Katy Culver



How journalism educators can ‘train students for jobs that may not yet exist’

When I began my current job in the journalism school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my director told me I had a particularly daunting mission: “train students for jobs that may not yet exist.”

I’ve tried to keep her voice in my head over the years and keep my courses on pace accordingly. But as the business models of journalism have grown ever more strained, I realized I wasn’t doing enough to give my students assignments and inspiration to stoke their entrepreneurial fire, to drive them to envision the apps, sites, platforms and functions we’ll all use 10 years from now.

After all, if journalism is to thrive, this generation of students will have to create things that do not yet exist.

At other schools, entire courses and programs are dedicated to entrepreneurship in media and business plan creation. We don’t have that luxury. Also, I’m a believer in spreading valuable lessons throughout as many courses as possible.

In advance of adding new entrepreneurial elements to my introductory and magazine courses this fall, I test-drove some ideas with students taking internship credit this summer. The students enroll for credit while working at internships across the country. Faculty generate different assignments for the students who enroll with them, often involving readings and research papers related to the experience.

The students responded with a creative vigor I’ve never seen in previous outings with interns, making it a good case study for other journalism educators trying to help students gain entrepreneurial skills.

The idea was simple: develop a five-page pitch for an entrepreneurial idea somehow related to each student’s internship. They could propose a new service, business, website, mobile app, device, platform … whatever.

I asked for a connection to their internships, but it could be fairly loose. For instance, a student interning at a PR firm might have a hotel chain as a client. She could propose an “American Road Trip” app that maps people across cool places in the U.S. and lets them rate hotels along the way.

I didn’t want them getting too tripped up on style vs. substance, so I gave them pretty basic pitch requirements:

  • Create a specific idea, including basic branding, such as a name for the app or service.
  • Determine the audience and what needs the new idea fulfills for that audience, or what problem it solves.
  • Brainstorm potential revenue streams. (They didn’t need a specific budget, but I asked them to discuss what streams they’d rely on: ad-support, subscriptions, paid downloads, etc.)
  • Gather primary research on at least three sources connected to the idea. This could be in the form of focus group with potential customers, interviews with coworkers at the internship, surveys of other entrepreneurs in the same sector, etc.
  • Gather secondary research from at least three sources. This could include articles on entrepreneurship, blog posts related to the idea, etc.

The group began by selecting videos from Stanford’s entrepreneurship program for inspiration and picked specific points to remember as they worked through their ideas.

We then did a series of Google+ hangouts to discuss their ideas, brainstorm and find holes in their plans. G+ hangouts are an ideal tool when you need to connect students in far-flung places, offering free videoconferencing for up to 10 people at once. The tool allows students in internships from the midwest to the coasts to benefit from hearing one another’s thoughts.

The students came up with excellent, fresh ideas and are polishing their pitches right now. We’ll hangout again to go through the outcomes. For those who are back on campus in fall, we’ll meet with an alumnus working in venture capital to hear how funders might respond to their pitches.

I’m not an expert in building a bottom line, but a few of the ideas appear to have long-term potential. Even without projecting into the future, the students say the experience has been positive. They appreciated the chance to take their internship experience and hone an idea all their own. They began walking on entrepreneurial legs they hadn’t yet realized were under them.

I hope someday they’ll run. Read more


5 ways journalism educators can teach students to use multimedia in breaking news coverage

As wildfires ravaged her state, Colorado College journalism lecturer Diane Alters emailed a list of fellow educators for suggestions on how to give her students breaking news reporting experience — and also keep them safe in the process.

The query offered the perfect opportunity for what I like to think of as “small multimedia wins” in teaching.

Journalism schools across the country are embroiled in important but lengthy discussions about reforming curricula, updating courses and funding technology. Meanwhile, new forms of journalism roll on, and our students can get left behind.

While I stay involved in the larger structural debates, I look for small and immediate ways to incorporate digital reporting tools and publishing into my classes. Breaking news events like the Colorado wildfires provide an ideal moment to stick with notebook reporting and text stories and also round out coverage with multimedia.

With thanks to others on the listserve who added their ideas, here’s a roundup of how an instructor can use new tools to cover this news event.

Map the fire

Data journalism is a critical component in any news organization today. Students must have a working familiarity with how to seek data sources, clean data, analyze and interpret data, and display it in useful visualizations for audiences. Data can get exceedingly complicated, so I like to begin small with maps.

