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April 09 2013


How I Created the Ultimate Tweet with Text, Pictures and an Audio Report

Typing 140 characters and adding a link or photo is so 2010.

Too many news organizations merely place web or broadcast content on a Twitter screen and press tweet.

Why not create content for mobile devices tailored to the way people use their smartphones and tablets, as well as the devices' benefits and limitations?

Using the same content for broadcast, online, and in social media is not only repetitive and boring, it fails to take into consideration the mechanical and behavioral differences between a person watching TV, listening to the radio, reading a web story, or fidgeting with a phone or tablet.

Television news organizations have had decades to figure out how best to tell a story. Online journalists now know how to build multimedia pages that encourage the user to click on several elements to paint a complete picture.

So the question is, "How can I produce rich content that's best experienced by a person on a smartphone?

My answer? The Ultimate Tweet.


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First, consider how people digest content on smartphones or tablets -- generally in small doses, and while doing something else.

Having the ability to stream an entire movie on a phone is nice, when you have two hours to kill at an airport. But the reality is, that's not how most mobile users receive content.

Mobile users typically grab glances at their small screens often, while walking, sipping coffee, stopped at traffic lights, or behind their computer at work.

Don't create content that requires a phone or tablet user to scroll through and navigate your mobile site, searching for elements to click.

Instead, look for a way to provide the most content with the fewest numbers of clicks.

That's one of the reasons Vine is so popular -- its 6-second videos roll without a single click, once the video is centered on your phone screen.

But there is a better way for a reporter to produce nuanced, journalistically sound content.


My ultimate tweet contains 120 characters of text, three pictures, and a fully produced audio report, absorbed simultaneously, requiring a single click by the mobile user.

The user experience should feel familiar to any music lover who has listened to vinyl or a CD, while reading the liner notes and studying the pictures -- it all works to paint a complete picture. Here's a video explaining the process:

The PicFrame app (99 cents) in Apple's iTunes Store or Android's Google Play allow you to quickly build a montage of photos from your camera roll.

After creating the montage, you can post directly to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, or save the image to your own camera roll for future sharing.

I've found three images is enough to allow users to get an overview, or zoom in for details of a particular photograph, without making each image too small.

The challenge is: how to allow the smartphone or tablet user to see the photo montage and hear the audio report, without requiring a second click on a link within the tweet.


Enter SoundCloud, available for free for both Apple devices and Android.

SoundCloud allows a user to quickly upload a fully produced audio report to his or her SoundCloud account, which produces a URL that can be tweeted or otherwise shared.

The only problem: SoundCloud's mobile app doesn't currently allow a user to upload both audio and a photograph.

The workaround I figured out is to upload your photo montage as your SoundCloud Profile photo.

Once you've uploaded the montage, a single click allows the user to see the photo montage, and simultaneously listen to the audio report.

Unlike a video, which requires a user to watch the smartphone or tablet, the SoundCloud report can continue in the background while the user tweets, uses Facebook, writes email, or surfs the web.

See? Content created on a smartphone or tablet, to be consumed by a multitasking person on the go.

This story was adapted from a shorter post on Neal Augenstein's iPhoneReporting blog on Tumblr.

Neal Augenstein is an award-winning reporter with WTOP-FM and wtop.com in Washington, D.C. Since Feb. 2010, he's been the first major-market radio reporter to do all his field reporting on an iPhone. He lectures and consults on mobile and multi-platform journalism. Last year Neal and WTOP donated his iPhone to The Newseum . Neal is a frequent contributor to CBS News Radio. On Twitter, follow @AugensteinWTOP.

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August 20 2012


Red & Black Lesson: Students Must Balance Business Needs at College Papers

There are no winners in the mess at the Red & Black. But there are lessons.

The Red & Black at the University of Georgia has long been regarded as one of America's finest college news operations. The students' journalism is consistently first class, and publisher Harry Montevideo has a track record as one of the sharpest business minds in the industry. (Disclosure: Montevideo has been a mentor of mine.)

But last week, a clumsy board memo became public, suggesting students focus more on "good" stories and granted more editorial control to professionals. Student editors resigned in protest. And Montevideo scuffled with a reporter at an open house. Montevideo has since issued a written apology for the scuffle and the board member who wrote the memo has resigned.


How could things go so wrong? And what can the rest of us who work in college newspapers learn from it?

On the face of it, the dispute rests on whether students or professionals "control" the editorial content. Certainly, student control is central to the mission of student media. But the reality of running an independent, self-supporting college newspaper in the digital age is more nuanced than just who controls content.

Boards, editors and publishers must figure out how to evolve from the 1990s model of a journalism lab funded by an advertising monopoly to a 2010s model of a media company fighting in a hyper-competitive market.

"Every paper in the country wrestles with that: How do we deliver what you need to know vs. what you want to know?" said Barry Hollander, a professor at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

"If I knew the answer, I'd be a consultant ... I have no idea what the answer is, and I have my doubts about anyone who says they know what the answer is. We're all trying to feel our way along."

From lab to business

College newspaper boards and publishers must figure out the business model while still giving students the editorial freedom that they deserve and without compromising traditional journalistic values and ethics. In some ways, it's a more complicated balance than professional newsrooms where the publisher and owners get the final say on all business and editorial decisions.

In the 1990s model, college newspapers offered students and advertisers the only option for news and a local marketplace. That opened up a river of revenue that subsidized student-led newsrooms and provided nearly limitless journalistic freedom. I was a product of that system at the Oregon Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon in the late 1990s. It was the most fun I've had in journalism.

But I will be the first to admit, we occasionally produced some silly, unprofessional and self-absorbed journalism. In that model, it didn't matter. We practiced the skills we learned in class -- writing, sourcing and beats -- and didn't have to bother with advertisers, rates and readership.

But those days ended long before Myspace.

In the 2010s model, college newspapers offer one option among dozens. They compete against Facebook, Google and Twitter for students' time and advertisers' money. For many newspapers, readership and revenue are down 25 percent or more from the peak in the 1990s or 2000s.

Boards and publishers stare at those trendlines and seek solutions. But they also know they have no direct control over the most important piece of the operation: the content.

Different models at different schools

Each independent college newspaper confronts that challenge differently.

"It's the same as it has always been: education, training, persuading, suggesting. Some combination of all of those things," said Eric Jacobs, general manager for 31 years at The Daily Pennsylvanian.

At the Red & Black, the board believed the newspaper needed more professional oversight, especially online. "You've got to have people there to guide these things," Elliott Brack, the board's president, told the Student Press Law Center. "Each one of those takes its own professional."

But the students believed they were being forced into assignments that were more public relations than newsgathering, including "grip and grin" photos during sorority rush week, said Evan Stichler, the Red & Black's former chief photographer. "I think they were looking at it more from the marketing and advertising standpoint of getting viewers," he said.

At UCLA's Daily Bruin, director Arvli Ward is building a digital advertising network completely divorced from the newspaper. So far, his staff has built 60 mobile apps. His goal: to generate enough advertising revenue to subsidize the student newsroom.

"The monopoly that we owned was not on distributing dead tree products around campus, it was the advertising monopoly," Ward said. "That's what we have to regain. When we regain that, we can funnel money to our newsroom and let students do what they do. It's not going to be The New York Times, and sometimes it's going to be off color, but that's what makes a college newspaper interesting."

At the University of Oregon's Emerald, where I now work again, our student editors went on strike in 2009.

Students walked out after a consultant to the board drafted an organizational chart in which the publisher would oversee the student editor. I advocated for and later chaired an Editorial Independence Committee to protect the newsroom's editorial independence.

But my perspective evolved when I became publisher of the Emerald and was accountable for the company's financial performance. I still believe that students must retain editorial control. However, I also see the need to ensure student editors run the newsroom in a way that fits with the company's long-term business goals. It's a delicate balance that is now reviewed at least annually by an Editorial Advisory Committee led by a former Emerald editor in chief and editor at The Oregonian.

The sense of urgency is intense for independent college newspapers. Now, more than ever, college newspapers need tighter working relationships among news editors, business leaders and board members.

Or as Stichler, the former Red & Black photographer, put it: "Stick to your principles. Have some standards between board, editor and staff people ... You have to make sure everyone is in agreement."

Ryan Frank is president of the Emerald Media Group, formerly the Oregon Daily Emerald, the independent nonprofit media company at the University of Oregon. He blogs at thegarage.dailyemerald.com.

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August 08 2012


College Media Year in Review: 9/11 Anniversary, Paterno, RGIII, Sex & Satire

As student journalists across the country gear up for another academic year, it's worth looking at the most impressive feats of the last year in college media.

Over the past academic year, student news teams put together a number of editions -- in advance and spur-of-the-moment on deadline -- geared toward remembering or highlighting major anniversaries, athletic achievements, campus icons, big events, and even s-e-x.

They appeared as full-blown print issues, pullout sections, digital-only PDFs, digital-print hybrids, and temporary special websites.

Below is a sampling of the most high-profile, controversial, editorially impressive, and aesthetically innovative 2011-2012 student press special editions. They are listed in order of their publication or posting, beginning last fall and stretching to late June.

9/11 10th Anniversary Issues

Near the start of fall semester, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, many student newspapers published special editions or sections. The papers used the milestone as motivation for a look at how the country and their campuses have changed. They also provided glimpses into the lives of current students, who comprise what is being called the 9/11 Generation.




As Indiana Daily Student editor-in-chief MaryJane Slaby wrote to readers on the front page of the first of two related IDS special issues, "We are Generation 9/11. For the last 10 years, 9/11 has shaped our lives and the world around us. Most students on campus have lived half or more of their lives since that day in 2001 and barely remember life and world events before it."

Iowa State Daily Football Edition

Last November, the Iowa State University Cyclones staged a double-overtime, come-from-behind win against the then-undefeated, second-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. The historic victory included a narrowly missed field goal, a batted-intercepted OT pass, a calm-cool-collected redshirt freshman QB, fans storming the field and singing "Sweet Caroline" -- and a special digital edition of The Iowa State Daily, ISU's student newspaper.


As the paper's editorial adviser, Mark Witherspoon, recounted in a post-game message on a popular college media advisers' list-serv, roughly 20 staffers gathered to create the seven-page PDF "football edition." As he wrote, "The game was over about 11:30, they filled the newsroom by midnight, and worked until at least 5 or 6 a.m. ... to get the special edition out. It's filled with wonderful photos, wonderful stories, an editorial eating crow on the sports guys' wrong predictions, photo blogs, and digital highlights of the game."

Daily O'Collegian Honor the Four Issue

Late last November, The Daily O'Collegian at Oklahoma State University responded to a sudden campus calamity with a touching 10-page special issue. Articles, a poem, and a photo tribute focused on various details and reactions to a plane crash that killed the head and assistant coach of the women's basketball team -- along with an OSU alumnus and his wife.


In the issue, the O'Colly also reported on the tragedy through the prism of a similar one that affected OSU a bit more than a decade ago: a plane crash that killed 10 members of the Cowboys community. The memorial rallying cry for that event: Remember the Ten. The commemorative declaration this time around: Honor the Four.

Daily Orange Fine Mess Edition

Over this past Thanksgiving break, Daily Orange staff at Syracuse University quickly pulled together a special edition focused on a sex abuse scandal involving its men's basketball second-in-command, Bernie Fine. The eight-page issue detailed the allegations, the circumstances surrounding Fine's sudden firing, student, player, and alumni reactions, and the inevitable comparisons to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University.


A front-page editor's note shared, "The Daily Orange publication calendar did not include a paper for the Monday after Fall Break, but because of the developing story about Bernie Fine ... the editors at the D.O. felt it was important to have one. No advertisements appear in the paper to focus on content."

Collegiate Times At a Loss Issue

In early December 2011, a midday shooting and campus lockdown at Virginia Tech University brought back memories of the horrific 2007 shootings that killed 33 people. During that episode, The Collegiate Times, VT's student newspaper, provided tireless, innovative coverage unmatched by the outside media hordes that descended upon Blacksburg, Va.

Nearly five years later, on a late-semester Thursday, the CT again stepped up. As rumors and reports circulated about a fatal shooting and a gunman on the loose, staff turned to Twitter to tell the world what they were seeing and hearing and the trusted information they were receiving. They also interacted in real-time with students and other observers.

Collegiate Times1.jpg

The next day, the paper published a much-lauded special print edition. As the edition's lead story confirmed, "Yet again, Tech is shaken. Two lives are lost. And although life will go on for Tech students all too soon, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the heartache this campus has endured. It is worth taking a moment to think about how we move forward."

