy newspaper on the stoop downstairs waiting for me in the morning? Paid apps and podcasts? Browsing the mobile web?

These are questions I weigh when immersing myself in media. As a reader, I love 5,000-word-plus narrative pieces. But I also love Chrome with multiple newspaper tabs open, and Facebook and an aggregator in the background. As a professor, I fear that I'm a member of the last generation who has the luxury of switching between mediums and genres this easily. And as a citizen of a partially functional democracy, I'm concerned that something's been lost in the 24-hour news/spin cycle, in the excessive meta-analysis-as-news, and in our push toward brevity.

When I set about designing the syllabus for "Journalism in the 21st Century," a course that I'm teaching for the first time this semester at City University of New York, I measured these concerns against the obvious possibilities of new media. As the introductory course in our new journalism minor, it prepares students who don't necessarily consume media critically for further courses in writing, editing, and digital media production.

As I rode the subway into Manhattan one morning in January with a still-damp copy of the New York Times in one hand, and the Guardian offline reader running on my iPhone in the other, I thought about the course. Then I pondered the death of print and how I'd treat it in the curriculum and embraced "negative capability." This is the bifurcating world that our students are reading and writing in, and it presents new challenges and new rewards that are practical as well as theoretical.

Originally, I wanted to strike a balance between craft-based, nuts-and-bolts writing, and media studies or mass communication and culture-style analysis. However, as the spring semester approached, the media ecosystem and the global political order were changing rapidly and were, seemingly, intrinsically linked, and I began to refine my focus, or tried to.

An Evolving Curriculum

In light of this connection, how do you teach a subject evolving as rapidly as journalism? Particularly when assumptions that we've made for generations about the relationship between the press, democracy and capitalism are being challenged domestically and on the global stage? I planned to begin the class by assigning as a textbook The Death and Life of American Journalism by Nation contributors Robert McChesney and John Nichols. But, given recent events, it felt counterintuitive to teach a new media course out of a book. So I pushed the text back to after Spring Break, and decided to teach "Journalism in the 21st Century" as the 21st century happened in real time.

By the second week of class, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt were deemed the Facebook Revolutions, and WikiLeaks was revealing the unsavory opinions diplomats had of dictators in the Arab world, whose people were now rising up against them.

When I asked the class to consider the efficacy of social networks as vehicles for activism and news dissemination, 4chan came up. We read a great profile of its founder, moot, and a piece on trolls.

As Mubarak's regime tottered, we read an academic article recommended by a colleague called Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Networked Society by Manuel Castells. He charted the rise of two-way "mass self-communication," and suggested that new media's subversive potential lies in its ability to work horizontally rather than vertically as the legacy media does.

The Role of Social Media

In Egypt, social media mobilized millions -- outside the hierarchy of the state-run media -- and Mubarack fell. Or did it? We read an article about the revolution's careful planning and execution. Then we learned how Mubarak turned off the Internet. This raised questions not only about the role of social media in the so-called Facebook Revolutions but also, closer to home, about the implications of Sen. Joe Lieberman's bill to give the President similar power over America's vast web network.

The Internet "kill switch" lesson digressed into pre-Internet online history. I recounted the bulletin board systems of my youth, in which a guy had a bunch of modems in his basement, and you'd dial in and hear the handshake, and be treated to ANSI art, grainy monochrome pornography and Anarchist's Cookbook-style bomb-building instructions. This was the pre-Internet/pre-Sept. 11 world, and it felt naively dangerous.

I referred to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's previous incarnation as a hacker, and suggested he should find a way to make a news delivery system that was dictator-proof.

A week or so later, I talked to an electrical engineer friend and pushed this admittedly polemical idea to the point of absurdity. I envisioned torrent-style news packets running over Bluetooth or Internet-less LAN in urban areas. Or small capacity disposable flash drives or old-school CD magazines sent by snail mail. Or low wattage pirate digital television stations sending Flash videos over the airwaves to be reassembled covertly by Xbox or PlayStation.