Students could work with agencies to get lists of fire locations, houses affected and firefighting lines. My favorite tool for mapping is Google Fusion Tables. It’s easy enough for class use and is a staple in major newsrooms. Look, for instance, at this map of snow removal failures that WNYC put together.

Google offers an excellent tutorial on Fusion Tables, beginning with mapping. Students can get up to speed in an hour or less.

Capture first-person audio accounts

I’m continually shocked when students fail to capture audio from interviews and events even though many of them have a device in their hands that will enable them to do so.

About 75 percent of students in my intro course this spring came armed with their own smart phones, all of which are capable of capturing and transferring audio. Yet only a handful think to use them for recording interviews and ambient sound.

If students want to capture quick snippets and add a picture, you can direct them to an app called AudioBoo. Students could visit a fire evacuation center, ask a common question and then use the app to round up the answers and photos on a Web page.

Students can record longer interviews on smartphones or digital audio recorders. They can post it as recorded or edit it into a standard radio news package. Audacity is a great free tool for audio editing on a Mac or PC. I’ve created a series of related tutorials online, which you can refer to for more guidance.

Build timelines of fire moments

Timelines offer audiences sequential summaries of key dates and transitions in an event or issue, usually with images. Students could mark the start of fires, efforts to contain them and critical events, such as injuries or damage to noted properties.

Dozens of timeline tools are available for free online. Start by teaching students how to use free options like Dippity, just to get them acquainted with the idea.

But then move onto more functional options. I like ProPublica’s TimelineSetter but recently have questioned whether horizontal timelines are the best approach. (I’ve been meaning to check out TimelineJS, as well). WNYC and Balance Media have created an excellent and easy vertical timeline that I’ll roll out in classes this fall. Their description and support materials are accessible for students.

Both of these options require a small amount of coding knowledge. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Students absolutely must come out with basic coding familiarity in today’s journalism world. Getting a timeline to work in a Web page is an easy way to begin that understanding.

Curate social media

The Colorado wildfires have both a quantitative and qualitative impact. Many people are affected deeply by it, so they are using social media tools to stay involved in the conversation.

Students can capture these posts and exchanges and curate them into content for a website.

The best tool for this curation is Storify, which is fast-growing in many newsrooms.  Columbia University’s journalism school has a fast and effective tutorial that covers not just the tech of the tool, but also good journalistic practices in using it.

Storify is free and most useful to pull lots of social media content together. Students also can use screen capture (on Mac or PC) to grab individual tweets, photos or Facebook posts to use as art for stories.

Explore other creative options

  • Liveblog a press conference: Use tools like CoveritLive or ScribbleLive for students to report the event as it happens. (Both tools charge for newsroom use but offer free accounts for journalism educators if you contact them directly.)
  • Collect student tweets under a common hashtag (a short word beginning with # that is used to connect tweets thematically). Students should use community hashtags, such as #COwildfire, but also make use of a class-based tag, such as #j200fires.
  • Work with live video: a smartphone is a terrific videocamera. Use a tool like Qik to get short bits out immediately.
  • Create audio slideshows: Bring together pictures and sound with something like SoundSlides, which has just incorporated a new HTML5 version of slideshows to improve compatibility with Apple mobile platforms.

Draw on professionals

Many of us are too shy in building connections with newsrooms. If I were covering a wildfire, I would first Google “U.S. wildfires 2011.”

After finding last year’s hotspots, I’d look to news organizations in those regions and see how they covered the fires. I have often found that a simple email to a reporter or editor yields an opportunity to Skype videochat that person into my class for ideas and advice.

In fact, Diane Alters and her students benefited from a public radio news director helping them on everything from how to hold a cell phone to best capture sound, to the ethics of reporting when friends and family are affected.

The tools to expand coverage of breaking news in a digital age are almost boundless. What do you use in your newsroom or classroom? Please share your knowledge and continue the conversation in the comments section. Links to tools are always welcome. Read more


Resources for journalism educators to stay current on media news & trends

My students were recently on spring break, but that didn’t slow them in their march to improve my teaching through social media.

At one point, a student in my intro course tweeted:

tweet by @blakesamanas

He highlighted an ethics case I’d completely missed — NBC’s investigation of some clearly problematic editing of audio from the Trayvon Martin shooting.