Baylor Lariat Heisman Issue

Also in December, The Baylor Lariat, the student newspaper at Baylor University, produced a special "Heisman Issue" to commemorate the selection of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III as the recipient of college football's highest honor.


The four-page edition included highlights from RGIII's historic season, reactions from Baylor students and alumni, and a glimpse at the Heisman voting results broken down by geographic region. As one of the three standout quotes featured prominently on the front page related, "This is a forever kind of moment."

Crimson White Championship Issue

In January, The Crimson White published a special 20-page edition to commemorate the University of Alabama's historic 14th national college football championship. The standout write-up in the issue: "Zero Hesitation," a rundown of how little outsiders had believed in the Tide a few months before the title run and how big the team played when the moment mattered.


As the piece began, "Zero. This word now has a special meaning for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Many believed the Tide had zero chance to make the BCS National Championship game after its loss to LSU on Nov. 5. Those same people pointed to the number of touchdowns scored between the two teams in their last meeting. However, when the clock struck zero, the only zero that mattered for the Tide was the one beside LSU on the scoreboard as the Tide shut out the Tigers 21-0."

Daily Collegian Paterno Edition

Near the start of spring semester, in the wake of Joe Paterno's death, The Daily Collegian published a special commemorative edition honoring the longtime Penn State head football coach. Related pieces touched on Paterno's upbringing and early coaching career, his devotion to family and charities, the reactions of his former players, and the scandal that overwhelmed his final days.


A number of the pieces were topped by quotes from Paterno. Among them: "If you don't want to be the best, then obviously you shouldn't be associated with Penn State football ... To live the good life, we have to make sure that others have at least a decent life ... With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Pitt News Sex Issue

Timed for release on Valentine's Day, the fourth-annual sex issue by The Pitt News dove with gusto into body issues, birth control, pornography, celibacy, first dates, and, as one staffer excitedly proclaimed, "lady boobs!" The overall perspective, embodied by a line in a featured column: "Human sexuality is as diverse as human beings."


In a letter to readers, editor-in-chief Michael Macagnone wrote, "The horizontal tango, making love, doing the deed: There's no doubt our society has many means of talking about -- and around -- intercourse. And for most of the year, that is what society focuses on: the act itself, leaving the vast majority of its effects and implications unstated. Today though, with the naked intent of Valentine's Day in promoting Hallmark sales, last-minute flower purchases, and romantic gestures all around, we're going to talk about sex."

North by Northwestern Dance Marathon Site

The lone digital outlet on the list: North by Northwestern. In early March, in honor of Northwestern University's uber-popular Dance Marathon, a 30-hour philanthropy party, the online news magazine created a special site. Updated in real-time throughout the event, it featured photos, videos, blog posts, tweets, crowdsourced responses from the student dancers, haiku poetry, and a tracking of one student's heart rate while dancing and another student's calorie intake.


As outgoing NBN top editor Nolan Feeny said, "DM provides us with an opportunity to do what we do best. We are able to be there the whole weekend and find ways to tell stories that we couldn't necessarily do with a traditional news format. It also allows us to show off our personality and our voice. The Daily Northwestern is a great paper, but I don't think they would be asking Dance Marathon students whether they would rather have sex or a shower four times that day."

Daily Free Press April Fools' Issue

In early April, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Free Press at Boston University was forced to resign following the publication of a print-only April Fools' issue that received immense reader criticism.

Spoof stories in the issue, dubbed The Disney Free Press, discussed Cinderella's alleged involvement in a prostitution ring, BU frat brothers slipping Alice in Wonderland LSD, and the dwarfs from Snow White participating in a group rape of a female BU student.


Critics condemned the content for perpetuating a campus rape culture and mocking victims of sexual assault. BU has been especially attuned to such issues due to recent campus events, including a high-profile scandal involving sexual assault charges brought against a pair of university hockey players.

In a letter posted to the Free Press website soon after the issue premiered, the newspaper's board of directors wrote, "We cannot apologize sincerely enough to all those who were offended by the inexcusable editorial judgment exercised in Monday's annual print-only April Fools' Day issue of the Daily Free Press ... Considering the events of this semester and the increasingly vocal, constructive climate of conversation about sexual assault and many other important issues on campus, much of the content of Monday's issue was incredibly harmful, tasteless, and out of line."

Daily Cardinal Anniversary Issue

In April, The Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin-Madison celebrated its 120th birthday with a resplendent special issue reflecting on its past and predicting its future. As the paper confirmed, "Since the 1890s, the Daily Cardinal has been a lens through which Wisconsin students have seen their world ... For the past 120 years, students have produced the Daily Cardinal through wars, protests, and tragedies."


Among the issue's highlights: a Q&A with an alum who edited the paper in the early 1940s (following an all-staff strike in the late 1930s over the firing of the executive editor for being Jewish); a full-page, two-story tribute to former staffer Anthony Shadid, who died earlier this year in Syria while reporting for The New York Times; and a piece from current executive editor Kayla Johnson headlined "The Next 120 Years."

Crimson White Tornado Reflection

In late April, a year after "one of the deadliest, costliest, and most widespread tornado outbreaks ever to hit the United States" struck Tuscaloosa, The Crimson White at the University of Alabama put together a comprehensive multi-platform news package reflecting on the storm's impact and the challenges CW staffers faced covering it.


The three-pronged effort: a temporary special homepage featuring content from a year before and the present, including 10 new web-only articles and a few multimedia projects; an ads-free commemorative print edition with more than 20 storm-focused features; and a 15-minute documentary video outlining the staffers' natural disaster reporting experience. The doc's title: "Harder Than We Thought."

The print edition included individual spotlights on how different communities are coping with the long-term aftermath; reports on how other areas hit by tornadoes in recent years are coping with their recoveries; and a story mentioning that pieces of an art professor's sculpture caught within the swirl of the tornado have been found as far away as Georgia.

University Press BOT Special Investigation

In May, The University Press at Florida Atlantic University unleashed a special issue that oozed investigative awesomeness and revealed some unsavory, ironic truths about those in power at the Palm Beach County public school.


The issue's aim: providing the down-low on the FAU Board of Trustees, the 13-member body that holds ultimate sway over the university's infrastructure, finances, and future. UP staffer Karla Bowsher unraveled "so many bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, liens, and lawsuits in our trustees' pasts that I needed another researcher [James Shackelford] to get through it all -- and an entire issue of the newspaper to cover it all."

Ubyssey Return Yearbook

Also in May, The Ubyssey at the University of British Columbia published a commemorative yearbook for 76 Japanese-Canadian students who were forced off campus and held as "enemy aliens" during World War II. It provides a fascinating history about both the school and the affected students.


Page after page after page features people whose lives were forever altered by a decision made during a moment of "frantic military mobilization." Timed to appear at a UBC ceremony presenting the former students -- living and deceased -- with honorary degrees, it was titled simply, "Return."

Daily Emerald Revolution Site

The web address: future.dailyemerald.com. The one-word header atop the homepage: Revolution. And the tagline just beneath it: "The Oregon Daily Emerald, reinvented for the digital age."

The student newspaper at the University of Oregon -- best known for its five-day-a-week print edition -- is morphing into a more wide-ranging, digital-first "modern college media company." On a special site that went live in late May, publisher Ryan Frank and top editors outlined a number of major new initiatives that will be rolled out in full force this fall.


Among them: a print issue that will appear twice per week, with new size, design, and content specs; the creation of an in-house tech startup and a separate marketing and event services team; and a ramp-up in "real-time news, community engagement, photo galleries, and videos on the web and social media."

As Frank shared in a MediaShift post soon after the site premiered, "We're about to close the book on the Oregon Daily Emerald. After 92 years, the University of Oregon's newspaper will end its run as a Monday-to-Friday operation in June. Yes, it's the end of an era, and we're sad about that. But it's also the start of a new era, the digital one."

Daily Collegian Sandusky Issues

In mid-June, a special issue of The Daily Collegian appeared on newsstands across PSU and State College, Pa., focused on the criminal trial of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Due to the reduced summer publishing schedule, Collegian staffers were not planning to put out a print edition until month's end.


In a note to readers, the paper's editor-in-chief, Casey McDermott, wrote, "Call me old-fashioned, sure -- but I stand by the idea that there are certain moments that deserve to be documented beyond narratives told in 140-character bursts or minute-by-minute updates alone. This is one of those moments ... Until now, our coverage of the Jerry Sandusky trial since the end of the spring semester has been online-only. This has its advantages ... [b]ut we also wanted to note the start of this trial -- an event that's been preceded by seven of the most pivotal months in university history -- in a way that could serve as an all-in-one reference as the trial unfolds."

Along with recounting various aspects of Sandusky's first day in court, the issue featured a rundown of the main prosecution and defense arguments, individual glimpses at all the trial participants, a timeline of events, and pieces on the courtroom's social media ban and the withholding of the identities of some of the alleged Sandusky victims who testified.

Soon after, at the trial's conclusion, the paper published a separate special issue documenting the story behind -- and the implications surrounding -- the guilty verdict. In its front-page summation, the paper rightly hinted that the story is still undoubtedly far from over. As the piece stated, "Seven months since the first arrest, eight days of testimony, 10 stories of abuse, 21 hours of deliberation, and one verdict. What's next?"


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 student journalism industry blog College Media Matters, affiliated with the Associated Collegiate Press. His textbook Journalism of Ideas: Brainstorming, Developing, and Selling Stories in the Digital Age is due out in early 2013 by Routledge.

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July 27 2012


Student Journalists Go Global, Think Locally in #Olympics Coverage from London

Amid the thousands of professional journalists gathered in London for the start of the Summer Olympics will be a handful of journalism students with the unusual opportunity to work in school-sponsored teams to cover the high-profile games.

Several U.S. universities have launched new programs to bring journalists-in-training directly to the scene of the giant international sporting event, where they have set up working newsrooms to create content for news media partners, school outlets, and in one case, for the U.S. Olympics Committee itself.

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Boston University's College of Communication, for example, has created a six-week study abroad program that brings 14 journalism majors and grad students to London. They'll primarily be producing sidebar coverage of New England athletes for half-a-dozen media partners.

News outlets the BU team will be reporting for include Boston's CBS network affiliate WBZ TV and Radio. Boston.com, MetroWest Daily News, WBUR's Only a Game, and other outlets in Providence and Worcester, Mass. The BU students will also tweet to their own Twitter account, and post to their own website, which launched July 25.

"We're trying to teach real reporting...It's a great exercise for the students," said Susan Walker, an Emmy Award-winning TV journalist who teaches at BU and is supervising its London newsroom. "The idea is to give them a great education in how to cover an international event, cross-platform."

[DISCLOSURE: I'm a graduate of Boston University's journalism program, but have had no formal and little informal contact with the program since graduating 30 years ago].

Putting games in context; covering 'backyard heroes'


The student team -- made up mostly of broadcast journalism majors, with a few print journalism majors and one or two photojournalists -- will operate as a multimedia newsroom for the partner sites and its own outlets, Walker said. That means tweeting, blogging, and filing video reports, still photos and audio slideshows, as well as written articles.

Walker also added that the first three weeks of the program were organized as a for-credit summer course into the history, politics and issues surrounding the Olympic Games, with the final three weeks of coverage structured as working internships.

"Student[s] need to learn the context before they go out to cover [the Games]," she said. For example, students learned about the history of women in the Olympics prior to covering one of the first female members of the Saudi Arabian team. They also did classroom work on the Munich massacre, Olympic judges, doping, and presidential politics around the Games, to create long-form reporting projects prior to the start of the games.

But Walker said her team is focused on carving out coverage of Boston's "backyard heroes" at the games. One example is a video report on a Rhode Island boxer who barely missed making the U.S. team and must now decide whether or not to go pro. Another is a report on a local high school choral group that is raising money to go perform at the Olympics.

Walker is under no illusions her student journalists will get big stories that other journalists can't, if only because her reporters could not be credentialed by the International Olympic Committee.

But the challenge of sidestepping Olympics security has already been the source of much resourcefulness in the team's coverage, she added. For instance, students are getting information directly from Olympic athletes who are using social media to share their views on their housing, the Olympic Village, and more. They've also pigeonholed athletes crowding a nearby shopping mall in the days before the Opening Ceremonies. And numerous stateside interviews were also arranged, some with athletes even before they made the U.S. team.

Scripps program an 'opportunity to take risks'


A similar team of 16 students from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University has also formed an Olympics summer abroad newsroom in London, where they will be reporting for a school-sponsored news site and Twitter feed.

