Tag Archives: student

The Hero Project: A media engagement experiment

Many student journalists choose the field of journalism and public relations because they want their life to have an impact. And teaching about engagement can help them in their desire to create change.

Research examining engagement tends to fall in three areas: 1) civic engagement, 2) student engagement and 3) employee engagement. Research definitions of engagement tend to reflect the aim of helping people to develop identity, learn how to participate and flourish as a community.

  • “…having both a behavioral component, termed participation, and an emotional component, termed identification” (Finn & Voelkl, 1993; p. 249).
  • “Civic engagement is any activity where people come together in their role as citizens” (Diller, 2001, p. 22).

In the field in journalism, educators have been criticized about teaching students about newsroom socialization rather than teaching them to tailor information to encourage citizens to participate. The intent of a liberal arts education was designed to nurture students to be problem solvers, creative thinkers, and critical scholars (Higginbotham 1961; Wick & Phillips, 2008).

As educators, we should critically evaluate whether our teaching efforts are helping to empower students to create public action and awareness. When teaching engagement, students should be asking themselves whether their efforts reflect a world they want to make and whether their efforts accurately represent people. Engagement has the potential to create a sense of connectedness and self-efficacy among humans, which can lead to loyalty to an individual and organization.

The cultivation of intellectual and critical thinkers starts with encouraging them to connect to people outside their usual social circles. Several organizational leaders are encouraging news reporters to connect their social media identities to stories, post requests for story ideas on social media channels and meet with online community members in a F2F environment.

The line between public relations and journalism is blurring. Both fields recognize the importance of relationships for future sustainability, however many public relations professionals understand the significance of relationships better.

Journalists often view themselves as serving specific communities. Researchers have often referred to community as a physical location. However, a community can refer to a geographic area or refer to a group of people with similar interests. The process of sharing information allows journalists to be more aware of the diversity of communities that exist.

It is important to have a plan in mind when crafting exercises that teach students about media engagement. I had spent fall semester 2011 structuring assignments for my spring 2012 honors Online Media class. I hope that sharing my plan will help or inspire other people to experiment.

In my Online Media class at Arizona State University, I taught social media, visual communication and coding… and time constraints would not allow the full experiment to take place. Time constraints are a common problem for educators who are digitally literate. In this post, I will discuss how I envisioned the assignment, what actually happened, and what how I would like to expand upon this experiment in the future.

The class final project theme centered on examining the meaning of hero. I specifically wanted students dissect the construct of hero. The group discussed and focused on nine sub-themes: 1) the philosophical dissection of the construct, 2) why we needs heroes, 3) superheroes, 4) video games, 5) children’s definition of heroes, 6) how other cultures define heroes, 7) musicians, 8) celebrities and 9) villains.


Plan for Engagement Experiment

First Day
I asked the mostly sophomore-level students to post their thoughts and reactions about The Hero Project to a Tumblr blog. I envisioned students sharing their personal thoughts on this blog throughout the semester. Blog posts can encourage classroom community and topic reflection. And I planned to share this blog on the final project website.

Second Week
Each student was to be responsible for a social media channel and one person was responsible with commenting on sites related to our niche. They were required to set up a social media profile, market the project, create content, connect with others with similar interests and promote the project following publication via their assigned channel. The setup portion of the assignment was to be due during the second week of the semester. The social media sites chosen were Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, Quora, Flickr, Delicious, and blog comments.

Third Week
On the Tumblr blog, each student shared the best practices for engagement related to their social media channel.

Sixth Week
We discussed the creation of a promotional video related to the project. I showed examples of videos in class for inspiration: Jacob’s Story, Will it blend?, Free Hugs and Bad Project. Based on Jacob’s story, the students thought it would be engaging to bring a white board to the streets asking people who their hero was and why. Two students did shoot the slideshow, however it was created at the end of the semester.

Eighth Week
The class of nine students was required to create a multimedia piece summarizing the effect their personal hero had on them. They were asked to interview their personal hero and/or interview themselves talking about their hero. I graded them on creativity and focus, rather than production quality. You can view their videos on their class Tumblr site. The majority of the class members voted that this were their favorite assignment of the semester. Here is some of their feedback:

  • “Making this personal hero video was a very cathartic experience … I think it communicates the message I was going for and I would love to make it longer.”
  • “We don’t often get the chance to express ourselves personally in journalism class, and I enjoyed being able to tell my own story for a change. I can’t wait to share this video with my dad. He had no idea while working on this that I was calling him my hero.”
  • “No matter what grade I get, this will probably end up being my favorite assignment of the semester. It was deeply personal, and dug at the core of what makes who I am.”