At first I said, “Geez, how did I miss that?”

Then I thought, “Thank God for social media.”

Journalism educators today face the daunting task of staying current in a media environment that seems to be constantly changing. Our classes are already loaded with the fundamentals of reporting and writing. Now we have to add new ideas and tools available in a flourishing digital environment.

When it comes to keeping current, we can all be grateful our new media world is a social one. I could elaborate on hundreds (maybe thousands) of veins we can mine for teaching gold. But in surveying my behaviors over the past month, I find these are the go-to tools I rely on to know what’s new and, more importantly, what’s worthwhile.


Too often dismissed as a social-only time vampire, Facebook is one of the most important places where I get teaching ideas and feedback. It’s ideal for interaction and spontaneous discovery. I recommend joining the Social Journalism Educators group, as well as learning about Facebook’s tools for journalists.


I will not endeavor to create a “must list” of people to follow. It would be too long and too easy to leave off important people (at the risk of digitally offending them). Instead, I’m going to list a few people who do a good job following and retweeting other good people: DePaul’s Mike Reilley (@journtoolbox), Florida’s Mindy McAdams (@macloo), Columbia’s Sree Sreenivasan (@sree), NYU’s Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) and USC’s Robert Hernandez (@webjournalist).

You can easily pick up a great stream by following their RTs and digging into their lists. Plenty of other great thinkers and teachers abound. Help me highlight them by posting their handles in the comment section. Also consider pointing yourself and your students toward this recent roundup from USA Today.


Aimed at marketing and advertising professionals, MediaPost gives me regular insights into economics and behavioral trends to add to my classes. I subscribe to free email blasts on social media, metrics, search, and data and behavior. I’m also a major fan of their Daily Online Examiner, an analysis of policy affecting digital media. It’s often the first place I learn about controversial new efforts to regulate speech online.


Mashable rounds up news on technology, media, marketing and trends. You can follow it online or on Twitter (@mashable), but my favorite way to get updates is via the site’s daily e-newsletter.

That brings me to an important point. I don’t so much read Mashable as raid it. With the many demands of teaching already staring us down, we have to be time management mercenaries when it comes to using these resources.

There’s a wealth of content, but none of us should feel we have to be masters of all of it. Instead, I look for repeat hits when a new app, trend or insight gets mentioned across a few of these resources. Then I know it’s sticky enough to address in class.

I put the “how do you stay current” question to a number of other educators and got the same reply: Poynter.org. Poynter faculty Al Tompkins also serves up content on his own blog, which is especially helpful when it comes to ethics.

My list isn’t exhaustive, so I’d love to hear your ideas. After all, I turned to social media to help me draft this list in the first place. Thanks to Jody Strauch, Steve Fox, Sue Robinson, Gavin Adamson and Carrie Brown-Smith for their help. Read more


Should journalism educators ban students from using technology in class?

A friend and fellow educator sent a shock through my system last week. He told me he was so frustrated by rude and distracted behavior on digital devices in his journalism labs that he imposes a ban on laptops, tablets and cell phones turned on during class.

Not known for subtlety, I asked, “Are you insane?”

The interaction led to a productive conversation about digital distractions and effective teaching practices in a connected age. Somewhere in the combination of our approaches and their devices is a sweet spot that can move learning forward.

My ban-imposing friend, Tim Brown from the University of Central Florida, has a solid point. Every college instructor I know has been frustrated by Facebook pictures or ESPN box scores popping up on a monitor as glassy-eyed students disengage themselves from the lecture. And Brown is no Luddite. He teaches journalism in the digital sphere every day.

“My main reason for banning technology in the classroom is that I’ve found it distracting, both for me and for many students,” he told me. “I’ve found that many students (not all, but enough) spend more time on social networking pages and YouTube than they do on taking notes. Looking at videos or Facebook timelines either distracts those around them or leads to conversations that have nothing to do with the class.”

True that. I’m especially swayed by the idea that these disruptions affect other students who are not off to the social races on their own. If I’m trying to concentrate but my group partner is reading a Kim Kardashian Twitter feed, I’m interrupted through no fault of my own.

But I took it to Brown with a larger point. Digital and social media are critical to the future of journalism. Banning technology in the classroom sends the message that they’re something less than that. It also sends the message that the only solution to wandering minds is to remove all temptation. Our students today, after all, will face these same tech enticements as professionals tomorrow.