Hans Meyer, a one-time community newspaper reporter who now teaches online and multimedia journalism at Scripps, called the school's Olympics initiative "the perfect opportunity for students to take risks. They'll be in an environment where there are a wealth of stories and reporters. I'm urging them to tell different stories than all their counterparts."

His students will report a range of spot news, long-form features, and sidebars on local athletes, and he said he's encouraging students to use as many multimedia tools as possible to experiment with backpack journalism. The stockpile brought on the road include digital SLRs with boom mic attachments, digital audio recorders, and video editing laptops.

Meyer said, "I'm pushing them as much as I can to think differently about their work... I really want them to try something they haven't, such as video if they are primarily a writer, or social media tools, such as Storify."

Like their BU counterparts, Meyer said the Scripps students dedicated themselves ahead of time to researching athletes of local interest, along with issues affecting the games. As part of the preparation, they took a spring semester course covering Olympic history, issues and media coverage, and Meyer worked with them on web-first reporting approaches.

Also like BU, Scripps reporters lack credentials, something Meyers said almost derailed the program before he got offers of help to submit one-off media requests for individual events and was reassured by sports journalist alumni that there were many stories beyond officially sanctioned events; students just needed to keep their eyes and ears open.

For instance, Meyer said he and student Melissa Wells were on a tour bus that was diverted off a bridge, so the two of them jumped down to start reporting, and then put together a soon-to-be-published story on a London cabbie protest.

Meyer added in an email from London shortly after arriving and getting online: "The most important measure of success for me, and I hope for the students, is the experience. As a reporter, I attended only a handful of events where there was more than one media outlet present, but I always remember those events as good gauges of my reporting ability. I could compare my coverage against those of more seasoned professionals and identify what I did correctly, and on what I could improve. For students, I think this opportunity is invaluable. I'll consider the program a success if students come away knowing how they stand in their preparation for a journalism career."

Testing the waters at Olympics trials

Among other Olympics-related programs is one at Penn State, where the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism has a sent a team of five undergrad and grad students to London to produce feature material for the U.S. Olympics Committee's press service, as well as for a school outlet and as freelancers for news organizations (More here, plus a video).

Another initiative involved the University of Oregon. Prior to the games, the school's Daily Emerald had a small team covering the Olympic trials in Eugene, an experiment publisher Ryan Frank wrote about earlier in a PBS Mediashift column.

Frank explained that for the project, "Our big focus was local athletes, especially ones with UO ties. Most of the fans were from within our region." But he added that the team also tried to cover major news and tried to compete with the local professionals and the nationals for the big stories.

The project also aimed for a 50-50 digital-print mix, said Frank. One or two longer daily print stories were matched by a series of what he called short web-based "stub" pieces for each significant event as it concluded. He added that the team live-tweeted almost every development, that by the end it was live-streaming every press conference, and that it developed a stream of user-generated Instagram pictures of the action.

A. Adam Glenn is associate professor, interactive, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and a longtime digital journalist and media consultant. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn, and follow his Twitter feed. This monthly column draws liberally from conversations about digital journalism teaching practices on the online educators Facebook group of the Online News Association. The ONA Facebook group is currently a closed group but you can view ongoing conversations (see our group Q&A tracker), or join in via ONA membership.

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April 30 2012


Student Photojournalists Arrested; What Are Their Rights?

As student journalists increasingly arm themselves with mobile phones for multimedia newsgathering in the field, more may find themselves on a collision course with local authorities unenthusiastic about having their actions captured in living color.

A reminder of that comes in the pending criminal trial of Pennsylvania photojournalism student Ian Van Kuyk, arrested earlier this spring while shooting a routine traffic stop. That case and others like it also spotlight how important is for journalism educators to make sure student journalists know their rights and how to stand up for them.

Van Kuyk, a Temple University film and media arts major fulfilling an assignment for his photojournalism course, was reportedly left bloody and bruised after being arrested mid-March while taking pictures of police at a routine traffic stop outside his home in Philadelphia. He was arraigned on criminal charges April 16 and faces trial June 13.

The case has drawn the attention of free speech advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), according to the Student Press Law Center, or SPLC. The general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association wrote in protest to the Philadelphia police commissioner: "There is no excuse for your officers to intentionally disregard a citizen's right to photograph an event occurring in a public place."

And in a piece in Philly.com, Larry Atkins, a lawyer, journalism professor at Temple, and member of the First Amendment Committee of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, wrote that "while the public should be respectful of police and refrain from interfering with their work, officers must not harass citizens engaging in First Amendment-protected activity. The public has a right to photograph police activities in public spaces, and police officers must respect that right."

But the Van Kuyk case is far from the only instance of arrest and alleged harassment of student photojournalists tracked by the SPLC, which says prosecutions of those who record law enforcement activity appear to be on the rise.

Occupy protests spark round of arrests

For instance, several student journalists covering Occupy Wall Street-related events were arrested last fall -- among them two from colleges in Atlanta, and another from New York. They join the ranks of working journalists taken in during Occupy-related protests around the country (including Kristyna Wentz-Graff, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter whose arrest was recently written about extensively in Editor & Publisher).


Other examples abound. In late 2010, a California student photographer faced criminal charges after snapping photos of a car accident, and had police in his newsroom demanding the pictures be turned over. In fall 2009, two student photojournalists at the University of Pittsburgh were arrested, along with fellow students and other journalists at a G-20 protest. And in 2008, a Penn State student journalist was arrested and faced criminal charges after photographing a post-football victory riot at the school.

Sometimes, the confrontations are with campus police. In spring 2010, for instance, an Ohio State student photojournalist was detained by university police while covering the attempted roundup of two escaped cows.

More recently, students at Hunter College in New York have encountered harassment of student photographers by school security, according to a faculty adviser. After a photo of the harassment (see image) was posted on Facebook, the problem stopped, the adviser added.

The right to record is clear, but not absolute

So what should journalism educators teach student photojournalists about shooting police activities? Bottom line: They have every right to do it -- with some exceptions.

"Here's what [students] (and even more, the police) need to know," wrote Curt Chandler, a senior multimedia lecturer at Penn State University, who has had two student photographers arrested in the last five years and cited this passage from an ACLU briefing on photographers' rights in a recent exchange on the Online News Association's Educators Facebook group: "Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right -- and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties."

But there are limits, advised the SPLC. Students, for instance, need to beware of what may be considered interference with police operations. "[E]ven if there is a First Amendment right to photograph and videotape law enforcement officers, this right is not absolute," warned SPLC. "Actions that constitute disorderly conduct, refusal to follow lawful police directives, harassment, stalking, trespassing, or other similar crimes may result in criminal prosecution."

In addition, since many cameras record not just stills but also video and audio, student videographers may face different legal considerations around wiretapping laws -- a number of states require consent by both parties to have their conversation recorded. Those laws may be changing, however, in the wake of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last summer that helped settle a Massachusetts cell phone videotaping case in favor of the videotaper.

"Knowing your rights means knowing the law," emphasized Poynter's Howard Finberg, who offered up to student journalists and instructors a free self-directed NewsU training module, Newsgathering Law and Liability.

But some educators believe it's not enough to know the law. Student journalists must also be willing to assert the rights they have.

Steve Fox, multimedia journalism coordinator at UMass-Amherst, wrote on the ONA Educators group: "I don't think that students don't know their rights. They do. It's more a state of mind that is lacking. Students seem unwilling to challenge authority, challenge the status quo, challenge the party line, afflict the comfortable."

Added Fox: "More times than not, students faced with confrontation from authority figures become compliant -- all while fully knowing what their journalistic rights are. It's frustrating and a fundamental disconnect that I see with many young journalists of this generation."

What's your experience as a journalism educator or student journalist? Are student journalists willing to confront authority figures to assert their free speech rights? And do students actually know the nuances of their rights in covering police action or not? Do you know of other student journalist arrests or cases of intimidation of student journalists by police or other authorities during news coverage? What approaches does your school use to teach about photojournalist rights?

For more information on student free speech and photojournalism rights, visit the Student Press Law Center, which tracks freedom of speech cases involving student journalists, and offers extensive resources such as this legal guide for photojournalists recording police action, a student media guide to newsgathering, as well as practical tips for dealing with police when covering protests (PDF). (Hat tip: Andrew Lih of USC and Frank LoMonte of SPLC.)

A. Adam Glenn is associate professor, interactive, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and a longtime digital journalist and media consultant. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn, and follow his Twitter feed. This monthly column draws liberally from conversations about digital journalism teaching practices on the online educators Facebook group of the Online News Association. The ONA Facebook group is currently a closed group but you can view ongoing conversations (see our group Q&A tracker), or join in via ONA membership.

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April 23 2012


A Progress Report on a College Paper's Pioneering Metered Pay Wall

It was just over a year ago that a college newspaper in Oklahoma became a digital media pioneer.

In what was believed to be a first for a college news outlet, The Daily O'Collegian at Oklahoma State University began charging for online content. Sure, the Wall Street Journal, Times of London and other professional publications had already gone for pay walls, but college newspapers are known for being a free and readily available resource on campus and online. As one commenter put it when the news broke, "They might as well charge a million dollars."

Bloggers and media watchers shared the skepticism. Why restrict access to work by student journalists who need all the exposure they can get? Who would pay for student content? Should they even have to, given that student newspapers are more about training future journalists and serving a campus community than turning a profit?

The O'Colly's decision to charge was more of a "why not?" than a grab for riches or precedent. General manager Ray Catalino figured it was worth placing a value on the outlet's content, and said he'd be happy if 100 subscribers signed up in the first year.

With that year now up, how is it going? Was it indeed a pioneering move in the march to monetize online content, or another failed experiment in the wild west of the web world?

Of course, the answer isn't simple or even fully formed yet.

The Update


The O'Collegian worked with a company called Press+ to launch what both call a "metered system" in March 2011. After viewing three free articles within a month, readers outside a 25-mile radius of the Stillwater campus and without an .edu email address were asked to pay $10 for a year of unlimited access. Those who said yes will be automatically renewed each year unless they cancel.

Press+ launched in 2010 and counts media entrepreneur Steven Brill among its three co-founders. The company works primarily with professional outlets to monetize online content through donation solicitation and metered systems. (Brill repudiates the term "pay wall" because readers are usually given some free content before being asked to pay. Others just call that a softer pay wall.)

A year in, Catalino's admittedly informal goal of 100 paid subscribers was met and exceeded. On the one-year anniversary, there were 156 paid subscribers, and as of last week there were 177. Not a windfall, considering the paper has a print circulation of 25,000 and a regular online audience of 2,000, but enough that Catalino recently upped the annual fee to $15 for new subscribers.

There wasn't any national news on the OSU campus that might have lured a burst of new paid subscribers. They came slow and steady, never exceeding three per day. Looking ahead, Catalino has budgeted $3,000 to $4,000 in revenue from online subscribers for the next fiscal year -- again, a mere drop in the outlet's $700,000 budget, but a drop nonetheless.

"The pay wall to me is almost a no-brainer," Catalino said. "It's very simple to implement; it's basically a technical change, and the money comes in. And as long as you're providing good content, it continues. So it has very little cost, has a nice upside and very little downside, in my opinion."

So how is it going? Well enough that the O'Colly will keep charging, and might even further up the price if readers continue to show a willingness to pay. But it's no cash cow and likely won't be anytime soon.

The Impact

Once anathema in the wide open world of the Internet, the idea of charging for online news content is becoming more comfortable for publishers squeezed by plummeting print subscriptions, declining ad sales, and few other revenue options.

Press+ began with 24 clients. Another 300 have signed up since then, and still more are devising their own pay systems and seeing some success, the most prominent example being The New York Times. Those who sign up with Press+ generally pay a set-up fee of a few thousand dollars and hand over 20 percent of revenue.

The O'Collegian was the company's first college publication, but others quickly followed suit, including Boston University's Daily Free Press, the Kansas State Collegian and Tufts University's Tufts Daily. Grant money from the Knight Foundation covered the set-up fee for those that got in early, including the O'Collegian, but Press+ now offers colleges a 10 percent discount as an enticement.


Brill says college newspapers are not a huge business priority for Press+ and counts about 50 on the client list, but he predicts that more and more will turn to the company for help with either seeking donations (the option most current clients choose) or charging for online content.

"We wanted to seed the landscape there and have them benefit from it," Brill said of colleges. "We'll probably have twice the number today by next winter. It's worked well, and it's easy. It doesn't take any work on their part. It's found money."