Yes, paranoid, but in the face of grasping totalitarian states, perhaps we need a way to future-proof the news that is modeled on pre-Internet social networking and magazine publishing circa-1989. Particularly in soon-to-be-emerging democracies where the Open Society Institute is investing heavily in journalism education.

What does it all mean?

While watching the revolutions unfold in the Middle East, and teaching a course parsing the media's relationship to those revolutions, I've been reminded that our primary modes of getting the news aren't necessarily fail-safe. The 161-year-old magazine Harper's is slowly folding, a content conglomerate Demand Media is now worth more than the New York Times, and the nation's foremost media critic is Jon Stewart, a comedian on basic cable.

At the same time, though, recent events -- from the coverage of the Arab uprisings to the AOL buyout of the Huffington Post -- have revealed the paradoxical robustness and frailty of new media. I can't help but think that given this fickleness, for news that's not breaking, and that requires detail, subtlety, or a capacity for ambiguity, then there might still be a place for print, or at least for some sort of hybridity.

Or it could just be that I've read too much Keats.

Devin Harner is an assistant professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York where he teaches journalism, film, and contemporary literature. His recent scholarly work has included essays on Chuck Palahniuk's non-fiction; on the film Adaptation's relationship to Susan Orlean's, "The Orchid Thief;" and on virtual time travel through YouTube. He is currently at work on a piece that treats Buddhist philosophy in Richard Kelly's film, "Donnie Darko."

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February 24 2011

18:18

How to Integrate Social Tools into the Journalism Classroom







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

It's difficult to deny that social media platforms are changing the face of modern communication. Online tools are a growing part of how news is sourced, published, and consumed. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt demonstrated the importance of social media literacy for journalists.

Yet integrating social media into university classrooms can be a daunting task for many journalism educators. Professors are typically required to use clunky online systems for grading and communicating with students. It's an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. These awkward systems don't inspire creativity, enrich collaboration, or instill a passion for experimentation -- all of which are required to survive and succeed in a rapidly changing media industry.

This post will examine a few innovative uses of social media that journalism professors are trying out in the classroom. Not every tool is appropriate for every class, but there are undoubtedly ways in which most instructors can find room for at least some of these ideas.

Facebook

Yes, Facebook can play a significant, positive role in the classroom. And no, professors don't have to become "friends" with their students to make use of it.

Facebook Groups provide a place where students can post ideas, links, and even photos or videos. When one uploads content to a Facebook group, neither the action nor the information shows up on a person's wall. It remains completely within the walls of the group.

Facebook Group Interaction

The main reason to use a Facebook group is that students are already there. They don't have to remember another log-in or remember to go visit "the class forum." It fits seamlessly into their lives. It takes very little effort to click "like" or add a comment to a classmate's idea. This fact alone encourages more interaction than other platforms.

Groups come in three varieties: open, closed or secret. "Open" groups are public, "closed" groups keep content private but allow others to see its list of members, and "secret" won't show up anywhere.

I recommend "closed" groups for classes. This gives students a private space to speak and makes it easy for others to join. Simply send a link to a closed group and others can request to join. (For more on Facebook Groups, read this excellent post by Jen Lee Reeves, who teaches at the University of Missouri.)

Facebook Pages are used by news organizations to share stories and even to find sources for stories. Journalism instructor Staci Baird has her students manage San Francisco Beat as part of the Digital News Gathering class at San Francisco State University.

"I want my students to get used to trying new things, thinking outside the box," she said. Other benefits Baird cited included "real-world experience" and thinking of Facebook in professional terms.

After you create a Page, you can add students as admins by entering their email addresses. This gets around having to add students as friends in order to invite them to participate.

Group Blogs

Blogs are a great way to expose students to online writing and basic web publishing. Students can post assignments for teachers to see, and the overall blog can contribute reporting to the local community.

Tumblr Screenshot

Tumblr has been in the spotlight recently for its rising popularity. It is elegant in its simplicity, standing somewhere between a Twitter feed and a WordPress blog.

