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January 17 2012

10:10

10 reasons Ph.D. students fail

"Read on for the top ten reasons students fail out of Ph.D. school." This is a GREAT list! I think it's missing one thing: (11) Focus on your teaching/TA duties to the detriment of your own research.

September 04 2011

18:50

"Figure it out, you won't have a choice" - social media in the academic curriculum

The Atlantic :: For the last several years, teaching social media has been reactionary, found either in non-matriculated night classes for the working professional or in business schools for the budding marketer to learn and hone his or her online and social marketing skills.

"Some people were affected directly in their everyday lives by this thing called social media," says Mihaela Vorvoreanu, an assistant professor of computer graphics technology in the College of Technology at Purdue University, who teaches a doctoral level research seminar in social media. "They had to figure it out. There was no choice about it. They had to learn about it." So they went back to school to learn how to create Facebook campaigns, how to incorporate SEO best-practices, how to blog, and how to create social media strategies.

[Josh Sternberg:] as social interactions and technologies mature, there has been a swing in the pendulum. Professors are now approaching the teaching of social media from a pedagogical perspective, as much as a practical one.

Continue to read Josh Sternberg, www.theatlantic.com

July 13 2011

06:55

For j-schools? - College offers scholarship for Twitter "essay"

USA Today :: That's the price of a full scholarship, and that's exactly what a student hopeful can win in a contest the universit has dreamed up that takes electronic communication to a new level. The University of Iowa is asking prospective students to submit a 140-character tweet in place of a second essay. It is "an attempt to make students get to the point quickly and to improve their social media skills."

Continue to read Luke Kerr-Dineen | Natalie DiBlasio, www.usatoday.com

March 04 2011

12:05

Further your Knowledge of ICT4D at the University of London

A great educational opportunity - MA in ICT for sustainable development at the University of London

The ICT for development (ICT4D) programme is a new strand within the established and highly successful Master course in Practising Sustainable Development at the Royal Holloway, University of London. The new Masters tries to balance out the proportions between the research and practice and it is designed for those who want to launch or further their careers as development practitioners or scholars.

The University is looking for the people with a good academic background in a field related i.e. natural or social sciences, and/or considerable professional experience in the development and environment protection field.

Read more about the programme and apply

January 20 2011

16:39
09:37

September 16 2010

15:48

NCTJ accreditation: essential or an outdated demand?

The value of industry body accreditation in journalism has been at the centre of debate this week, following a meeting of the NCTJ’s cross-media accreditation board last week, where members raised concerns about the impact of potential education funding cuts on the journalism industry.

Quoted in a report from the NCTJ Professor Richard Tait, director of the Centre of Journalism Studies at Cardiff University, argued that accredited courses must be protected in the face of cuts.

While the NCTJ is quite right to insist on sufficient resources and expertise so that skills are properly taught and honed, education is a competitive market, and NCTJ courses are expensive to run. In the likely cuts ahead, it is vital for accredited courses to retain their funding so that they are not forced to charge students exorbitant fees; otherwise, diversity will be further compromised.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk about his comments further this week, Tait said he was voicing real concerns that courses which meet industry standards may be more at risk because of their expense:

There has been a huge expansion of courses about journalism and about the media, but not all of them are accredited. These are not real journalism courses, they are journalism studies courses. There’s nothing wrong with them at all, some of them are very good courses, but they are not a professional training of journalists.

It’s really important that whatever happens to journalism education we protect those courses that provide this professional training of the journalists of the future.

If you’re running a journalism course that does not have a digital newsroom, does not teach videojournalism or students how to report online or what podcasts are, what’s the use of that? Some universities have invested heavily in these areas. But when money gets short people will say “do we really need this digital newsroom, do we need to teach shorthand etc”. There is a danger of people saying “frankly bad courses might be cheaper”.