I would argue instead that the solution is to give those minds something that keeps them from drifting away. In the same way Brown strives to make lectures interactive through discussion, we can extend the conversation into digital realms. Why not shake up the traditional lecture format? If I had to listen to myself drone on from PowerPoint for 75 minutes, I’d be on Facebook too.

At the recent (and excellent) Journalism Interactive conference for journalism educators, I learned about a number of ways to creatively attack this issue and improve my teaching.

Ron Yaros, a multiplatform journalism professor at the University of Maryland, fully integrates technology into all levels of his teaching. Key to his approach is the idea that his time together with students is not for delivering material but for exploring and expanding it through discussion and interaction — both live and digital. He’s moved beyond a lecture model and employs tech tools liberally in collaboration with students. For instance, students post ideas, questions and links to a Twitter feed that is then discussed in class.

“The overall blended approach of my courses is designed so that many of the face-to-face meetings are not to introduce new material but to discuss related material students have already researched between class meetings,” Yaros told me. “I use multiple technologies between meetings with focused assignments. This goes well beyond assigned readings or watching a canned video lecture because students use a course iPhone/Droid app to collect and share information from the field.”

Yaros pours a ton of time into his course prep, reinventing assignments and approaches regularly. That, to me, is why he’s wildly successful. New technologies give us new opportunities, but also more work. Students stay off their Facebook timelines in Yaros’ classes because he’s giving them meaningful interactivity.

“In short, I design every weekly topic and guide every classroom discussion with the information that students seek, select and share,” he said.

He advises others not to tackle too much too often, though. He chooses one course at a time to “invert” from a traditional lecture approach to something digitally interactive. He tries to build assignments that have a shelf life from term to term, so he’s not reinventing too often. And he employs automated quizzes in every class to hold students accountable. If they miss something in service of checking out their Facebook feed, they pay a grade price when they’re quizzed on it.

Technology in the classroom is not about “banning” or “allowing.” It’s about engaging. This could not be more important for budding journalists to learn.

We can each find ways to effectively incorporate technology into our classes and get students to use tech tools for learning purposes. I’m going to test out some new ideas in my intro course this semester and try to increase our engagement.

  • Segment content with breaks for activities: I’ve never been convinced about the efficacy of lectures. This semester, I’m going to try to break the information I provide into 15- or 20-minute chunks and then split students into groups with an online activity or two. For instance, in our session on critical thinking, I will have them debunk some prominent Internet lore.
  • Interact with Twitter live: At the conference I mentioned, one of the most productive moments occurred when a number of people started tweeting concerns that a panel on entrepreneurship did not include any women. Moderator Robert Hernandez, who teaches at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, was monitoring the feed and turned the conversation specifically to that question. The panel probably wouldn’t have otherwise addressed that critical gender issue. That experience taught me that inviting students to tweet during my classes can take me in productive directions.
  • Increase advance work: I’m going to adopt Yaros’ approach of having students blog and tweet about course materials before we meet and then expand on those posts in discussion. This should be particularly helpful with readings, as we often have little time to discuss them in class.
  • Take their temperature: Digital tools like Poll Everywhere should help me gauge my students’ opinions on everything from PolitiFact’s latest ruling to the cultural importance of Justin Bieber. (If you’re doubting the pop star’s relevance in a journalism class, think about the news value of prominence.)

My tech-suspicious friend Brown told me he’s relaxing his ban as he enters a new semester. He’s going to try to keep technology use focused on class materials, not on YouTube sensations. “I do want to allow for people finding information during class that can contribute,” he said, “but at the same time I don’t want to compete with cats playing piano.”

Yaros, meanwhile, plans to “learn more about how the next generation of information consumers uses newer technologies in different ways to engage with digital content.”

I’d love to hear what you do in your classrooms to engage students through technology and how that relates to larger questions about journalism and society. Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Read more


How journalism professors can use screencasts as an effective & efficient teaching tool

I have an essential equation for using technology in my teaching.

My time creating content with a tech tool + students’ time using that content + the cost of the tech tool = a demonstrable positive result.

I’m a tech junkie, but I’m also a time skeptic. If I do not see the clear value in something, I won’t make the time to do it. Teaching and prep are time vampires for all of us, so we have to focus on the things that give us time back, instead of sucking it away.