Brill says the company's geo-location technology is crucial for college outlets because they can aim pay requirements solely at readers outside the campus community, preserving limitless access for students, faculty members, and local residents. If a mega-story breaks and a college newspaper wants full exposure for its content, it can exempt that coverage from the metered system.

The Implications

So the Press+ client list proves that at least some college papers are willing to ask online readers for money, and OSU's first year suggests that at least some readers are willing to comply. Neither addresses the question of whether student publications should make this move.

Dan Reimold, a journalism professor and student media adviser at the University of Tampa in Florida, wrote in January 2010 that college media "should ignore the siren song of pay walls." Why? Because as professional outlets increasingly wall off their online content, college media might become a viable alternative for readers, and because student journalists deserve maximum exposure for their work.

Reimold's opinion today is essentially unchanged. He applauds the O'Collegian for taking the lead on new ways to make money. And he obviously recognizes the significance of their decision to charge, because he broke the news of it on his blog, College Media Matters, in January 2011. But he worries about the long-term implications of a world in which online student content is increasingly restricted.

"I still feel strongly that it is not such an effective revenue technique that it should trump the main purpose of the student press, which is enabling students to get exposure for their work and hopefully join a larger conversation that will help them learn more about the process of reporting things to the world," Reimold said. "The learning vehicle aspect should trump the notion of restricting access."

Brill counters that his company has found no evidence that charging for content restricts the number of unique visitors to a site. If people don't want to pay, they might stop reading for that month, but they return the next month.

Personally, I'm not convinced that access to a student's work, and therefore valuable exposure for that student, remains unchanged in a pay wall world. How can it, when a reader might have read 10 stories but stops at five because he or she won't pay for more?

At the same time, I'm not sure the siren song should be avoided. Professional news publications must find new revenue sources to survive, and their online content does have value. If readers don't agree, that's that. But if they are willing to pay, and remarkably it looks like many are, then why not keep this trend rolling? And why not train future publishers, editors and reporters (not to mention consumers) that it's OK to put a price on such work?

Alexa Capeloto is a journalism professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York. She 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.

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April 20 2012


Facebook Groups for Schools Raises Concerns

The explosive growth of online social media sites specifically targeted at schools has compelled Facebook to edge its way back into the fertile ground of college campuses. Last week, the company announced a new feature available only to students and faculty with an active .edu email address, Groups for Schools. It's billed to be exclusive -- even alumni and perspective students aren't allowed in, limiting the scope of the groups and creating something that approximates the intimacy that was Facebook's strong suit when it first launched.

Groups for Schools is meant to network students in the same university community for social or extracurricular events, but also includes elements that make it useful as a study tool, like the popular platform Edmodo and a number of other similar sites that have cropped up. It allows students and teachers who are members of a group designated to a particular class, for example, to share comments on a class discussion and reading, as well as to share class materials like notes, assignments and calendars, up to 25MB.

The concerns

But just a week into its launch, red flags are already being raised. One of the main concerns that has not been addressed by Facebook is the potential liability that students, faculty, and universities might face for file-sharing through Facebook. Many universities are already cracking down on file-sharing through school-owned Internet networks, and Facebook's new tool adds yet another facet to the complicated question. Additionally, schools must consider intellectual property right issues. Facebook's terms and conditions specify that is has a transferable license to use any content associated with Facebook. Would that be the case for student-produced work? Facebook has not updated its terms and conditions to reflect the new product, so that remains to be seen.


Another complaint is that by creating Groups for Schools, Facebook is undermining apps already built by partner developers, like Inigral, which markets itself as a way for universities to increase enrollment and retention through social networks that meet student needs. Now Groups for Friends will offer almost the same service. Inigral founder Michael Staton says the company isn't too concerned about Facebook's new product because the more students communicate with one another, the better it will be for their business. But there is a sense that Facebook is an unwieldy landlord, who doesn't pay much attention to the innovations of others that use its platform.

A different conversation

Another criticism of Groups for Schools is that it doesn't inspire the kind of online discussion other education-related social media sites do. When Facebook tested the product at Oberlin College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio, for example, the students simply weren't active in groups that formed -- in some groups, the creator was the sole member, according to an e-campusnews article. One theory behind the flop at Oberlin is that Facebook is an escape for many students and they'd prefer to keep it unconnected to their academic pursuits.

One very noteworthy aspect of the new Groups for Schools is that it loosens the privacy settings so that any Facebook user with an .edu email address that corresponds to the individual university can be messaged. On the rest of Facebook's network, two users must be "friends" to exchange messages. While the new looseness in privacy settings might work out fine at a small school like Oberlin where people might even know each other in person, it could be more disconcerting at a larger school like University of Washington or Texas A&M, where much of the student body is just as much a stranger as any other random Facebook user.

Groups for Schools is still rolling out and will eventually be available at higher education institutions across the globe.

Thumbs up graphic by Flickr user birgerking

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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April 10 2012


Mercer Center for Collaborative Journalism Aims to Put the 'Lab' in 'Collaboration'

April 1 marked my first month on the job as director of Mercer University's new Center for Collaborative Journalism. While the center doesn't open its doors until August, and the bulk of the program starts in late 2013, I already feel the pressure.

The vision established by Mercer, the Knight Foundation, and our media partners, The (Macon) Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting, could hardly be loftier -- not only establishing a new model for journalism education but also helping to transform local communities and save democracy itself. But it is the very audacity of that vision that, in two weeks' time, spun me around from plans to move to New York with my favorite magazine conglomerate to accepting an offer in Macon, Ga. (not long after telling my wife that Atlanta was "just too small" for me).

The ambition of the program is backed by $4.6 million in grants from the Knight Foundation and enabled by a unique collaborative arrangement between a liberal arts program, a public broadcaster and a daily newspaper. The center itself occupies the ground floor of a new development and houses the newsroom of The Telegraph, a McClatchy paper serving the region, and radio and television facilities for GPB. Students will take classes in the midst of a daily newsroom and radio station; some will even live in housing set aside for them above the center.

Students Embedded in Newsrooms

At the heart of the academic program is an adaptation of the medical school model of education. Students will train in a working newsroom, alongside professional journalists, throughout all four years of the program. Class projects will be integrated with the work of our media partners and the center's own digital news outlet (modeled after the University of North Carolina's reesenews).

Students will contribute to background research, shadow reporters, file reports, engage the community with social media, and perform most duties expected of a professional journalist. They will leave the program with a full portfolio of professional bylines, radio reports, and multimedia stories. This clinical model and high degree of collaboration offers students a truly unique experience.

Media Partners Working Together

Out of the gate, the community will benefit from the collaboration fostered in the center. GPB is tripling its local reporter presence and launching Macon Public Radio, making Macon the only community in Georgia, outside of Atlanta, to have significant locally focused public-radio programming. The university's journalism department is doubling its size and bringing in professionals skilled in digital media. And the combined efforts of The Telegraph and GPB allow for improved coverage.

The benefits of having a combined radio/newspaper newsroom were reinforced in a meeting with Dan Grech, news director at WLRN, which has a similar collaboration with The Miami Herald. (I believe we're the second outlet in the country to pursue this model.) Dan credits that collaboration with transforming WLRN's news department, allowing them to cover the area much better, with up to a four-fold increase in productivity. With all of the resources brought together by the center, we expect similarly transformational results.

Collaborating with the Citizens of Macon

While the collaboration of media partners and the university will fuel the center, I believe much of its success will depend on extending that collaboration. Students will need to leave the "Mercer bubble" to engage the community in new ways. Fortunately, that process began years ago, when Mercer went from an institution isolated by fences to a partner in the revitalization of, and a force for social justice in, Macon. The College of Liberal Arts implemented an experiential requirement, which often involves community service.


For our student journalists to provide value and learn the real work of local journalism, they will need to view Macon as more than a stopping point on their way elsewhere. It will need to be their home and its citizens their collaborators in providing information, highlighting issues, and crafting solutions. Part of the center's grant provides for and requires two major community engagement projects each year -- projects where we seek the community's input on the issues most important to it and then work with our partners to investigate and report on those issues in depth.

The center will utilize tools such as the Public Insight Network, as well as low-tech, high-touch approaches, to engage the community in dialog. Various other community groups -- from a local television affiliate to the local arts alliance -- have already reached out to work with the center. Additionally, I envision working with local religious and civic organizations to get information to neglected segments of the community and to train their members in digital technology and media consumption.

Macon remains deeply divided along socioeconomic lines, with significant gaps in information dissemination and community attachment. By collaborating with existing organizations, the center has a real opportunity to help bridge the digital divide, close the information gap, and increase attachment.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The center is housed in Mercer's College of Liberal Arts, which offers many key resources for collaboration. When I was an undergrad, several journalists advised my fellow students and me to find specific disciplines to study and use journalism as a way to explore and talk about those subjects. That mindset will undergird our new curriculum, where various tracks will train students to be environmental journalists, business reporters, or critics of the arts.

Proper training goes beyond simple double majors. It requires joint efforts from the faculty to not only train students in the substance of these fields but also in the nuances of conveying specific knowledge to a general public and of staying on top of controversies and advancements in those fields. My vision for this type of integration tracks closely with the yearlong seminars that form the core of Columbia University's M.A. in Journalism.

Beyond those core curricular structures, I envision particularly close collaboration with schools and departments in areas at the heart of the disruption in, and the way forward for, journalism: computer science and engineering, design, business, and social entrepreneurship (another exciting new program at Mercer). In addition to formal training across these disciplines, faculty and students will work together to constantly experiment with new technology, designs, and business models.

The center aims to put the "lab" in "collaboration." Imagine a journalism graduate who understands the core terminology of web and mobile technologies, how to experiment with various solutions, and how to evaluate various business models -- or a computer science graduate who understands the language and needs of journalism and the core drivers of its economic models. Add to that, exposure to agile methodologies and a continuous deployment environment where experiments are routinely pushed out and evaluated. I can think of nothing more valuable to a graduating student or a potential employer.


When I started a month ago, I wondered if our moniker was broad enough (and modern enough) to contain our vision. Perhaps it should focus on "media" or "digital media" and point to innovation as its core. But I've come to regard "journalism" as capturing the civic responsibility at the core of our mission and "collaboration" as something much broader than the partnership between the university and our primary media partners.

Collaboration is the modus operandi that will power the transformation we seek.

Much of this vision has yet to be fleshed out in operational detail, and much work remains to actualize it. Success is not guaranteed. We need sharp students, willing partners, and the right structure. It seems we have the first two and are on our way to the last element. Undergirding all of this are remarkable energy and excitement throughout the university, our partners, and the community. It will take decades for our students to filter out into society and impact democracy, but it seems that a small transformation of those directly involved has already begun.

What are some examples of innovation in journalism education or media collaboration that we should examine as we build toward the vision I've outlined above?

Above photo by Flickr user Taber Andrew Bain.

Tim Regan-Porter is the inaugural director of the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University. Previously, he was co-founder and president of Paste Magazine, where he created Obamicon.Me and the Paste mPlayer. Prior to Paste, he spent a decade in web development as solutions architect at IBM's e-Business national practice and director of development at Enterpulse.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly described April 1 as the author's first day on the job.

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February 03 2012


Mediatwits #36: Facebook IPO Fever; Dive into Media; $30 Million to Columbia/Stanford

Welcome to the 36th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Dorian Benkoil, who is filling in for Rafat Ali. It's been a crazy week in media + tech, with Google privacy concerns, Amazon falling short in earnings, and much more. But the dominant news was Facebook filing for an IPO, with demand to read its S-1 crashing the SEC's servers. The startup had $3.7 billion in revenues, with $1 billion in profits last year, and showed tremendous growth in users and advertising. Can anything slow down the juggernaut on the way to raising $5 billion in a public offering? We talked to special guest Nick O'Neill, founder of AllFacebook.com, who was impressed with the user engagement on the social networking site.

This week was also the "Dive into Media" conference put on by AllThingsD in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Special guest Peter Kafka programmed the show and interviewed many of the top execs on stage. He told us about the challenge of interviewing Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, a former improv comedian, as well as the mix of old and new media at the show. Finally, Columbia University's Journalism School and Stanford University's Engineering School received a $30 million gift from Helen Gurley Brown to create a new Institute for Media Innovation, marking the largest gift in the history of Columbia's J-School. Has digital media now arrived? Has the revolution been institutionalized?

Check it out!