I encourage educators to allow at least one assignment that challenges students to apply a different or more personal lens related to the class focus.

Fifteenth Week
The crew coded and created a website called The Hero Project. And they posted their final thoughts about the project on the Tumblr blog. Ideally, I wanted them to interact more in social media spheres, however I am quite proud of what they did accomplish.


The Future

Ideally, I would like to teach a class called “Engaging Communities.” In such a class, I would like teaching crowdsourcing/curation, engagement, search, alternative forms of storytelling, verification and much more.

My students did begin to understand that they need to learn how to connect their content to people in the online environment. I wanted students to post suggested hashtags, live Twitter feeds, live chats and Ustreams, social media share buttons near stories and create a resources page and sidebars to encourage people to engage the content offline and online.

I have accepted a position at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism for fall 2012. I am co-teaching and helping design a journalism capstone class in this department. Based on my experience with this experiment this past Spring semester, I am inspired to continue. Here are some of my plans for the fall semester course:

During the first week students, students will search social media channels and search engines for story idea inspiration around an assigned theme. Sites could include:

Students will pitch their ideas on a G+ class circle. They will then vote (+1) and comment critically on the ideas. They will be required to observe and create content for niche communities throughout the semester. Team members will also be required to create crowdsourced stories, experiment with storytelling and engage in niche communities throughout the semester.

When I taught at Bloomsburg University in PA, I noticed that students would grow creatively and intellectually when given the opportunity to express themselves. Several academic studies show that the desire to be creative is a top reason why many journalism students choose the major of journalism. This fall semester, I am assigning every student to visually summarize their interpretation of the team’s topic using multimedia. The multimedia piece could be a montage of feet or it could be them expressing their thoughts to the camera about the niche topic. The more creative projects will receive higher grades. They will embed the SEOed video on the team’s Tumblr blog. And I also plan to still have them create promotional videos.

My goal ultimately with these assignments is to send a message that I want them to approach journalism from different angles. Many educators spend a great amount of time telling them what is and what is not journalism. In my class, I want them to take risks that reflect their desire to inform, help and motivate people. Research in political communication and other fields has shown that mobilizing efforts do influence positive behavior within individuals. Thus, I want them to also think about how they can mobilize the public for civic good. To find inspirational examples of mobilizing efforts, one should look at historical newspapers of the underground press in the 1960s.

Some syllabi suggestions would be to: 1) assign a social media editor to team projects, 2) require research of a social media channel and formulating story ideas within the channels, 3) assign a crowdsourced assignment, 4) embrace personal expression and interpretation and 5) require public and private reflection.

To learn more about engagement, I suggest reading posts from Steve Buttry, Knight Foundation’s Engagement Commons or Howard Rheingold. And of course, here is my presentation and visit my teaching page for updates on my classroom experiments at Michigan State University.

And if you have questions or comments, please comment or email me at carp@msu.edu. And I want to thank the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication public relations and communication technology divisions for the speaking invitation (#AEJMC12 #prprofs) and my co-panelists @PRvolsProf, @jizaks, @abbylovett, @marcusmessner, @RedClayHound, Charles Lubbers and moderator @Gallicano.

Journalism and PR student multimedia project examples

My sophomore-level Online Media students create both professional portfolios and small team websites each semester. This is their first college classroom experience using technological tools to share their research, reporting, and stories. I select approximately one-third of their projects to publish for the CronkiteZine each semester.

I wanted to share with you some of their projects to show how capable students can be when given the foundation. The foundation includes the teaching of typography, web writing, multimedia storytelling, and web design. I wish I could spend more time on multimedia storytelling, however time constraints do not allow it. My hope following this class is that they will continue creating such content on their own.

Final Projects

ASU Crime – Each year ASU Police publishes crime statistics. This website is dedicated to going more in-depth to see what those numbers really mean.

Scars of War – In 2001, the United States became embattled in the longest war in U.S. history. Since it began, more than 42,000 military members have returned home injured. This piece investigates how service people transition.

Photo Enforcement - This site was created to provide accurate, objective reporting on the issue of photo enforcement.

Undocumented Students and the Dream Act – This site attempts to explain the complex realities undocumented students face in immigration law and shed light on the piece of legislation they hope will allow them to become lawful citizens: the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act.