Mashable community manager and social strategist Vadim Lavrusik uses Tumblr as the primary vehicle for the Social Media Skills for Journalists class he teaches at Columbia University.

"Because Tumblr is a social platform, other members of the community are able to follow and keep up," wrote Lavrusik in a recent post.

Each student has his or her own account and can contribute to a collaborative Tumblr that combines everyone's work.

Posterous is similar to Tumblr but has a few key differences. Its signature feature is the ability to post text, photos, or video by simply sending an email. Posterous also offers moderation and group blogs.

Educator Wesley Fryer posted a detailed screencast on setting up a moderated class blog.

Staci Baird also used Posterous for a mobile reporting class. She said some students were able to use smartphone apps while others could still post via email.

WordPress

WordPress is another free blogging platform. There are two ways to set up WordPress blogs. The simplest way is to create an account at WordPress.com. It's fast and free, but also limited in terms of customizing its look and features.

Through WordPress.org, the source code can be downloaded and installed on any independent web server. This opens the door to extensive customization. Because it's open source, it allows web developers to create a rich library of free plug-ins that enhance the core components. Journalism professor Robert Hernandez recommends the BuddyPress plug-in to add social and collaborative features. Plug-ins are not available for WordPress.com accounts.

Some universities may allow WordPress installations on campus servers, but others have more restrictive IT policies. In this case, teachers may need to pay for a domain name and web hosting to run an independent server. It typically costs around $10 per year to register a domain name; server space to host a blog costs around $5 a month.

Hernandez runs his class blogs from a personal web hosting account. Multimedia lecturer Jeremy Rue uses the WP Super Cache plug-in to optimize the server load for self-hosted WordPress blogs.

Social Curation

As newsmakers engage on Twitter and Facebook, it's important that students know how to collect and annotate these messages. Storify, Curated.by and Keepstream all allow users to gather and embed social media messages for use in blog posts and articles.

As I was gathering ideas for this article, I asked journalism educators on Twitter about their use of these tools in the classroom. I collected their responses using Storify.

Storify screenshotWhile Storify and Keepstream are designed around discrete collections of content, Curated.by is geared more toward ongoing curation.

For that reason, I suggest using Curated.by for student coverage of live events or for long-term collaboration. Another useful feature is that it allows multiple contributors to work together on the same collection.

Storify does allow users to share accounts as "editors," but I don't recommend this because it gives students full access to edit all content in each other's accounts. The privacy features in Curated.by allow users to limit access to specific projects.

Collaborative Writing

Google Docs allows multiple contributors to write at the same time and track revisions. This service is simple and popular.

But beyond Google Docs, a cluster of collaborative writing apps may have a more practical use in class. In addition to allowing multiple contributors, they record detailed keystrokes. This means you can replay the entire writing process.

As an example, I used iEtherPad to draft this article (you can watch me write it by pressing play). In math classes, students must show their work. Why not require students to show their writing? (For another example of collaborative writing on iEtherPad, check out this story by Mark Glaser on MediaShift.)

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping, or structured brainstorming, helps organize ideas based on their relationship to other elements. There are several free mind mapping applications, but one in particular offers a useful feature for the classroom: online collaboration. And like the collaborative writing applications, Mind Meister records all actions.

I used Mind Meister to begin a class on multimedia journalism. I asked students to define journalism, describe multimedia, and organize how each element related to the others. The mind map tracked the updates as we talked about various definitions. It was fun for them to interact with each other, and it kept them engaged from their workstations rather than watching me write on a whiteboard.

Experimentation

Journalism educators need to lead by example and experiment. It's OK to try something that doesn't work perfectly. No tool is perfect. In six months, the sites mentioned here will inevitably be upgraded with new features. What's important is inspiring students to apply their journalistic curiosity to exploring how new social tools can further their storytelling.

If you have experience using social services like these in the classroom, I hope you'll share your perspective in the comments.