Subscribe to the podcast here

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:

Intro and roundup

1:30: Questions about Google combining privacy policies

4:00: Google, Amazon fall short in earnings

5:50: Rundown of topics on the podcast

nick o'neill.jpg

Facebook IPO fever

7:00: Special guest Nick O'Neill of AllFacebook.com

10:00: Dorian: Each Facebook employee bringing in $1 million in revenues

11:35: O'Neill: Probably more than 60% of ad revenues from self-serving ad system

14:00: 12% of Facebook's revenues coming from Zynga

16:00: Special guest Peter Kafka

18:20: Advertisers still not sure about ROI on Facebook

D: Dive into Media

21:00: D conference tries out a niche conference for media + tech

22:45: Kafka: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo can zing you if you're not careful

peter kafka dive into media.jpg

23:45: Great insights from Hulu, YouTube execs

$30 million gift to Columbia/Stanford

28:10: Attempt to bring data and journalism worlds together

31:00: Bill Campbell, "The Coach," is an adviser on the project

32:45: Dorian: Era of digital media is here

More Reading

Microsoft Attacks Google Privacy Policy With Ads, Gmail Man at TPMIdeaLab

Facebook's IPO Filing is Here at Business Insider

Sean Parker, Chris Hughes And Eduardo Saverin Dumped Their Facebook Shares at AllFacebook

Well, Now We Know What Facebook's Worth--And It's Not $100 Billion at Business Insider

Facebook's Ad Business Is a $3 Billion Mystery at AllThingsD

Reminder: The $5 Billion Facebook IPO Won't Make You Rich at Gizmodo

Facebook's $5 Billion IPO, By The Numbers [CHARTS] at MarketingLand

The Facebook IPO: billion-user ambition at a $1bn price at Comment Is Free

Facebook and Don Graham Have Been Very Good to Each Other at Forbes

Dive into Media coverage at AllThingsD

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo: We're Not a Media Company. We're in the Media Business. at AllThingsD

Hulu Boss Jason Kilar: Who You Callin' Clown Co.? at AllThingsD

Columbia J-School and Stanford Eng Nab $30M Joint Gift for Media Innovation From Helen Gurley Brown at AllThingsD

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time prognosticating what you think Facebook will be worth:

What do you think Facebook's value will be in 5 years?

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. and Circle him on Google+

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January 19 2012


How Social Media, Collaboration Fueled Reports on Australia's Refugees

An innovative Australian public journalism project has partnered student reporters and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with a refugee support agency and a social media startup.

The aim of the project, #ReportingRefugees, was to tackle problematic media coverage of asylum seekers and refugees in a volatile political climate in parallel with educating students to connect with a "citizens' agenda." The result was a student takeover of the airwaves in Australia's national capital and a fundamental shift in attitudes.

MediaShift correspondent Julie Posetti anchored the project at the University of Canberra where she teaches journalism. This is the first in her two-part series on #ReportingRefugees.

Problem: Divisive & Xenophobic National Debate

For the past 15 years, racist and xenophobic political memes have dominated public discussion of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, with asylum seekers who arrive by boat demonized as threatening aliens by politicians whose divisive messages are fanned and fed by inflammatory headlines and tabloid TV.

Reporting Refugees Husseinis.jpg

In this climate, and on the back of involvement in a substantial national research project on the reporting of multiculturalism (which led to me theorizing about the potential transformative impact of minority encounters on journalists), I decided to embark on a public journalism project with my final-year University of Canberra broadcast journalism students.

The end result was two hours of radio journalism, fueled by collaboration and social media, that gave a much-needed voice to refugees, a better understanding for the public of the complicated issues surrounding them, and important lessons for those of us working on the project.

Journalism Partnerships For Change

#ReportingRefugees was built on partnerships that I forged with 666 ABC Canberra, the ABC's radio station in the Australian capital; Canberra Refugee Support, the city's best-known organization for refugees and asylum seekers; OurSay, an innovative crowdsourcing startup; and the School of Music at the Australian National University, also based in Canberra.

Reporting Refugees CRS.jpg

I made my first approach to CRS, and their initial response reflected the impact of xenophobic political campaigns and media stereotyping: They were reluctant to get involved. CRS President Geoff McPherson said concerns about resourcing the project were also paramount. But I persisted, pursuing meetings and arguing the merits of interventions in journalism education and public journalism approaches in tackling problematic reporting of marginalized communities. The proposal was for CRS to facilitate contact between student journalists and asylum seeker-refugee clients and provide advice on relevant policy and community programs, with the aim of minimizing any potential harm to vulnerable interviews and assisting in the development of culturally intelligent reporting on a complex and often poorly reported issue.

Ultimately, just a fortnight before the project kicked off, CRS agreed to participate. "The judgment of the CRS board was that the potential return on this project far outweighed the risks and (we) decided to proceed," McPherson said, reflecting on the project at its conclusion.

Collaborating with Australia's Public Broadcaster

By contrast, the ABC was keen to be involved from the outset. They were even prepared to hand over two hours of airtime on their main Canberra radio station to the students. They agreed to allow the students -- under the joint editorial supervision of the ABC, me and my tutors -- to report, produce and present a radio special devoted to #ReportingRefugees which was scheduled for broadcast on November 27 last year -- three months from the start of the project.

Reporting Refugees ABC.jpg

Jordie Kilby, ABC 666 Canberra content director, explained the network's motivation for involvement: "We hoped for an insightful look at the local community of refugees living in the Canberra region; we wanted to build on our relationships with local refugees and asylum seekers and the community groups that help and support them. We also hoped the project would give us an opportunity to look at some future journalists and their ideas and work."

Original Student Compositions Score #ReportingRefugees

By this stage, my ANU School of Music collaborator, Jonathan Powles, had agreed to offer his students the opportunity to produce original scores to accompany my journalism students' stories. Apart from being an interesting cross-disciplinary education collaboration and a potentially rewarding creative merger for broadcaster, teachers and students alike, the provision of original music for the planned radio program meant that the ABC would also be able to podcast the show. (Copyright laws in Australia prevent the podcasting of commercial music broadcast on radio.)

Giving Citizens a Say

Finally, I decided to approach OurSay -- a Melbourne startup which partners with media organizations, universities and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to crowdsource questions designed to address the "citizens' agenda." They jumped at the chance to be involved, and we launched the project's OurSay page which asked the public to identify the questions they most wanted answered by a panel of experts on asylum seeker-refugee policy during the ABC broadcast.

OurSay's CEO, Eyal Halamish, explained the role of the platform in the project: "Especially on such a contentious issue as that of refugees and asylum seekers, where the mainstream media latch onto sensationalist, short-termist news instead of taking a broader view, a social tool such as OurSay can help set the agenda more effectively and help express what the public feels about an issue, as sourced from their own questions and comments." It worked like this: Over the course of a month, OurSay users were asked to submit the questions they most wanted put to the panel, and the top five questions were selected by popular vote on the site.

The #ReportingRefugees Curriculum

With these #ReportingRefugees building blocks in place, I was able to finalize the structure of the project within the syllabus. This was no easy task! Trying to balance learning outcomes and university assessment policies against real-world media deadlines is always tricky. But doing so on a project seeking to break new ground through multiple public journalism partnerships, on a complex and sensitive reporting assignment, proved to be the most challenging teaching project I've ever been involved with. Fortunately, it also emerged as the most rewarding experience of my journalism education career.

Zoe Daniel.jpg

#ReportingRefugees became the foundation of the Advanced Broadcast Journalism unit (a class of 50 students) I convene at UC. I gave lectures on public journalism (featuring the work of professor Jay Rosen and others) and reporting trauma in the social media age. I also devoted a lecture to a live Skype interview with the ABC's South East Asia correspondent, Zoe Daniel, whose beat includes the massive refugee camps and asylum seeker communities of that region.

The major assessment required students to work in reporting duos networked via loosely themed production units, on original, long-form audio or audio/video stories about refugees-asylum seekers (or policies and programs pertaining to them) which would compete for selection in the final radio program. Additionally, they had to produce images and text to accompany their stories for online publication. They were encouraged to speak with, not just about, refugees-asylum seekers and to explore personal stories and angles that the media had largely overlooked. Some reporting duos were assigned to refugee-asylum seeker families and community services facilitated by CRS, while others independently identified stories and sources.

Assessing Audience Engagement and Reflective Practice

Additionally, the students were required to maintain Twitter feeds (with a focus on community building around content, crowdsourcing and content distribution) as part of an "audience engagement" assessment. They also needed to participate in Facebook groups dedicated to editorial management. The final assessment involved publication of an academically grounded reflective practice blog which required the students to critically analyze the project, their involvement in it and their experiences of it, with reference to scholarly readings.

Students' Perspective

So, what did the students think of the project at the start? Many have admitted they were daunted by the theme and the workload when they first heard about it. One, Ewan Gilbert, conceded he was initially a tad perplexed: "I went into the assignment thinking it was all a bit over the top." But Gilbert, now a cadet journalist with the ABC, clearly understood the project's purpose in retrospect: "I think one of the biggest barriers people face when it comes to understanding refugee issues, is that most Australians have probably never met one," he blogged. "Putting a face to an issue was so important to helping my understanding of the problems. You learn to treat the issue with humanity. You learn to see refugees as people and quite often extremely vulnerable people at that. If the whole refugee debate didn't have any relevancy to me before, it certainly does now."

Another student, Grace Keyworth, who was already working in the Canberra Press Gallery as a videographer when the project began, wrote that #ReportingRefugees was an important and timely intervention.

"I have been present at countless press conferences this year where the discussion of asylum seekers and refugees was completely dehumanized. There was a lot of talk of numbers, figures and 'processing' them like they're a piece of meat, but hardly any of names, occupations or their reasons for leaving their countries," she lamented. "It shows that as a society, we haven't progressed beyond the racial discrimination towards immigrants that has plagued our country since federation."

Opening Up Journalism -- Critical Reflection via Social Media

The students were encouraged to openly reflect, through their social media activity, on their pre-conceived ideas about the refugee-asylum seeker issue and broadcast reporting conventions as they worked on their stories. They had to navigate very complex issues -- such as balancing the need to avoid re-traumatizing refugee interviewees who'd survived torture against the need for editorial transparency and independence. Many encountered significant journalistic obstacles -- from paternalism within some organizations which led (inappropriately) to one service provider refusing its refugee clients permission to speak, to nervous interviewees backing out of stories close to deadline. But in every case, these experiences delivered important learning outcomes -- about the need for sensitivity and informed consent in reporting on refugees-asylum seekers, and about the need for journalistic perseverance and resilience when confronted with problems that threaten to derail stories in which many hours work have been invested.

There were logistical hurdles to mount, too. The collaborative editorial management of the project with the ABC meant that assessment deadlines had to be interwoven with ABC production deadlines. And multiple classroom visits by the busy ABC content director needed to be scheduled across four tutorials, which were timetabled for only three hours each per week.

Once the students had filed their rough-cut stories for assessment, the difficult process of selecting the content for broadcast and web upload commenced. I shortlisted stories from each tutorial with my tutors (Phil Cullen and Ginger Gorman, both of whom are experienced ABC broadcasters) but the ABC's Jordie Kilby was responsible for selecting the final line-up of 10 stories. Meanwhile, we auditioned potential student presenters, and student executive producers attached to each tutorial began wrangling students to deliver final cut radio and web stories.

Putting #ReportingRefugees on Air

Ultimately, the students broadcast two hours of moving, human radio with a focus on personalized stories, situational reports on community programs such as a psychological service which treats traumatized child refugees, explanatory journalism that unpacked highly complex and sensitive themes, and an intelligent panel discussion, featuring the former Commonwealth Ombudsman and the UNHCR's representative in Australia, that addressed the questions crowdsourced via OurSay in a way that allowed misconceptions to be powerfully countered.

As the program aired, students, listeners and ABC staff participated in a lively Twitter discussion triggered by the stories, aggregated by the #ReportingRefugees hashtag.

Additionally, the ABC website continues to host a bundle of additional student reports produced for the project, along with a podcast of the radio special (Hour 1 & Hour 2).

I'll focus in more detail on the impact of the project on those involved, its reception by audiences, and the implications for journalism education in part two of this #ReportingRefugees series, but this quote from international student Linn Loken, sums up the value of the project and makes my own very substantial investment in time, energy and effort in its execution seem worthwhile:

"Knowing a few refugees now, this is not just a word to me anymore. When I hear the word REFUGEE mentioned, I think about the people I talked to during this project and I can see their faces."

Julie Posetti is an award-winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She's been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on journalism and social media, on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She's currently writing her PhD dissertion on 'The Twitterisation of Journalism' at the University of Wollongong. She blogs at Twitter.

