As assistant professor of new media in the newly configured Department of Media Journalism and Film, I teach on the cutting edge of innovation in journalism and mass communications, which presents opportunities and challenges. On one hand, I have to make sure that students master the fundamentals of journalism, which is to provide citizens with “accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society” (Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T., 2001).
On the other hand, I have to keep up with new developments and changes in the field to make sure my students are well prepared for the moving technology target that is today’s job market. This includes investigating such new developments as how to effectively introduce computational fluency to digital natives, how to improve student engagement by flipping the classroom or through the use of social media, among other current teaching methodologies.
I attempt to do this through a variety of methods. First, I focus on the classroom as a community, or an open classroom, where students of various academic levels and with different family backgrounds and intellectual interests can often learn valuable lessons from each other with proper guidance from an instructor. I encourage students to spend time in smaller groups to develop the collaborative, problem-solving and leadership skills necessary in today’s matrixed news environments through the use of blogs, group assignments and final projects. I try to foster a collaborative learning community where students can actively demonstrate their understanding and apply this knowledge in a variety of contexts as well as share their expertise with their peers.
For the past five years, I have used blogging to encourage students to create an e-portfolio to showcase their best work. Blogging software offers them an opportunity to learn how to engage in the digital world as a professional, a place for reflection on learning, a place to document their successes and challenges as well as an opportunity to coach their peers to effectively handle challenging assignments. I developed a best-practice rubric for students to use in creating a blog/portfolio and at the end of the semester students are required to present their work to peers and faculty members as a way to hold them accountable to their efforts. Through class requirements, blogging and social media workshops, I introduced hundreds of students (and some faculty members) to blogging and many of them have used it not only as a tool for self-expression but also a tool to build their online brand, incorporating social media, which has become ever more important as everyone expands their digital footprint.
For example, faculty, staff and students made extensive use of blogs when we covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential election and inauguration. Nearly 100 students participated in the coverage. The experience included developing a crowdsourcing tool using called Crowdmap that some students used to report issues at the polls.
Photos taken by students at the 2008 election and inauguration.
The blogs have served to track academic progress, to provide evidence of meeting learning outcomes and to teach students to critically evaluate their work and that of others. They are also a place where students can demonstrate the digital skills that they have developed. With an e-portfolio, students can analyze and assess their progress during their academic careers and integrate co-curricular activities with work, among other uses. In addition to documenting their academic growth, the blog is an introduction for most students to a basic level of computational competency that is becoming increasingly necessary for media careers today. A growing number each year are interested in learning to code their own sites as well as developing apps and other forms of computing.
I also work to foster an understanding of the role of technology in the 21st century newsroom, driven by the opportunities and challenges introduced by the Internet. Because my students are living through a digital revolution, which blurs the line between professional and amateur, producer and consumer, they may not be aware of the traditional role of journalism, or teaching for that matter. According to University of North Carolina Professor Emeritus Philip Meyer, gone are the days when “dedication to truth, plenty of energy, and some talent for writing was all that was needed to be a good journalist.” Today, the era of ubiquitous computing will require higher order thinking in order to be considered literate in the 21st century. “The world has become so complicated, the growth of available information so explosive, that the journalist needs to be a filter as well as a transmitter, an organizer and interpreter as well as one who gathers and delivers facts,” Meyer said in the 2002 edition of his seminal book, Precision Journalism.
As traditional news reporting has eroded, so too has our ability to monitor power – government and corporate power. Because of that, I give increased attention to teaching students how to conduct research and to become more comfortable exploring use of the latest digital tools. I also make sure students understand the technological advances in journalism by studying current topics and new reporting tools that focus on such innovations as news aggregation, data visualization, human collaboration or crowdsourcing, mobile computing and data gathering. Through a Knight Bridge Grant, I was able to have students work with the Black press by introducing such concepts as crowdsourcing, which encourages citizens to contribute to their local publications. This year, we hope to work on a package with a local paper about school closings using crowdsourcing tools
Acknowledging the university’s emphasis on STEM, I use my professional and academic research to bring new knowledge and understanding to students. I provide outstanding alternative or transformational learning opportunities through classes that are imaginative in conveying the course content to serve as teaching laboratories for imparting professional skills to students. This has encouraged me to look for ways to develop assignments that could be considered “computational journalism,” which, according to scholars and practitioners, involves the application of techniques from the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, combined with social sciences and traditional journalistic practices of information gathering, sense-making, communication and dissemination of news and information to create a new journalist for the 21st century (Anderson, 2011).
With my students, I have also investigated interdisciplinary learning by partnering with faculty and students from the computer science department to explore how gaming helps to introduce students to computational concepts in communications that require critical thinking skills. I have leveraged the distributed expertise model, in which faculty across disciplines collaborate to facilitate multidisciplinary learning, in a course I developed called News Game, which explores the emergence of games in media and their implications for journalism. The course was made possible through a National Science Foundation sub-grant.