Nathan Gibbs teaches multimedia journalism as an adjunct instructor for Point Loma Nazarene University and the SDSU Digital and Social Media Collaborative. Gibbs oversees multimedia content as web producer for KPBS, the PBS and NPR affiliate in San Diego. He played a key role in the station's groundbreaking use of social media during the 2007 Southern California wildfires and continues to drive interactive strategy. Gibbs is on Twitter as @nathangibbs and runs Modern Journalist, a blog for journalists exploring multimedia.







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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February 18 2011

21:30

UPIU Mentors, Publishes Student Journalists Around the Globe







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

Suleiman Abdullahi was recently an eyewitness to the birth of the world's newest nation.

In early January, the 20-year-old Kenyan journalism student flew to Juba, Sudan, to cover the massive referendum responsible for the creation and upcoming independence of South Sudan. As Abdullahi wrote, he arrived in the prospective nation's capital city with a travel visa, a press pass, a story budget, and a 48-hour window to interview, observe, and report upon "the history that was about to be made."

By the end of his first day, he was under arrest.

Abdullahi was part of a two-man student reporting crew hired by UPIU, a student journalism project run by the United Press International news service. UPIU is an emerging player in the college media and journalism education arenas. Its website features a self-publishing platform for news stories and multimedia journalism projects posted by students around the globe.

More than a platform

The most standout aspect of UPIU: It does not just publish content by students; it provides classroom workshops, story editing, and one-on-one mentoring to help their pieces sing. The students who take advantage of its services undergo what UPIU senior mentor Krista Kapralos calls a "mini-internship experience."

It currently partners with more than 30 schools in roughly a dozen countries, leading to a cluster of student-produced stories touching on things such as Kenyans and antibiotic resistance, Moroccans and Christianity, the Chinese and homosexuality, and Egyptians and a revolution. The UPIU motto: "Mentoring Student Journalists Worldwide."

"We want to leverage UPI's solid reputation to attract aspiring journalists and improve foreign coverage," said UPIU Asia regional director Harumi Gondo. "I've not encountered another program that has such direct communication and relationships with journalism schools around the world."

No contracts are signed. UPIU does not collect any revenue from the posted stories. Students retain ownership of their work and are free to submit elsewhere. In the meantime, their content is vetted by professionals and considered for pick-up by UPI. Since its creation in late 2008, more than 2,300 stories have been published on the site. More than 100 -- roughly 4 percent of all submissions -- have been approved for placement on UPI.com.

Extra Help in the Classroom

UPIU transparent-grey-logo 225.jpgI can personally vouch for its potential. I have incorporated UPIU into multiple sections of my news reporting classes at the University of Tampa to mostly positive results. The process is five-fold: 1) an introductory video chat with each class hosted by veteran journalist Kapralos, who oversees UPIU's initiatives in Africa, Europe, and the Americas; 2) an optional video session in which students pitch story ideas; 3) a critique from a UPIU mentor on subsequent story drafts students post to the site; 4) a video chat round-up with Kapralos commenting on the quality of submissions overall; and 5) revisions by the students based on the feedback from Kapralos and, of course, their professor.

Students' involvement with UPIU ultimately helps underscore the lessons I am teaching them -- if nothing else, the importance of a news hook, timeliness, editorial collaboration, and three-source minimums.

It also has served as the platform for award-winning work. In fall 2009, Michigan State University student Jeremy Blaney earned a Religion Newswriters Association honor for his reports on local Muslim issues that were published on UPIU and, soon after, UPI. The headline of one of his pieces, which touched on the intersection of Islam and technology was, "You're a Muslim? There's an App for That."

"When you're on our site, you're not only seeing students practicing journalism," Kapralos told a news-writing class during a recent video chat. "You're also seeing a lot of really groundbreaking work. And you're seeing it through a lens that you don't always see through the New York Times or CNN."

Lunch, Without the Education

One prime example involves peeling potatoes. Unbeknownst to many Westerners, a government program in India requires public schools to provide a hot lunch for all students. Since its roll-out roughly a decade ago, scattered stories from professional news media have been mainly glowing, focused on the positives of children eating at least one decent meal a day in a country where poverty and hunger are rampant.