Just days after the meeting, Brian McNair, former professor of journalism at Strathclyde University and now working at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, happened to discuss his decision to pull Strathclyde’s journalism course out of NCTJ accreditation in 2008 in a post on allmediascotland. His comments, which were picked up by media commentator Roy Greenslade, have since prompted huge debate about the value of the body. In his post McNair said accreditation is not enough:

In a world where (…) the supply of traditional journalism jobs has fallen by as much as 30 per cent (and those that remain are scandalously low-paid), the high flying journalist of the future needs more than NCTJ certificates in Public Affairs and Media Law to get on. He, or she, needs talent, imagination, a spirit of independence, an understanding of IT and social networking and their impact on media, culture and society in general; everything in short, that the NCTJ curriculum squeezed out with its relentless stress on externally-decreed learning by rote.

Many, maybe most, successful journalists never passed an NCTJ exam. NCTJ-certified journalists are being sacked, perhaps as I write, sometimes by editors who sit on NCTJ boards and declare their allegiance to the “gold standard” of training. The old world of print journalism in which the NCTJ was formed is passing into history, replaced by content-generating users, citizen journalists and all those journalistic wannabees who make up the globalised, digitised public sphere in the 21st century.

But while Tait reiterated McNair’s call for talent to be the measure of a journalist, he insisted that accreditation is a vital tool for students:

The problem is that there are a huge number of courses which have got the magic word journalism in them. If you’re a student and you’re looking at this multiplicity of courses and trying to work out what one is up to a certain standard, that’s absolutely essential.

What you’re already seeing in journalism is that it is becoming a profession where who you know is becoming more important than what you know. It should be about talent. I think that if you don’t have the accreditation process, the rigorous approval of courses by accreditation bodies, how can the students work out what to do?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments or by voting in the poll below:

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August 24 2010

11:52

The value of a journalism degree

Recently I came across an interesting new blog called Wannabe Hacks. (@wannabehacks) It’s a group blog from three people all taking a different route in to journalism. It’s an interesting idea and one worth watching.

So it was a nice coincidence to see my name, along with Paul Bradshaw in one of their tweets.

@digidickinson @paulbradshaw Can anyone tell us the perceived perks of an undergrad journo course over doing non-journo degree? skills etcAugust 20, 2010 2:35 pm via webwannabehacks
Wannabe Hacks

An interesting question. Any answer I give is bound to be viewed as biased. After all teaching undergrads is what pays my mortgage. But I’m going to give it a go.

Any discussion about the ‘value’ or ‘perks’ of a degree in general will always stray in to the area of the inherent value of a university education.

I enjoyed David Mitchells take on this in the Observer. I liked this summing up in particular.

Except in the case of a few very vocational degrees, university isn’t about what you learn on the course, it’s about how that learning, how living and studying somewhere new, changes the way you think and who you are. Instead of forcing kids to make binding career choices at 17,higher education is supposed to give students who would benefit from further academic development a bit of space in which to find themselves. People who are allowed to do that, statisticians have noted, tend to earn more than those who aren’t.

There is so much I agree with there. But I found myself nodding at the line “students who would benefit from further academic development”.

University is not for everyone. Not because some people are not capable or intelligent enough. It should be just one of the environments that are available to encourage and develop people. Of course the shame of it is that for a good while a University has become one of the only environments to develop. No more apprenticeships or on the job training any more – especially in journalism. Worse still they seem to have been steadily belittled and undervalued in recent times.

That means good journalism degrees have found themselves in that ‘few’ that Mitchell talked about. They are vocational courses, training people to work in journalism because, increasingly journalism orgs won’t.

That is one of their greatest ‘perks’.

I won’t go as far as to say that journalism undergraduate courses are the ‘best of both worlds’. But a good course will give you all the skills you need and the time to experiment with them in an environment that is geared towards your experience. A chance to find yourself, yes. But also a chance to develop skills and find your voice.

But (and this is a big but) there is cost to a degree. It’s not just in the very real and important issue of money. It’s in the amount of time and effort you put in.

Given three years in which to establish yourself and prepare for work, you have to keep an eye on where you want to go. At some point university is going to finish, so what are you doing to give yourself some ‘exit velocity’

Perhaps you are starting a hyperlocal news site or blog about your experiences. Maybe you have joined journalism.co.uk’s young journalism group TNTJ. Perhaps you write for your local newspaper or do shifts at the local radio station. Maybe you even work on the student media at your uni. All of that takes time. Time you could be in the bar finding yourself. But that’s journalism.