Citizens of Nowhere – Once refugees become citizens, they often create cultural centers and continue their traditional celebrations. This site shares stories of their transition.

The Perils of Public Transit – A team of reporters sought to more precisely understand the public transit conflict. You can read stories about local bus drivers, the dangers that Phoenix bus operators face, the status of contract negotiations, and the future of passenger service.

Immigration Economics – Joe Arpaio’s office has arrested hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants, but little is known about what happens to those affected.

Practical Trash – This is a project devoted to informing people about  dumpster diving or uses for trash.

Pulse on a Corner – A story of two men who spend their days at an intersection of a popular coffee shop and restaurant.

Parting with Pets – The goal is to provide information and support to pet owners who may be preparing for the death of their animal.

Students Face Economic Hard Times – Many students at Arizona State University are feeling the pinch. This site breaks down how it is affecting them.

Helping students pick a blog topic

My Online Media students published their first posts today. The assignment requires them to focus on a niche area. The most difficult part often is trying to think of an idea for a blog topic.

For example, food blogs were attractive to students this semester. It would be difficult to develop community and authority with such a broad topic area. To follow their passion while helping them to be successful, students identified their corners in the food blogosphere.

One student is evaluating the healthiness of health food; another student is creating video and using text to decipher food terminology; and another student is focusing on sharing information on how to prepare backpacking meals. They will do well if they focus on quality and are unique enough to be recognized by other bloggers in their niche community.

Here are some questions that may help you develop a blog topic:
1. Can you develop a community? Is your content unique? Has it been done a million times? Harry Potter is not unique.
2. Can the angle allow for substance? Or will it lend itself to more surface-level coverage?
3. Are you committing professional suicide?

Prof KRG also presented questions you should ask yourself when trying to develop a blog topic. Jayson Peters pointed me to a site that details five different types of blogs that may help you identify your specialty.

Please feel free to read and comment on my students’ posts:

Aiyana Havir – Eye.oh.uh.Musician

Alex Lancial – The Dive Log

Kate Kunkel – Health Food is Junk

Pearce Bley – Budget Valley Golfing

Kayla Frost - The Hungry Backpacker

Mauro Whiteman – Words Like Freedom

Gabriela Rodiles – Gourmet Gab

Dani Schenone – The Closet Hoarder

Brittany Morris -Beardlesque Brittany

Connor Radnovich – Point of Clarification

Kelsey Roderique – Advertising Basics

Josselyn Berry – No More Ms. Nice Girl

Alex Gregory – State of the Stuff

Preston Sotelo – Videogames – The Digital Odyssey

Student online portfolios — journalism, PR, etc.

My Online Media students worked hard this semester to create their online portfolios. I am proud of them and proud of the hard work they put into these sites and my class.

You can also view portfolios from past semesters.

Meghan McCarthy
Sandra Sanchez
Aaron Lavinsky
Christina Silvestri
Andrea Martinez
Jack Fitzpatrick
Richard Flores
Bianca Harris
Emily Erwin
Andres Cano
Erin Saltzman
Tiana Chavez
Heather Jackson
Heather Yako
Sara Steffan
Uriel Garcia
Josh Plemon
Emily Johnson

Jeremy Knop
Stephanie Paeprer
Brennan Smith
Molly Smith
Shawn Deloney
Joseph Schmidt
Selena Larson
Tia Castaneda
Michelle Berbling
Joseph Nemec
Kalen Bigger
Matt Haldane
Paige Gruner
Jesseca Zwerg
Lindsay Hoffman
Aaron Wylam
Michael Hammelef
Danny Jimenez
Kiersten Farley

Using Foursquare to take student attendance

My test of using Foursquare to take attendance bombed. Foursquare is an app that lets you publicly check into places. I asked students to “check in” into my class this past semester as a way of taking attendance. I created a place called, “Carpenter’s 305: Online Media Class.” I decided to discontinue with the experiment after few classroom check ins. Drawbacks included:

  1. Students who did not have a smart phone had to log onto the computer to check in using the awkward Foursquare mobile. This process delayed the start of class.
  2. As students checked into Foursquare on their phones, other smart phone distractions, such as a text from a friend, could delay the start of class.
  3. Another benefit of Foursquare is that you can add tips about a place. Here are some of my students’ tips about my class at the start of the semester: “hello! i love online media!”; “Don’t talk crap about twitter in front of your online media instructor.”; “The trash can in this room is missing! Walk outside and turn to the left to find one.”; and “Add tips so you can say you’ve added tips.” Love my students :). One idea is to ask students to share useful tips with future students.