It took a local student journalist -- and five days of editing oversight by a UPIU mentor -- to help present the truth. Shiv Sunny, a student at New Delhi's AJK Mass Communication Research Center, built upon his personal knowledge of the required lunches and close proximity to numerous schools to uncover the program's underbelly. In some schools, the teachers are the individuals required to receive the food shipments and prepare the meals -- forcing them to spend hours each day cooking, mixing, and peeling essentials like potatoes and carrots in place of teaching.

As Kapralos explained it, "The story our student found: Yeah, the students are getting lunch, but they're not getting any education because their teachers are spending literally the entire day in the kitchen." Another problem: Hungry students often attend school just for lunch, and then skip out on the learning.

Krista225.jpgAdmittedly, some students treat UPIU similarly. They use the site to gain a web presence with panache and ignore the professional mentors' editing feedback, leaving their articles' factual inaccuracies and grammar slips in public view. The operation also still screams young and scrappy rather than streamlined, at times seemingly run solely on the hard work and sheer tenacity of Kapralos. And the site's story template is somewhat restrictive -- sporting the same look for every piece and an accompanying photo slot that is a bit tiny.

According to Kapralos, template changes, multimedia add-ons, and paid freelancing opportunities are in the works. The latest call, which is for student reports on Internet infrastructure, access, and control, offers $100 for selected stories.

Back in Juba

The first major freelance initiative was the Sudan assignment, which spun into action quickly as hopes for the referendum became reality. UPI president Nicholas Chiaia was a strong advocate of hiring students as stringers for the seminal event.

"He really sees the value in student journalists and he is not one to turn them away simply because they have minimal professional experience," said Kapralos. "He's the one to say, 'We need to utilize students, if there's a way we can do it that equates to responsible reporting and provides quality work.'"

Kapralos contacted two student journalists in Kenya whose previous work impressed her: Abdi Latif Dahir and Abdullahi. She assigned Dahir to Nairobi, where he covered the referendum voting of Sudanese refugees. She asked Abdullahi to fly to the story's geographic center, Juba.

Along with his "fixer" (a local guide), Abdullahi boldly charged into the international reporting gig. He describes competing for stories with "thousands of foreign correspondents, each one eager to thrust their cameras and microphones at every passing local." At times, Abdullahi employed his "rudimentary Arabic" to interview residents who did not speak English.

Just before midnight on the day of the big vote, he went downtown to see if anyone had begun lining up. There, he said, an "extra cautious" security force detained him and demanded a curfew.

"You are welcome to do your work here and we appreciate you, but you must be indoors by midnight," the police told him. "After midnight, we really cannot guarantee your safety and we don't want your government breathing down on our necks."

In Washington, D.C., Kapralos was holding her breath. She had been trading messages with Abdullahi non-stop. He had been turning in all his reports on time. Suddenly, he had gone quiet, and a story deadline had passed.

"As an editor, it's one thing to have a story go missing in the melee of a major breaking news situation," she recalled. "But when the breaking news story is in a region of the world where violence has been a way of life for decades, and when what you've lost isn't a story, but a reporter, stakes are high."

Fortunately, Abdullahi was released a half hour later, unharmed, and went back to work. He ultimately earned three UPI bylines, reporting on the guns, flags, billboards, long lines, traditional folk songs, and ink-stained fingers of voters that comprised the spectacle of the historic referendum.

And along the way -- like his reporting partner Dahir -- he experienced his own unforgettable journalistic coming-of-age story.

"Seeing tens of thousands of people line up under the scorching sun with such zeal is a scene that is hard to describe," Abdullahi wrote soon after flying home. "When it's all done and the seemingly inevitable decision of secession is made, we'll be able to say that we were there when they became a nation."

Dan Reimold is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Tampa. He writes and presents frequently on the campus press and maintains the daily blog College Media Matters, affiliated with the Associated Collegiate Press. His first book on a major modern college media trend, Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution, was published this past fall by Rutgers University Press.