Screencasts have provided the greatest value for the lowest investment for me. You’ve probably seen a screencast, which is basically a digital recording of a computer screen output.

When I received a small grant a few years ago to develop podcasts for my introductory multimedia class, the grant funders wanted me to podcast my lectures. My students all attend lecture (thanks to in-class quizzes, not my riotous wit), and I could not imagine any of them re-listening to me on their iPods while strolling down University Avenue or biking along State Street here in Madison, Wisc. But not wanting to squander grant funds, I thought about the various problems I could solve with some kind of audio/video combination that could be replayed.

Enter: Screen capture and narrated quiz keys.

For years, my teaching assistants and I have struggled to figure out how to help students improve their grammar and style on quizzes and papers. Here’s what would traditionally happen:

1. Student takes a quiz.

2. Student inserts errors.

3. We post the quiz key.

4. Student looks at the key.

5. Student doesn’t process answers and makes the same mistakes again.

I thought: What if the quiz key told them why a correction was made? Would that improve their retention and application?

So I used screen capture software to record my highlight of the PDF key and narrated why each correction is important. I wasn’t sure whether the students would take advantage of the narrated keys, but they did. The quiz average went up 7 points across the class.

In this case, the equation worked perfectly. It takes me about eight minutes to record, export and post the key, and it takes students about five minutes to watch it. The software used in these kinds of captures runs from free to about $100. Raising the average by a full letter grade clearly equals a demonstrable positive result.

I’ve expanded narrated screen capture into other areas of my course to:

  • Do video software tutorials.
  • Record Skype conversations with journalists.
  • Provide feedback on video and slideshow submissions from students. I play and pause the video as I talk through strengths and weaknesses and put it into a secure Dropbox so students can refer to it periodically.

I use a $100 piece of software called ScreenFlow. I prefer it because it provides super-simple back-end tools for editing out problems and rerecording. In keeping with my equation, I try to put my ego in neutral and do as many things as possible in one take.

Here are some other software options:

On my video tutorials page, you can find screen-captured videos on how to create screen captures. Others have also used screen capture to great success. Check out this site on Digital Literacy from the University of Georgia’s Mark Johnson. Or, do a Google search for screen capture software tutorials and you’ll come up with lots of instructions on how to use them. (Here’s one on creating a WordPress post by a group called “McBuzz”).

Take a free option like Jing for a test drive and see if you could use it to save time and be a more effective teacher.

If you’ve used screencasts in your teaching, tell us about it in the comments section. Read more

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How journalism students benefit from class blogs about values, practices

As incidences of checkbook journalism, plagiarism and fabrication spring up, I’m repeatedly struck by the importance of what I teach. It seems we’ve never needed ethical and excellent journalism more than we do now.

I try to promote the ethical practice of journalism every single day in my teaching and use technological tools to extend the conversation beyond the classroom. I’ve found that blogs are one way to keep students informed about important values and practices, and they enable me to use current examples to bring lessons to life.

In my intro multimedia course, I use a blog to bring in ethics issues and controversies we often don’t have time to cover in class. I populate the blog with items I think will engage the students — sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. I often introduce items online that we later discuss in lecture and in lab. The students regularly refer to the blog because it’s part of required weekly readings — and thus fair game for the all-powerful weekly quiz.

WordPress is the tool I use for all my blogging needs, though many people enjoy Blogger’s easy interface and the seamlessness of using one Google login for everything. Both services are free, and although they do feed in ads at times, I haven’t found them overwhelming, intrusive or at odds with my content.

Blog commenting has opened a door for students who feel less comfortable speaking up in class. Independence is a key ethic in journalism, and I want students to know that they can and should challenge the things I present to them. I like it when they use comments on the blog to fact-check my fact-checking.

While some students regularly comment on the blog, I’ve found that comment activity in general has dropped off markedly throughout the last two years. (This may be tied to an overall downward trend in blogging activity among this age group.)

I experimented with giving students access to add their own posts, but we quickly learned that doing so led to an excessive amount of material, at times unrelated to class. Now I ask them to email me with posts they’d like me to add.

We benefit from the immediacy and interactivity a blog offers. I can point students to their own successes (such as when they sniffed out problems with the James O’Keefe NPR “sting” well before national news outlets) and together we can highlight ethics failures (such as Bill O’Reilly’s infamous palm-trees-in-snowy-Wisconsin footage).