The course was offered as a directed study in the School of Communications and as an elective in the School of Engineering. The initial collaboration has spurred other interdisciplinary partnerships, for example, the Game Design course for non-computer science students offered in Fall 2013 by the Computer Science Department. These learning opportunities also are intended in a small way to address the need for students in journalism programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to become comfortable in a STEM environment as part of an effort to foster critical thinking skills in the next generation of African-American journalism graduates. This led to another interdisciplinary collaboration. Faculty and students in Computer Science, Journalism and Psychology worked together to develop the Howard Hookup app, which was a senior project by student Ade Heyward. The app is being tested in fall 2013. In addition to journalism students helping to brainstorm on the idea, I used it as a reporting and public relations project for students in a Reporting and Writing class.
This fundamental change also meant that I have had to change the way I teach. Now my students are just as likely to be news and information producers as any professional from network news or major metropolitan newspaper. I understand how a well-crafted, carefully edited blog could have as much impact as any traditional news organization. Instead of forcing them to put away their cell phones and mobile devices, I showed them how to use it for on-the-spot in-class research and reporting using the latest social media tools.
My work was spotlighted in an article in Howard Magazine titled Changing the Landscape Through Social Media by JoAnn English, which featured some of my teaching initiatives. In addition, I was invited to deliver a guest lecture at CETLA regarding my experience working with students and social media.
I have been working on a social media platform for a copy editing class (which can be adapted for any class) to test theories about the use of social media and student engagement. The site catalogs student efforts, captures them in a spreadsheet and offers digital badges and experience points for course accomplishments. I plan to offer it for use to other faculty members.
Lastly, I take my positions as a mentor seriously. Last semester, I supervised four undergraduate students in Dr. Carolyn Stroman’s research course, who worked on a social media project called FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out” theory. Under my supervision, they developed and administered a survey to Howard students. Students researched, created the survey and developed poster for the project. This research will be adapted as an article and the students’ work will be acknowledged in the paper.
In addition to social media, I incorporate Power Point, Blackboard, as well as Canvas in teaching and grading. I make extensive use of technology in classes such as Publications Production (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) and Multimedia Storytelling (Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, GarageBand, WordPress, Facebook, LinkedIn). I have used Google Hangouts to teach a course when a snowstorm closed the university.
Overall, I possess a solid record in teaching and have been assigned to a wide variety of courses in the Journalism Sequence, including: Advanced Reporting & Writing, Publication Production & Design, Writing for the Media, Reporting & Writing, Multimedia Storytelling and Copy Editing. Over the summer, I developed the Digital Media Literacy, a seminar course for School of Communication freshmen, which is being taught as a hybrid starting with the Class of 2017.
JOUR 307. Multimedia Storytelling (Previously Writing for the Internet). 3 crs. This course prepares students to integrate the many things you’ve learned about journalism – researching, reporting, writing and editing – into a world in which everyone is a publisher. The class will include lectures on new-media themes, and students will learn to report and create stories in various digital media, including text, photos, audio and video. Multimedia Storytelling syllabus
JOUR 412-01. News Game. The class explores the emergence of news games in terms of their implication for gaming and for journalism. Students will analyze other games and work to create a game that incorporates the Associated Press Style using Scratch programming language.
JOUR 308. Interactive Editing (formerly Copy Editing). 3 crs. This is an intensive course that will help students master the essentials of interactive editing as well as critical-thinking, research, conceptual skills along with the use of social media and search engine optimization. The emphasis is on editing across multimedia platforms, including text for digital media, newspapers and magazines, including audio/visual elements. Interactive Editing syllabus
AP Style Game Rubric
AP Style Book Game
JOUR 309. Publication Production and Design. 3 crs. The class will introduce students to the principles of layout, design and production of newspapers, magazines, websites and other digital media. You will develop a discerning eye for good design and a competency in graphic communication through use of appropriate professional design software to create a portfolio of your best work.
JOUR 201. Writing for the Media. 3 crs. This course will explore various types of mass media writing – print, digital and broadcast journalism, public relations and advertising. Students will learn the basics of newsgathering; how to research and evaluate information; how to critically evaluate your own work and apply the tools and technologies used by professional journalists. You’ll also gain an awareness of the principles of the First Amendment and how journalists apply them.
JOUR 202. Reporting and Writing. 3 crs. This course explores the techniques used to research and report complex political, social and economic issues for all media. Students learn advanced strategies for how to investigate the most common areas covered by reporters, including education, zoning and development, crime, legal affairs, public forums and other governmental entities. Strategies are developed for individual reporting projects in print, broadcast and digital media.
JOUR 301. Advanced Reporting and Writing. 3 crs. The course stresses advanced development of reportorial skills and writing techniques, with exposure to complex issues and ideas influencing public affairs reporting. Students also employ database reporting, statistical analysis and investigative techniques in their work.
New Course Developed
SCOM 120. Digital Media Literacy. This course will equip students with the tools to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages in a networked environment and in a variety of forms. This course will help students develop critical thinking skills to analyze message quality, credibility and point of view, as well as to understand the social, cultural and ethical issues that accompany the use of digital technology in communications. Syllabus