Students from one of my sections did enjoy battling for the mayor position of my class. And some students were thrilled they snagged the “Player Please” badge because they checked into a location with 3 females/males.

I used to carry a shiny slick green book with each student’s name and the class dates written in it to each class, and I may go back to my book.

But before I do, I plan to try the Attendance app this semester. I will let you know how it goes.

Facebook fan pages as a classroom tool

Facebook fan pages are usually used by businesses for promotional purposes. However, I decided to experiment with fan pages for my Online Media classes this past semester.

I was unsure of how to best use it for pedagogical purposes. After students “liked” my class fan page, I tested it by posting class announcements. However, I could not be sure that they received the announcements, and they never interacted with these messages on the feed because they were interpreted as one-directional. Email is the most dependable tool for reaching students outside of the classroom.

As the semester progressed, I discovered the best classroom use for the Facebook fan page was building community among the students. I would ask students to post their lab assignments to the fan page. Students quickly logged onto Facebook to view their peers’ work. After intensely scrolling down to view their classmates’ posts, they would begin discussing how they fared compared to other students with their neighbors. I also found students from previous classes followed the fan page feed.

Fan pages are simple to create. Here’s a video tutorial. After 25 people have “liked” your page, you can change the URL to a vanity URL. And you should tell students to not worry that you will be stalking them on Facebook. According to FB, “Pages cannot see peoples’ profiles, only their profile photo and name. Pages do not receive a News Feed with information about what people who choose to connect with them are doing. Pages can communicate with their audience through updates, but they have no access to your personal information. Page admins, however, will be able to see anything you’ve made available to Everyone on your profile.”

If you are a teacher, I would suggest testing it if your class has a notable number of assignments or lab projects. It is an effective way to share students’ work with other students. Another benefit is that students will not be clogging your email with their projects.

Student online resumes: design and color selection

I teach sophomore-level students how to create website portfolios. I believe that some of these portfolios are very well-designed. One of the most trying parts of teaching students to create a site from scratch is that they love to paint their favorite color (pink, purple, green, etc.) all over their site. I love color, but… I try to encourage them to use their favorite color in a different way: font. I also encouraged the use of bigger font, bigger images, and social media icons.

Here is a link to previous sections of Online Media.

Honor’s Section
Julia Tylor
Jessica Goldberg
Chelsey Heath
Mary Shinn
Stacy Gollinger
Kelsea Wasung
Pedro Silva
Sam Tongue
Cortney Bennett
Danielle Chavez
Nicole Lavella
Evie Carpenter
Gerald Bourguet
Annie Carson
Jessica Choi
Nesima Aberra
Jacob Wipf
Daria Marjanovic

JMC305 Group
Olivia Makinson
Jacqueline Gutierrez
Justin Beatty
Lia Steinberg
Alexa Ablondi
Annia Quiroz
Steven Atkinson
Jen Hoagland
Mary Papuyo
Nicole Galbo
Marisa Roper
Amy Pitney
Alexis Smith
Samantha Egan
Evan Bisbee
Erick Judge
Justine Garcia
Duyen Tran
Katelynn Garrett
Nathan McWhortor

Spring 2010 student journalism and public relations portfolios

My Online Media students finished their portfolios for the Spring 2010 semester. This exercise not only helps them with their design skills, but also makes them aware that they need to be working on their resume while in school even if they are sophomores. I enjoy working with journalism and public relations students on their portfolios because I am able to see their creativity and growth.

Here are the online portfolios from previous sections as well.

Honors Section
Caroline Porter
Chevas Samuels
Dustin Volz
Emily Timm
Eric Gembarowski
McKenzie Manning
Sal Rodri­­­guez
Saman Golestan
Sebastien Bauge
Shawndrea Corbin
Stephanie Snyder
Victoria Pelham
William D’Urso

Undergraduate Section
Alex Hampel
Cecelia Bustamante
Celeste Arkeat
David Vega
Derrick Lee
Desiree Salazar
Ekta Poudel
Erica Silva
Harper Babin
Jeremy Thompson
Kate Barnes
Kati Shearer
Kyle Burton
LeeAnn DiSanti
Monica Arevalo
Nick Shepro
Paige Soucie
Shanna Wester
Tommy Miller