In my life outside class, I’m a blogging letdown. I’ve never been able to keep up the pace and thematic focus that makes a great personal blog.

But as a teacher, I feel motivated to keep class blogs going because I see how effective they are — not just at getting timely information in front of students, but at helping them keep important values top of mind throughout the year.

How do you use blogs in your own classes, or engage students in ethics exercises? Read more


How class wikis can help journalism students collaborate, stay organized

A few semesters ago, a student stopped by my office with her laptop because she had broken the links between a slideshow file and the images in it.

Easy fix, I thought. Locate the folder of images and relink it. I asked where she kept the files and she replied, “On my desktop.”

She handed me her MacBook, so I could look at the desktop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the desktop because it was entirely covered with overlapping files and folders.

“You, kiddo, need to organize your digital life,” I said. “Structure is your friend.”

In this fast-paced and ever-morphing world we’re sending our journalism students into, organization is critical. Instead of just telling my students that it’s important to be organized, I try to show them tools that will help them develop organizational skills. One of my favorite ways to do this is to have students collaborate through class wikis.

Wikis are simply collaboratively-built websites that groups of people can edit together. The most widely used wiki is, of course, Wikipedia, which invites the public to build the world’s best-tested encyclopedia. (If you’re a geek like me, you’ll chuckle at Wikipedia’s long, collaborative analysis of its own accuracy.)

While I caution students against relying on Wikipedia as a primary source, I heartily encourage them to use their own wikis in other ways. My favorite free tool is a service called PBWorks, which is ad-free for educators and students.

My classes use PBWorks when they have ongoing team projects. It’s been especially useful in my magazine course, where we use it to:

  • Record team contact information, so we have one go-to spot for emails, Instant Messages and cell numbers.
  • Set up story idea grids for commenting and revision.
  • Submit stories and move them through the editing and fact-checking processes.
  • Post design proposals for comment.
  • Take group notes on guest lecturers.
  • Request help with sources, art, critiques, etc.

The wiki is locked off to the public, so the students can freely exchange ideas, information and commentary.

I like the functionality of wikis because it encourages students to be collaborative and organized throughout a project — two key assets that will serve them well throughout their professional (and even personal) lives.

And I especially like PBWorks because it has an alert function that you can turn on to receive notifications when changes have been made to the wiki. Some students tell me they like this function the least, as the last thing they want is more email. But since you can control the function to update you immediately, once a day, or not at all, I think it’s terrific.

Wikis have been a lifesaver in one of the large, tech-heavy classes I teach. My teaching assistants and I used to get inundated with questions about software and would easily get 50 or more emails the day before a project segment was due. I grew frustrated answering the same questions over and over again from semester to semester.

Now, we require students to post their questions to a wiki and search previous posts before asking something new. Doing so has cut our troubleshooting traffic to almost zero. What’s more, the collaborative nature of a wiki enables students to answer one another’s questions without having to wait to hear from me. It’s been the single best time-saver technology I’ve yet used.

This class wiki is open to the public for reading, so feel free to use it to find your own answers to questions like, “Why does my Audacity audio file sound like the Chipmunks movie?”

Organizing groups of students doesn’t require a highly specialized tool. You can get started simply by using Google Docs and its “collections” function. It serves as more of a document repository but offers the group-editing functions of a wiki. The important step is using shared online spaces to set up and manage effective group work.

Do you use wikis or other group organizational tools in your teaching? Tell us about your experience in the comments section. Read more

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Why Delicious is an effective teaching tool for journalism educators

Delicious, which Yahoo just sold to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, is an ideal teaching tool for tagging content to share with students or other teachers.

We are all inundated daily with content to process and share via Twitter, Facebook and other social media. But Delicious, a social bookmarking site, helps you organize materials of interest by tags and descriptions — for your own future use and to share with others. It proves especially useful for teachers, who need content categorized and contained in one spot when they need class examples on the fly.

My brain becomes a sieve when I’m prepping lectures, often leaving me struggling for good examples. I may not, for instance, remember this compelling California Watch multimedia journalism package on earthquake safety and public school construction. But by using the Delicious bookmarklet I installed on my browser toolbar, I can tag the California Watch package however I like. In my case, I gave it the tags:

  • Multimedia: I want to remember to use it to show how some stories are good for text while others are better suited for audio, video or interactivity.
  • Map: Someday I’ll show a class how easily we interpret information when it’s mapped out.
  • Data: My students routinely struggle with translating quantitative information into useful forms.
  • Nonprofitjourn: California Watch is a product of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which is a key player in new funding models for news.