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January 10 2012


Steering Girls to Science and Tech Careers

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For Ebony Green, a career as a scientist might have seemed unlikely just last year.

The stereotypical outcome for girls like Ebony, an eighth-grader at Frick Middle School in a rough part of East Oakland, isn’t necessarily a high-paying job in science, math, engineering or technology. In fact, 40 percent of Oakland Unified School District students drop out.

Still, despite her surroundings and the legacy of her race, gender, family background, and income bracket, Ebony sees a different future for herself. She wants to be a pediatrician, or maybe a vet, and she's starting to take steps to get there.

Last fall, without her mother knowing, Ebony enrolled herself in Techbridge, an after-school science and math program geared specifically to girls. She signed up for math tutoring at school because she's struggling in the subject. And her science teacher, Ken Eastman, says she even came to his science class twice a day for a while.

Ebony’s interest in science stands in contrast to the reality of women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Although women make up half the country's work force, they comprise less than 25 percent of STEM-related jobs, according to a Department of Commerce report from last year.

Apart from the overall problem of cutting out hands-on science projects and tinkering in schools, the issue is even more pointed when it comes to girls. A recent study called "Why So Few" shows that only 20 percent of bachelors degrees in STEM fields go to girls.


But Techbridge is showing Ebony an alternate future. Once a week, she and 20 other girls voluntarily stay after school from 3 to 5 p.m. to get their hands on soldering irons and protractors to make things like LED-lit sculptures and catapults. Beyond teaching these girls those specific skills, Techbridge is giving them something much more.

"It’s interesting to me," Ebony said. "Because some things that I didn’t believe, I believe in now. I never knew about soldering, or I never knew about crystals or anything like that, and since I’m interested in that I wanted to get into a program where it’s a lot about it."


One thing research consistently shows is the impact that one-on-one relationships and role models can have in influencing kids. And that's one of the defined goals of the Techbridge program.

To that end, Ebony and her peers get to work once a week with Esosa Ozigbo, who comes from a similar background as many of the girls in the program -- single-parent home, struggling financially, parents who never graduated from high school. But Ozigbo, a Stanford graduate with a science degree, is living proof that there's a way out -- and it might just be in a field like science or math.

"I definitely know that growing up, it would have been great to have someone like that come in and talk to me," Ozigbo said.

Ozigbo leads Techbridge field trips, taking girls to companies like Google and Yahoo for site visits so they see for themselves the possibility of a life that's different than what they've lived so far.

"I took some girls to San Francisco -- they had never been on the other side of the bay," she said. "It's just about seeing what's out there and seeing if it's in your grasp and saying, 'This is what I have to do, this is what I can do.' I think that makes the world of a difference."

Though they only meet once a week, Ozigbo makes sure to connect personally with the girls. Sometimes she takes Ebony home after, and they have a chance to talk about what's going on.

"Even in that short time, we're going to reach them all, we talk, we laugh, we joke about things like guys and stuff like that," she said. "We tell them to always stand up for what you believe in, we do shout-outs to the girls who get up so they learn how to be comfortable when speaking in a crowd. It's little, but I'm hoping that those little different things will make a big difference in the end."

Claude Steele thinks it will. Steele is the author of "Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us" and the dean for the School of Education at Stanford University.

"What those girls will see from that kind of a program is that women do succeed in these fields, that role model strategy is a really effective one," Steele said. "It's the existence proof idea, the stereotype may be out there, but look, there's a woman who is succeeding, and that means it's possible for me to succeed, and it starts to reduce the sense that I would worry about being seen stereotypically."

Learning About Search from Google

Tasha Bergson-Michelson, a search expert at Google, is one of the women that Techbridge girls get to meet. Last month, a group of girls from Montera Middle School in Oakland were brought to Google to learn some important tips in using the site to conduct research -- whether it's simply for curiosity or for a school project.

"I believe that access to information is one of the greatest equalizing forces," Bergson-Michelson said. "Knowing how to find information, evaluate it, and use it appropriately is one of the ways we see a divergence among people who have access to education and those who don't. "

Bergson-Michelson hopes that her time with the Techbridge girls will show that her route could also be theirs. "I want them to know that whatever path they choose to take, they have the power to -- by experimentation and by engaging with our world and thinking creatively -- learn a great deal about these technologies they use every day and become more powerful," she said. "How could you possibly get a job at Google if you didn't start with a dream?"

The fact that Ebony shows up to Techbridge week after week on her own volition is an encouraging sign to Ozigbo.

"She's coming every week, finding some sort of acceptance or community or fun in here," she said. "Once these girls get that satisfaction from completing that kit, or making that soldering ornament and knowing they can do something that most people aren't given the chance to do, that most adults don't know how to do or don't know about, that knowledge in itself is so empowering and can really take them places."

As part of the PBS American Graduate Program, I produced a segment for the PBS NewsHour on Ebony Green and Techbridge with correspondent Spencer Michels. Here's the segment:

Watch Oakland Program Aims to Pique Girls' Interest in Science, Tech Careers on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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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January 05 2012


In the Digital Age, How Much Is Informal Education Worth?

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You can learn anything you want on the Internet, so the adage goes. But even if that's true, even if it's now easier than ever to learn about almost any subject online, there are still very few opportunities to gain formal recognition -- "credit," if you will -- for informal learning done online.

In September, the Mozilla Foundation launched its Open Badges Project, an effort to develop a technology framework that would make it easier to build, display and share digital learning badges. These badges are meant to showcase and recognize all kinds of skills and competencies -- subject matter expertise as college degrees are meant to indicate, for example, as well as "soft skills" that aren't so easily apparent based on traditional forms of credentialing. (We examined some of the technology infrastructure of the Open Badges Project in a story earlier this year.)

When the Mozilla Foundation announced the Open Badges Project, it was in conjunction with the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC, as "Badges for Lifelong Learning" is the theme of this year's Digital Media and Learning Competition, an annual contest that supports research of how digital technologies are changing the way we learn and work. Onstage at the formal unveiling of the Open Badges Project were representatives from not just Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation, but from the Departments of Education, Labor and Veterans Affairs, NASA, as well as other businesses.

When the Open Badges Project was first announced, some educators questioned whether "badges" were a form of gamification of education, just another way, they said, to force learners to think more about certification and credentialing than about the learning process itself. But participation in the Open Badge Project from businesses and agencies like the Department of Labor has given it credibility. And whether we like it or not, many learners are extrinsically motivated to pursue certain educational endeavors -- they need skills and often certification in order to demonstrate their mastery to employers.

But what will it mean for employers?


But even with the Department of Labor's involvement in the Open Badges Project and in the DML Competition, will employers recognize badges?

As informal learning opportunities grow, gaining employers' recognition and acceptance may well be one of the most important challenges of the coming years.

Having a formal degree -- whether it's a high school or a college diploma -- still carries the most weight with employers, and in some ways, badges may simply serve to complement these. But even with the emphasis on degrees, having some way to highlight other skills, competencies, and experiences is important in setting one potential hire apart from another. Indeed, many job descriptions do frame the necessity of a college degree this way -- "or equivalent experience" -- so the task ahead for the Mozilla Open Badges project will be, in part, to be seen as a valid "equivalent."

A number of the badges that were submitted to the DML Competition, for example, serve to highlight the accomplishments of teens. As youth unemployment remains high -- 16.8% in the U.S. and upwards of 50% in Spain -- alternate forms of credentialing might be able to help those without any higher education and often without substantial work experience find ways to showcase the skills they do possess.

Similarly, a badge proposal from the Department of Veterans Affairs -- Badges for Vets -- may help veterans translate their military experience into civilian job skills.

On the cusp

While badges might help employers better identify and recruit qualified employees, there are still some questions about whether this would actually function any differently than current hiring practices. But a shift may already be underway, evident in other new forms of credentialing that the Internet is providing. The recent announcement from MIT about its plans to offer a certificate for its new online learning initiative is just one indication that informal learning is on the cusp of more formal recognition.

This is already happening, to a certain extent, in the tech industry where the right programming skills aren't necessarily correlated to college degrees. (It's quite possible, for example, to have your bachelor's in Computer Science and not know a particular programming language.) Stack Overflow, for example, launched a job recruitment site this year, allowing job hunters to highlight not just their resume but to showcase their best answers from the larger Q&A website. And TopCoder, another tech company, offers programming competitions whereby participants have long had the ability to share their scores with potential employers, something that CTO Mike Lyons said is helpful during job searches: "Rather than saying 'look me up,' people have this transportable widget at their website."

Showcasing these sorts of accomplishments on one's own website is becoming increasingly important as job applicants find ways to leverage their online presence -- their blogs, digital portfolios, LinkedIn recommendations and the like -- knowing that employers are prone to Google them. As such, it seems clear that the resume of the future will likely contain lots of digital links, whether they're Open Badges or otherwise. What's less clear is how much of this digital profile will matter to employers, or if they'll still look for that formal piece of paper, a college degree.

Open education advocate and university professor David Wiley is optimistic. "Say I'm Google," he wrote on his blog, "and I need to hire an engineer. My job ad requirement says 'BS in Computer Science or equivalent.' I get two applicants. The first has a BS in Computer Science from XYZ State College. The second has certificates of successful completion for open courses in data structures and algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning from Stanford and MITx. Do you think I'll seriously consider candidate two? You bet I will."

But Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger is less certain that the Open Badges Project, in its current manifestation at least whereby anyone can create a badge and offer a credential, will actually mean anything to employers:

If a "badge" is the sort of thing that by common practice almost anybody can define, and then claim, then I'm not likely to take it seriously, and most others won't either. In other words, the badge is a credential and a credential has to have, well, credibility. If supposed credentials are granted as easily as diploma mill "degrees," the whole endeavor will -- obviously, I think -- not get off the ground. Some geeks might go about claiming to have all sorts of "badges," but when it comes to hiring, I will ignore such self-claimed badges.

Of course, we have a long way to go before badges are ubiquitous the same way that college degrees are. As it currently stands, the Open Badges Project is too young to elicit much attention from human resources departments. (The HR officials I talked to hadn't heard of the project.) But as alternative credentialing efforts -- whether from Stack Overflow or from MIT -- take off, it's likely to be an issue that more employers (and employees and higher education institutions) are going to have to face.

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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January 03 2012


The Pedagogy of Play and the Role of Technology in Learning

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The goal of the videogame "Civilization" is to build a civilization that stands the test of time. You start the game in 4000 B.C. as a settler and, with successful gameplay, can create a civilization that lasts until the Space Age. Throughout the game, you need to manage your civilization's military, science, technology, commerce and culture.

One doesn't read "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" to develop strategy before playing the game. One starts by playing. This is true for all videogames. You start by exploring the world with curiosity and begin to develop a hypothesis of what you're supposed to do. Through trial, error, pattern recognition, logic and chance you continually reformulate your trajectory.

This model of learning is not only effective for videogames but for all digital tools, and I would argue that play -- especially in the digital sense -- is emerging as a pedagogical keystone for education in the 21st century.


Stuart Brown, M.D., explains in his book, "Play," how a range of scientific disciplines have revealed the importance of lifelong play. Playfulness amplifies our capacity to innovate and to adapt to changing circumstances. Adults who are deprived of play are often rigid, inflexible and closed to trying out new options. Play is an active process that reshapes our rigid views of the world.

The power of play

Play is also a powerful vehicle for learning, something that's been underscored for me in my work at San Francisco University High School where we began a one-to-one iPad program in the fall.

The iPad has been hyped as a device that will revolutionize education. And, while I've witnessed glimmers of this potential, it isn't microwavable. Migrating from an analog to a digital environment sounds simple enough, but the reality has been more disruptive.

Disruption can signal the onset of innovation, but this isn't comforting to the
organizations and individuals that are at the epicenter of such turbulence. Yet with a

schema of play, we can start to mitigate the resistance to change.

Creating a 'sandbox'

The virtues of Apple's intuitive interfaces have been widely extolled, and while you don't need to be computer-savvy to navigate the operating system, there still is a learning curve. As we've designed training programs to make the learning curve as frictionless as possible, I've noticed that sessions that put a premium on play were not only more effective at cultivating the targeted skills, but also encouraged a growth mindset.

The atmosphere of play created a sandbox where both students and faculty could explore the features of the device and apps with the spirit of curiosity and experimentation. Rather than solely being guided through this virtual landscape, they were learning how to orient and guide themselves. Within this learning model, the teacher or trainer shifts into more of a coaching role. The value of this approach extends beyond the classroom because students begin to develop a self-reliance that enjoys independent experimentation and exploration.