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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February 17 2011

16:45

Blizzard Builds KOMU Community with Mobile Video, Facebook







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

I've always dreamed of a time when my community could come together with the help of our on-air and online collaboration. All it took was a blizzard to make it happen.

Mid-Missouri was hit with a blizzard-like storm that dumped 17.5 inches of snow into Columbia, Mo., and even more south of the city. The entire viewing audience of KOMU-TV was home and stuck inside. An ice storm had threatened to cut power across the region, but that didn't happen. Instead, the community was snowed in with power to their computers and high speed Internet connections. They were contained and ready to be engaged.

The KOMU newsroom was ready. The staff is a mix of professional reporters and journalists who are still students at the Missouri School of Journalism. The managers of the newsroom -- who, like me, are also faculty members -- encouraged the students to step up and help out in the coverage of what was looking to become an epic storm.

About 40 faculty, staff and students essentially lived in the newsroom to make sure all of the newscasts got on the air. I gathered up multiple teams of reporters, who were then placed into different communities. Each team had a really nice camera and at least one person had an iPhone, Android or Blackberry phone that could shoot video and/or Skype. I had the reporters download a set of tools that would help them tell multimedia stories about their locations and how those smaller towns were dealing with the heavy snow.

My recommendations were:

While we didn't use all of them, I wanted to make sure we were ready and able on all kinds of platforms.

Videos on the Scene

The reporters went out to their various locations, found a hotel, and got ready. As the day went on and the snow fell harder, the mobile reporters went out into the storm. They were looking at scenes no one else was willing to travel out to see -- like what a closed interstate highway looked like:

My favorite was taken the morning after the storm when one of our student reporters hopped onto a snow plow to survey the bad road conditions:

While the reporters were out sharing their stories of the snowstorm, our viewers were at home watching every link, video, and live broadcast. When the majority of the storm was over, the KOMU 8 viewers took over by sharing many of their own stories about the storm. Our newsroom has an email address that accepts moderated photos into a Ning network. Hundreds of photos were sent to KOMU -- and that was in addition to the more than 620 photos posted to the KOMU Facebook wall.

The fan page was the centerpiece of our online interaction during the storm. A year ago, KOMU had fewer than 500 "fans" on the page. Before the storm, it was up to 3100. After the storm, it was up to 5500. Our newsroom has yet to use contests to encourage fans to join our page so this jump was huge. Along with the increase in fans, more and more people join in on the conversations and share on the page.

Big Moment for Sharing

This is what I've always craved as a journalist working in a regional market. It's exactly the sort of interaction I've taught my students to foster for years. I have always wanted open the line of communication and sharing with my news audience. This blizzard was the first time I really had that opportunity.

During the storm, I lived on my computer. I commented and reacted to every discussion for at least 36 hours. I slept very little.

My experience was not unique for the staff. My husband, who also works in the newsroom, and stayed there for two days while I worked from home with our children. I had student employees who slept at the station and worked with me throughout the storm.

It was awesome and exhausting. But the relationships formed during that storm seem to be holding. In the two weeks since the storm, KOMU's Facebook page has only had about ten "fans" leave the page.

The downsides? The amount of user-generated content we gathered was overwhelming. I wanted to make sure we had opportunities to share all it. Our anchors did stories about the content viewers had shared, and we featured the images and video by showing off an iPad on the air. I also had my students create collections of the photos our viewers uploaded. Here's our Blizzard Kids collection:

The best moment? I'd say it was when our team found a woman and her son digging out the reporters' car. They were compelled to help by a Skype conversation during our newscast about how the reporters' car had been buried at a local hotel. The mother and son, who were staying there at the time, left their room just to help the reporters get their car out of the hotel parking lot:

What lessons did we learn? That when you have a chance to engage, grab it. We used mobile tools to report and encouraged our viewers to do the same. We shared, we compared, and we were a true community on-air and online. I would suffer through a hundred more blizzards if it meant we could continue to share and collaborate like we did during this one.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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