So, given my biased position, I think the perk of a journalism degree is time. You have three years and if you are outward looking and engaged nothing you do will be wasted.

The other side
In saying all of that I don’t want to give the impression that I see Journalism degrees as the only way to become a journalist. The idea of taking a first degree in a subject like economics or law and then doing a postgraduate in journalism is one I think has a huge amount of merit. As does going through the front door and getting a job with a media organisation or even starting your own blog/publication/podcast and building an audience. Plenty of people would advocate the university of life route over a journalism degree
. But then the it always suprises me what skip-loads of extraneous horse-droppings get talked about the whole issue these days :)

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August 14 2010

10:07

February 01 2010

17:00

What is journalism school for? A call for input

[I've asked Seth Lewis, a former Miami Herald editor and smart journalism professor-in-training at the University of Texas, to join our cast of occasional commentators here at the Lab. One of his primary focuses will be looking at the changing world of journalism schools. Here's an introduction. —Josh]

Last year saw no shortage of future-of-journalism conferences. But if 2009 was dominated with talk about business models for news, perhaps 2010 will be the year we hear more about education models for news.

The ongoing discussion of pay models has led us to think more critically about forms of press subsidy — to recognize that all journalism is subsidized to some extent, that each type of subsidy comes with its own kind of strings attached, and that journalists of the future will have to be more proactive in understanding sources of funding or finding ways to innovate their own. All of that talk is healthy for journalism.

Likewise, a wider debate about journalism education might lead us to ask some soul-searching questions, beginning with the existential one: What is journalism school for, anyway? If j-schools historically looked to the industry for leadership and jobs for their graduates, how should they orient themselves now? What happens when much of our journalism education has been built up around the “newsroom paradigm” of training 20-somethings to operate in a traditional organizational setting — at a time when media work (of all kinds, not just journalism) is increasingly individualized, temporary, and precarious? Even more, at a time when the future of higher education itself is in major flux, what becomes of journalism education’s place in the university and society at large?

These questions have been on my mind lately since I was invited to join the Lab as a contributor covering the evolution of the j-school. I won’t profess any more expertise than my own experience in j-schools (as an undergrad, and now as a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas), as well as the perspective I’ve gained recently after touring several major j-schools as a candidate on the academic job market. I had intensive two-day interviews at three schools, all major programs in different parts of the United States, and also engaged in half-hour phone interviews with another four programs, most of them of the Big J-School variety.

In each case, my interviewers posed a question that went like this: “What should we be teaching today?” This wasn’t a loaded question, a guess-what-the-teacher-is-thinking sort of test. They sincerely wanted some fresh ideas, as it was clear that just about every school is grappling with curriculum reform.

So, what do we teach?

After fielding that question at least a dozen times, I finally settled on this talking point: It’s about adaptability. We’re never going to find the silver bullet, so instead let’s teach students to be flexible — to work in unpredictable settings, to generate their own funding as needed, and otherwise learn as they go. We can do that by using a curriculum that is similarly flexible, adaptive to technological and cultural trends in society even while it retains bedrock values of truth-seeking and fairness.

That plan is imperfect, of course, but it’s a start. Looking ahead, I hope to draw on the wisdom of others in blogging about what j-schools large and small are doing for 2010 and the uncertain future beyond. For starters, I’m reaching out to the deans and directors at the 12 schools funded by a multimillion-dollar Carnegie-Knight initiative on journalism education to see how these schools — arguably the biggest players in the field — are responding both to the contractions among legacy media and the opportunities for growth elsewhere.

But, in the meantime, I would also like to hear from all of you, readers of the Lab: What should the 21st century journalism school look like? Would it have a more DIY focus to prep students for freelance careers? Take a more project orientation, as in Jay Rosen’s Studio 20? Focus on teaching the right mix of analog and digital skills, as Ryan Sholin suggests? Or try to become part of the wider academic curriculum — a sort of “journalism school for all” general-education requirement, as Dave Winer recommends?

What are your ideas? Drop them in the comments, or if you think there’s something I should cover in a future post, e-mail me directly at sethclewis@gmail.com.

Photo by Fabrice Florin used under a Creative Commons license.

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