Play is vital for normal cognitive, social and emotional development. It reduces stress and increases well-being. Absence of play leads to maladaptive behavior.

As positive as play is, it requires the ability to make mistakes. It implies being able to entertain multiple scenarios and outcomes. Bubble logic, i.e., our testing culture, is diametrically opposed. Our systems of education haven't prepared us to think and act playfully, nor do our institutions of work by and large encourage this behavior. Yet it is this kind of playful disposition that is the muse of all great thinkers, artists and innovators.


Joichi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, in a recent New York Times essay emphasized the correlation between innovation and play. In Ito's view, retaining childlike qualities such as idealism, experimentation and wonder is vital for innovation. In his words, "I don't think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is the process establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity."

Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill. We don't have maps for the territory of tomorrow. As a result, all citizens must become explorers of this emerging world. The best way to prepare for the emergence of the future is to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative -- in a word: playful.

Aran Levasseur has an eclectic background that ranges from outdoor education to life coaching, and from habitat restoration to video production. For the last five years he's taught middle school history and science. From the beginning he's been integrating technology into his classes to enhance his teaching and student learning. He recently gave a talk at TEDxSFED on videogames and learning. Currently he's the Academic Technology Coordinator at San Francisco University High School.

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December 30 2011


Year in Review: 6 Trends in Journalism Education

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As the year comes to a close, it's worth a look at the some of the most intriguing developments in journalism education in the last year - from approaches to using social media and curation to new initiatives on data journalism, from academe's role in the news industry to leveraging publishing platforms.

2011 year small.jpg

Getting Social, But Not Too Social

1. Hanging Out is In: Journalism educators are constantly exploring new techniques that can bring some pizzazz to the classroom and better engage students. And one new tool that created lots of excitement this fall was the video Hangout feature of search giant Google's new social network Google Plus. Hangout lets users easily organize live video chats with up to 10 participants, group chat, screen share, co-view YouTube videos, access via mobile, etc.

Although the tool doesn't appear to have yet found its full potential with J-schools, the possibilities seem broad -- not only to improve interaction with students, but between them, as well as among faculty or even between schools. Some journalism educators this fall, for instance, used Hangout to bring expert speakers or even whole panel discussions into their classrooms, or to generate group chats with adjuncts or for news meetings. Among the possibilities: facilitating group projects outside of class, holding virtual office hours and hosting student Q&A sessions (here's more on Hangout, and more on the education potential of Google Plus). To grasp the full potential for the tool, some suggest letting students take the lead -- by showing them how Google Plus Hangouts works, then allowing them to find creative news uses on their own. Educators interested in Hangout might want to check in with USC Annenberg's Robert Hernandez of #WJChat fame, who's exploring a monthly Hangout about teaching.

2. Friending is Out, Subscribing is In: With the introduction of news-related services like subscriptions, the social networking powerhouse Facebook is finding more uses in J-school classrooms, where it's a tool for reporting and source development, user engagement and expanded distribution. But a stumbling block for many is the long-standing question - to friend or not to friend? Some folks won't do it as a matter of principle; others acknowledge the power politics by only accepting, rather than initiating invitations. But it's increasingly possible to bypass the dilemma. Using subscriptions, for instance, students can follow select faculty updates without the "friend" relationship. And the use of closed Facebook groups allows classes or larger groupings to share info without crossing any personal boundaries.

Facebook + Journalism 101

Curating and/or Creating News

3. Aggregation. Teaching aggregation may be controversial in J-schools (is it journalism or is it not?), but that hasn't stopped some from taking full advantage of one of the smarter curation tools - Storify. One fan is Hofstra's Kelly Fincham, who writes how journalism educators can use Storify not only to teach students to curate social media, and gain credibility and exposure, but also for faculty to organize readings and create virtual handouts for classroom use. Others have used it to curate training events and to teach beat reporting basics, or have taught it (and curation) as part of the core copy editor's function. Check out this Storify on using Storify for journalism education and another on tips for using Storify in reporting.

4. Players in Community News: It's long been a tradition for the J-schools to contribute to the general flow of news, but in the void created by the shrinkage of commercial news outlets they're now playing a far greater role in meeting community information needs. Beyond such ongoing projects and partnerships as those at USC Annenberg, Berkeley, Arizona State, NYU, the multi-university partnership of News21 and others, now add a new year-round news outlet from Columbia. The volume of university news sites has grown so extensively that American University's J-Lab has created a directory of dozens. Plus, journalism academe is getting into the money end of the business with the exploration of new business models to replace the collapse of the old -- for instance, CUNY, where I teach, has created the country's first master's in entrepreneurial journalism.

Hackers and Tweakers

5. The Rise of the Journo-Programmer. An ambitious hybrid of journalist and computer scientist is what some have in mind as part of the future of journalism. As Columbia was launching its dual-degree masters in journalism and computer science (more), Northwestern last winter announced a $4.2 million Knight News Innovation Lab run by the journalism and engineering schools (more). Other schools are focusing on just making student journalists smarter about doing data within their journalism courses, becoming adept at everything from simple programs like spreadsheets and web-based visualization tools to more sophisticated software like Flash. Influential online journalism educator Mindy McAdams proposes all J-schools have a full-fledged data journalism course, something a few schools appear to be doing (Columbia is one; CUNY is another). Meanwhile, the explosion of smartphones and tablets - the latter are starting to show up more in classrooms, though not without debate over best practices - has encouraged some schools to explore app development, whether through simple thought exercises or by actually building apps from the ground up in dedicated courses.

6. Portfolios, Off the Rack: While some instructors make the case to continue teaching basic HTML and Dreamweaver to journalism students, others are increasingly focusing on finding ways for students to quickly set up and customize simple professional portfolio sites. Wordpress seems to be the answer for most, urged upon or even required for students. Academics then actively swap the best themes and favorite plug-ins for everything from Twitter feeds to quizzes and maps, while touting their students' best work (examples here and here).

Of course, this column only just touches on major trends and key players, so feel free to suggest more in the comments below, and this column try to circle back around to report on them in more depth in the coming months.

A. Adam Glenn is associate professor, interactive, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and a long-time digital journalist and media consultant. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn, and follow his Twitter":http://twitter.com/AAdamGlenn feed. This monthly column draws liberally from conversations about digital journalism teaching practices on the online educators Facebook group of the Online News Association. The ONA Facebook group is currently a closed group but you can view ongoing conversations (see our group Q&A tracker), or join in via ONA membership.

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November 16 2011


In Journalism Class, Think Visceral


"Beyond J-School 2011" is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

This week on MediaShift, we're exploring the moving target that is teaching journalism. Stay tuned as we offer tips, tools and insights on educating tomorrow's journalists.

Every semester I conduct a small experiment with the undergrads in my Journalism in the 21st Century course. On the day devoted to discussing media consumption, they walk into class and I ask for their cell phones. They blink, then laugh, then gape as I collect their phones and pile them in a corner behind me.


They're not allowed to use cell phones during class, so it really shouldn't matter where the handsets are for the next hour and 15 minutes. Yet I can tell with every furtive corner-ward glance (to say nothing of the twitching if one of the phones beeps or buzzes), that students are in serious tech-withdrawal.

The best part is, they can tell too.

Yes, they also study Pew Research Center data chronicling Americans' news habits, and they log their own habits for self-study and comparison. They even read about some of the neuroscience behind the brain's dependence on info gadgets. But my hope is that the in-class experiment is visceral enough to help cement the lesson.

As a college educator in the 21st century, I am always trying to think visceral. We know that students increasingly crave stimulation, surprise and interactivity, but we deliberately push against the current. We think students benefit by being forced to focus on something -- anything -- that isn't byte-sized. We think we are lowering our academic standards if we cater to ever-shrinking attention spans.

In many ways, we are right.

But we're also kidding ourselves if we don't acknowledge the changing needs and habits of our target audience. They might engage enough to pass the class, but I worry about what stays with them once the semester is over. It's worth trying to attach a memorable image or immersive experience to the lessons I would have taught anyway -- just in case.

Here are some things worth trying:

Tune in

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Thinking visceral usually involves teaching visual. There was a time when this meant composing a PowerPoint presentation. It's graphic. It's colorful. Sometimes it's even animated, if you can figure out how to swoop text around. But today's students are so inured to stimulants that it is simply their version of a chalkboard: two-dimensional, text-heavy and often boring.

You can try spicing up your PowerPoint presentations, or you can try a different visual route altogether.

I have journalism students read scholarly work by sociologist Manual Castells about the shifting powers of communication in what he calls the "Network Society." We then talk in class about the vertical structure of top-down, Industrial Age mass media and the horizontal structure of today's all-access, Information Age media. I could (and I have) used PowerPoint to highlight Castells' main themes. But I have better success illustrating them through a series of short scenes from journalism-related shows and films, culled from YouTube and DVDs.


We start with Charles Foster Kane in his newsroom in "Citizen Kane," then move onto Bob Woodward chasing down a lead in "All the President's Men" (the scene I show is described here), then news staffers gathering for a grim announcement in the last season of HBO's "The Wire." If there's time, I squeeze in a short clip from the 2009 film "State of Play." After each one, I ask students: Is this depicting a vertical communication system, a horizontal system, or some convergence of the two? Who holds the power in this system? What is their pursuit?

Such scenes help crystallize the power shift I am trying to track, and become quick reference points as students process the idea that they have unprecedented power and responsibility in the Network Society.

I try a similar approach when we get to the resurgence of partisan journalism. Students often say they don't understand how the opinionated bluster of a Bill O'Reilly or a Keith Olbermann can draw large audiences. This time, I go for the visceral first by having them watch some video clips for homework. I choose a "straight" news interview with a direct participant in the story, a commentary on the issue by a conservative media figure, and another one by a liberal counterpart. The more bluster the better.

The next day in class, I have students quickly say what they remember from the clips. Almost always, the memories are of the commentators' name-calling or insults. (When I did this once with the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan, only one student recalled the dry but informative CNN interview with the center's own imam, but only to point out anchor Soledad O'Brien's "rude" interruptions.)

In this way, students live the lesson before they study it. When they then read research on higher retention of opinionated versus straight news, they can't question why people gravitate toward an O'Reilly type, because they've done it themselves.

Get out

Teaching visual doesn't just mean bringing multimedia into the classroom. We have the opportunity to bring students into the subject matter because we are studying a living, breathing profession. I can almost hear the jokes about life support or breathing tubes, and I understand. Yes, newspapers are contracting and in some cities shuttering, but the number and variety of media companies have only grown in the digital age. Students have more to study than ever before. Plus, we have two advantages when trying to arrange such field trips: Journalists usually are happy to evangelize to future generations, and they happen to already believe in the concept of transparency.

And in any case, it doesn't have to be limited to media businesses. My students tour The New York Times every semester, but they also see the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. They see grad students, high-tech equipment, and professors whose work they have read for class. It's just the right blend of the familiar and the aspirational.

Own it

If part of your plan is to teach students that they have unprecedented power in today's media world, then let them feel the weight of that power.

Many journalism graduate schools are doing a great job of incorporating business education and entrepreneurship into their programs. Why not give undergrads an early taste? Have students formulate business plans for their own media companies, then pitch their ideas as if their classmates are investors. With the Knight News Challenge and other start-up funding out there, you never know what kind of initiative this will spark in students.

For more advanced students, why not have them cultivate a real product? Using a San Francisco State University course as a model, I have students create a WordPress blog on a topic of their choosing, then spend the semester posting text, photos, audio, video, mapping and other digital content to their site. They must market their blogs through social media, and track their success through web analytics. They are free to continue or disable the blogs after the semester is over, but at least they have a practice run at managing their own journalistic content.

Again, these ideas are meant to supplement, not replace, the lesson plans of any journalism or media course. I don't want my students to simply pass my class. I want them to think differently about the way they produce and consume media in their own lives. If that means pushing more visceral experiments and experiences into the class calendar, it's worth it.

Alexa Capeloto is a journalism professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York. She 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.


"Beyond J-School 2011" is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

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October 06 2011


In the Digital Age, Is Teaching Cursive Relevant?


Education content is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

Reading and writing are fundamental to learning. But as more kids read and write via some sort of computing device -- laptop, tablet, cell phone -- how we teach those skills is changing, and one significant change is the decision to teach cursive. When it comes to equipping students with "21st century skills," typing is in, cursive is out.

In part, the disappearance of cursive from the curriculum stems from the Common Core State Standards (now adopted by the majority of U.S. states), which no longer require cursive as part of language arts and writing instruction. According to the Common Core's mission: "The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy." And the global economy, so the argument goes, requires students to be prepared to type, not to write in cursive.