Next semester, when I want to show a great data example, I’ll simply return to my Delicious page, look for the “data” tag and find this package there. What’s more, I can also tag it by specific classes to push links out to students, such as tagging it “676″ and directing students in my J676 Digital Media Law and Ethics class to read new content with that tag. No more reading lists that are outdated the minute I copy them. My course content is dynamically updated with the latest issues, controversies and developments.

But Delicious is more than just a tool for keeping my own materials organized. It draws on the power of the crowd to extend its strengths. Once users make their bookmarks public on Delicious, any other user can see these bookmarks. So when I am looking for a slideshow example, I can try my own slideshow tags, but I also can look for other people’s tags.

One of my favorite bookmarkers is Poynter’s Regina McCombs. She’s far ahead of me in keeping track of the seemingly endless developments in mobile journalism. Check out her Delicious bookmarks with the tag “mobile.” I follow them to ensure I’m informed.

Delicious will save you time and bring you variety and smarts, and I can’t think of a better combination for teachers. If you haven’t already created a Delicious account, try setting one up and start tagging. For inspiration, check out the wealth of content available on these journalists’ Delicious pages:

Which journalists do you follow on Delicious, and for what type of content? You can use the comments section below to share your suggestions.

Katy Culver teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an adjunct faculty member at Poynter. Read more


How journalism educators can integrate more multimedia into their teaching

Every teacher knows that pit-of-the-stomach moment when you head into a new term and ask yourself the tough question: What can I be doing to make this course better? The nerves accompany the question because more work always seems to accompany the answer.

Those of us who have taught journalism over the last decade have felt course prep work expand exponentially as online and social media tools change the world of reporting and audience engagement. We have all the same fundamentals of reporting, writing and ethics to address. But then we look toward an array of digital media so dizzying it can make you nauseous.

Well, put away the Pepto-Bismol. Each month this year, I’m planning to write a Poynter.org column to help you “tech your teaching.” Specifically, I’ll offer tips to bring multimedia tools into your classes.

Here are some projects I recently shared with my University of Wisconsin-Madison students to show them how multimedia storytelling can be used …

To add something new to a story
This slideshow from the Howard County Times, a weekly in Maryland, proves that you don’t need massive resources to produce compelling multimedia.Image link to "Hungry" slideshow by the Howard County Times When showing this project to my students, I took them through the text narrative to show how different it is from the multimedia piece. We cannot make multimedia stories mere reruns of text content, I told them; they have to extend and amplify other angles or issues. This package does exactly that. Each time I hear the crack in the father’s voice, I know that audio is accomplishing something text alone could not.

To showcase data
This New York Times interactive budget balancing project is the ideal example of how journalists can use multimedia to showcase data and break down a complicated political issue. Take your students through a tour and see how your combined tax-and-spend hire wire act works.

To convey emotion
I do not let a single class pass without exploring some ethical questions. This video piece from the Boston Globe generated a fascinating discussion in my entry-level course last semester.Video package from Boston Globe

Some students skewered the piece for going too far into a family’s pain, saying they thought it ought to have remained private. Others defended the approach, saying most people are too comfortably removed from the violence of our cities to feel motivated to do anything about it. We all agreed that the producers showed merciful restraint in using natural sound rather than some emotive music track — a major misstep among many student multimedia projects.

The best way to include examples in your teaching is to embed links to the projects in your PowerPoint or keynote presentation. (In PowerPoint, highlight the text you want to link and select “Insert/hyperlink” from the top menus. In Keynote, highlight the text and choose the hyperlink button from the Inspector.) You can’t always count on a file staying online for long, especially if it’s controversial, so it can help to use screen capture tools or a media grabber to save a copy to your own computer.

My preferred media grabber is a Firefox extension called “DownloadHelper.” You can capture and save videos from almost any site, including YouTube. Just remember that copyright considerations apply; showing a sample in class may be considered fair use, but posting it on your own blog may not.

Here are some sites you can visit to find compelling multimedia projects:

  • 10,000 Words, a blog “where journalism and technology meet.”

How have you found ways to incorporate more multimedia into your teaching?

(Katy Culver teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an adjunct faculty member at Poynter.)
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