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.… 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.… 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:

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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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.
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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. When showing this project to my students, I took them through the text narrative to show how different it is from the multimedia piece.… Read more