This isn't to say, of course, that handwriting instruction itself is scrapped. Students will still learn to craft their letters, and plenty of kids are still likely to curse the requirements for neat penmanship. But in lieu of requiring students to specifically learn cursive, the imperative now is to teach them to produce and publish their written work by typing and word processing.

An extraneous skill?

Knowing how to type and create documents on a computer is obviously important. And for most people, writing in cursive is a rare event. Typing, once touted as more practical than print, is more efficient than either form of writing by hand. And, as such, cursive may seem like an extraneous skill.

Nevertheless, removing cursive from the curriculum has been controversial. Some have argued that learning cursive isn't simply about knowing how to write efficiently. It's about learning how to write beautifully. It's about fine motor skills. It's about expression. And according to a report in The Wall Street Journal last year, there are a number of benefits to cognition and memory that come from writing by hand.

Some fear that if we stop teaching students to write in cursive, they'll no longer be able to read cursive either, leaving a swath of written materials that will be undecipherable. Arguably, that's something historians and archeologists have long faced; whether it's cursive, calligraphy or otherwise, handwriting has changed immensely over the years.

And without cursive, how will people be able to sign their names, some argue, pointing to the one place where most adults probably do regularly use cursive in lieu of print. Of course, teaching cursive just so we can all add our personalized squiggle to the bottom of official documents probably isn't an effective use of class time.

So is it time for cursive to go? Or should we retain it as part of the curriculum? Share your thoughts in comments below.

Editor's Note: There was a lively debate on the topic of teaching cursive on a Google+ post by MediaShift editor Mark Glaser. Check it out.

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.


Education content is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

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August 03 2011


The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn From Playing

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"When people learn to play videogames," according to James Paul Gee, "they are learning a new literacy."

This is one of the reason kids love playing them: They are learning a new interactive language that grants them access to virtual worlds that are filled with intrigue, engagement and meaningful challenges. And one that feels more congruent with the nature and trajectory of today's world.

As our commerce and culture migrates further into this emerging digital ecosystem it becomes more critical that we develop digital literacy, of which videogames inhabit a large portion.

Gee, a linguist and professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University, thinks we should expand the traditional definition of literacy beyond reading and writing because language isn't the only communication system available in today's world. And there is no better example of a new form of media that communicates distinctive types of meaning than videogames.

The literacy of problem-solving

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Although games can be immensely entertaining, it would be a mistake to consider them as only a form of entertainment. Games are fun, but their real value lies in leveraging play and exploration as a mode of learning the literacy of problem-solving, which lowers the emotional stakes of failing.

In Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?, he reminds us that our educational system has stigmatized mistakes. As a result, kids are frightened of being wrong. Yet if we are not prepared to be wrong than we won't be able to come up with anything creative or solve complex problems. Videogames, on the other hand, embed trial and error into the foundation of gameplay.

Kids aren't naturally great at gaming the first time. They develop mastery through disciplined practice -- a path marked by dead-ends, wrong turns and blunders. Yet gamers aren't angst-ridden about making wrong decisions because games encourage a growth mindset. Mistakes are how one figures out what doesn't work and provides the impetus to zero in on what might.

Conversely, the game of modern education revolves around right and wrong answers. Now this kind of learning may be appropriate in some instances, say, when you want a student to remember the capitals of countries. That method is important, but it can only take you so far. It certainly can't penetrate more sophisticated, and I would argue, more important questions, such as: How does geography shape culture?

Games on the other hand, cultivate problem-solving, that, with that right kind of scaffolding, could begin to gain traction with these more exploratory questions and knowledge.

Focusing on the process, not the content


Much of the critique leveled at videogames is oriented around their content. In Everything Bad Is Good For You, Steven Johnson writes of a hypothetical high school English teacher admonishing videogames' lack of content: "There's no psychological depth here, no moral quandaries, no poetry. And he'd be right! But comparing these games to 'The Iliad' or 'The Great Gatsby' or 'Hamlet' relies on a false premise: that the intelligence of these games lies in their content, in the themes and characters they represent."

Games are based on problems to solve, not content. This doesn't mean that game-based problem-solving should eclipse learning content, but I think we are increasingly seeing that a critical part of being literate in the digital age means being able to solve problems through simulations and collaboration.

Videogames, and the type of learning and thinking they generate, may serve as a cornerstone for education and economies of the future.

In their book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson state that "policymakers interested in preparing students for success in the 21st-century economy would do well ... to appreciate how skills developed through navigating virtual environments might pay off in the workplace ... [and how] the new skills and dispositions of the gamer generation will transform the workplace. The gamer generation will push for work environments to incorporate more virtual aspects in fields, such as market analysis, and social and economic modeling. Gamers, for example, have abundant experience making big decisions, coordinating resources, and experimenting with complex strategies in game-based simulations."

Making the most of gaming for your kids

Although videogames have great potential to be powerful vehicles for learning, there is no guarantee this will happen. Just as there is no guarantee that someone will understand the themes and symbols of "The Lord of the Flies" by simply reading it. As a result, kids need parents, teachers and their peers to engage their gaming in thoughtful ways. While there could be a long list of recommended practice, for simplicity sake I've reduced the list to three preliminary suggestions.

  1. Play games. Otherwise how can you have meaningful conversations about them? Not learning how to play games would be akin to talking about "The Lord of the Flies" without having learned to read.
  2. Connect games to books, movies, TV and the world around them. By thinking about games beyond their boundaries we can cultivate pattern recognition across media platforms and parlay the problem-solving of gaming into the real world.
  3. Have your students or kids collaborate with other peers to analyze and interpret games, as well share strategies. There has been a raft of research in recent years that extols the wisdom of the crowd and the logic of the swarm. Through collaboration and networking kids can learn to enhance their own perspectives, ideas and, perhaps, contribute to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read more in the Kids & Media series on MediaShift.

Photo of kids playing videogames by Sean Dreilinger on Flickr.

Aran Levasseur has an eclectic background that ranges from outdoor education to life coaching, and from habitat restoration to video production. For the last five years he's taught middle school history and science. From the beginning he's been integrating technology into his classes to enhance his teaching and student learning. He recently gave a talk at TEDxSFED on videogames and learning. Currently he's the Academic Technology Coordinator at San Francisco University High School.

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The Parent Show: Will Augmented Reality Be Our Kids' Reality?

This week on MediaShift, we're running a special series exploring the relationship between kids and media. In that vein, the following video from our partners at PBS Parents looks into augmented reality and what that means for kids.

In this episode of The Parent Show, Angela Santomero (the creator of "Blue's Clues" and "Super Why?"), talks with PBS Kids' Jeremy Roberts about the possibilities of augmented reality.

Watch the full episode. See more The Parent Show.

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August 02 2011


Special Series: Kids & Media

We've all been there before. Whining kids at a grocery store with their dad, they can't sit still until finally the dad hands over his iPhone, and peace is restored. Kids are growing up with media all around them, from computers to smartphones to tablets to flat-screen TVs. And even in households without as many screens, kids find ways to get their media fix at school, the library or at friends' homes. We decided to do another in-depth special report focused on "Kids & Media" all this week on MediaShift, and likely into next week. We have great expert advice, an interview with a kid, and a live chat coming up on Aug. 3 on Twitter -- so you can join in and share your experience.

All the Kids & Media Posts

> Screen Time for Kids: Balancing Fun, Learning, Media Creation by Tina Barseghian

> How to Control (Or At Least Influence) Children's Media Access

Coming Soon

Wednesday: PBS Parents' webisode on augmented reality in kids' apps
Wednesday: LIVE TWITTER CHAT with special guests, moderated by Mark Glaser and Courtney Lowery Cowgill; 2 pm PT at the #kidsmedia hashtag.

Thursday: Mark Glaser interviews his son Julian about various screens he uses

Friday: Chris Purcell on parental controls for streaming video services

Monday: Courtney Lowery Cowgill on baby photos on Facebook


What do you think about our series? Did we miss anything? Share your thoughts on how your kids use media and what you'd like to see change about it.

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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August 01 2011


Screen Time for Kids: Balancing Fun, Learning, Media Creation

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This week, MediaShift will be running a special series on navigating the relationships between kids and media. Stay tuned all week as we explore topics like this one.

When it comes to videogames and apps, what’s a parent to do? On one hand, we’re bombarded with messages about the perils of letting kids play with computer games and gadgets. On the other, we’re seduced by games and apps marketed to us as “educational.”

It’s a tricky line to navigate. The spectrum of kids’ apps ranges from “baking” cupcakes to crushing war demons. Most of them have some educational aspect — at the very least kids learn what ingredients are used in cupcake baking, and the physics of launching Angry Birds at just the right angle to kill the piggies. That’s learning, isn’t it?

Therein lie the vague boundaries. Not all games are educational, and not all are shallow forms of entertainment. Many are marketed as educational tools, but in fact, most have some elements of both. The trick is to figure out what we want kids to learn and to experience. To clump them all into one category is to miss out on a huge treasure trove of learning opportunities. Real learning apps have a set of criteria that qualifies them as educational, so rather than writing them all off as a waste of time, parents can figure out what their kids are exposed to.

Engagement and Learning

“We don't ever want to separate engagement from the purposes of learning,” said Daniel Edelson, Executive Director and Vice President of Education and Children’s Programs at the National Geographic Society at a cyberlearning conference this spring. “When you're engaged with activities that have learning goals, you can connect the dots between engagement and learning. If you use engagement in its broadest possible sense when people are paying attention because of bright lights and activity, then you don't find that connection.”

Enter the parent. A young child is not necessarily going to figure out if she’s learning or having fun. And in the best cases, that line is blurred without the child even knowing it. She’s collecting information about bugs and plantlife with apps like Project NOAH. She’s creating original stories — complete with exposition and denouement and background music — with digital storytelling apps like Toontastic.

So should parents feel guilty allowing their kids to play games on mobile gadgets?

“Most parents don't understand the need for their participation,” said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician who says she specializes in children’s media use. “It's a small population who gets it.”

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Simply put: “No,” says Dr. Michael Levine of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which recently released a study called Learning: Is There an App For That. “Kids see their parents using mobile phones all the time. It’s only natural for them to want to use them too. And from the data in our study it looks like many parents are letting their children use them responsibly - with restrictions and in moderation. We recommend a balanced media diet that consists of content that is fun, educational, and doesn't take up too much time in a given day.”

Tools to Create Content

That said, Levine cautioned parents to stay vigilant about screen time. “We would be quite concerned if young children, especially pre-schoolers, began to dramatically increase their mobile screen time,” he said.

A screen is not just a screen, though. The one-way interaction between TV and the couch potato is far different than an absorbing Scrabble play-off with a friend on a mobile phone.

“Nobody's saying, ‘Give your kid a Gameboy, so he can be quiet and go sit in the corner,” said Andy Russell, co-creator of Toontastic at a digital media and learning conference. “We're giving them tools to actually help them create content. The new devices allow us to do new things that we haven't ever been able to do. But the world of ‘edutainment’ has dug us into a hole where most people think games only create a solitary experience.”

In fact, many apps invite multiple players, social interaction with peers, and a call to go outdoors, either with specific instructions or with the child’s own imagination. When my daughter and her friend were deciding how to spend their Saturday afternoon last week, their indoor play turned into an outdoor movie that they scripted, and that I filmed and edited for them with my iPhone.

“Most parents don't understand the need for their participation,” said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician who says she specializes in children’s media use. “It's a small population who gets it.”

Russell says game designers should also take responsibility in guiding parents on how to interact with the games and their kids. “The failure is not the technology, but how we communicate to parents,” he said.


Regardless of how educational or engaging a screen can be, O’Keeffe says emotional connections are lost without face-to-face contact. “If they’re looking at a screen, they can't see the emotional response,” said O’Keeffe, who believes screens should be kept out of the hands of kids under 5 years old. “It's about empathy and they're having trouble learning that. Do you really need to turn on the DVD in the car? Do kids really need the Gameboy in the grocery store? We all have to use the screen as babysitter sometimes. But to always use a screen that often is a problem.”

But gaming advocates argue that social connections are built into most games. That sharing tactics and strategies help cement the learning experience — and connect players to each other in ways that haven’t been done before.

As researchers dig deeper into the ramifications of games and apps on young minds, parents will have to navigate the gray areas between absent-minded parenting and the smart use of technology.

Photo of boy with iPad by Mark Glaser.

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

Read more about how technology wires the learning brain and suprising truths about videogames.

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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