I recently attended the Annual Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), which took place in Chicago. This was the second time I was attending the event. Last year, I presented a poster based on my research on Chinese television drama exports. This year I wasn't presenting any research and I was attending the event because of a travel grant that I received from my university's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) after receiving a Teaching Innovation Award in May. Long-story short, as part of the grant I was asked to prepare a report on the teaching innovations presented at the conference. I copy of the full report is available on the website of CLASS, but I thought it would be interesting to share some of the key ideas in a blog post, which makes it more interactive... and keep the blog updated.
Innovative uses of technology in the classroom
There were plenty of interesting examples of how new technologies could be used to enhance the learning experience. These innovations go from the way courses are managed to how assignments are designed, delivered and graded. An overarching theme in many of the teaching panels and presentations is the incorporation of mobile devices (phones and tablets) in the classroom, not only in order to engage students, most of which are heavy users of mobile phones, but also to improve their digital literacy skills, which sometimes are assumed to be higher than they are in reality.#New communication technologies for course organization and classroom interactions
At City University of Hong Kong, where I currently teach, a couple semesters ago we transitioned from Blackboard to Canvas as our course management system. While Canvas is a powerful platform to organize course content, probably much more reliable and user-friendly that Canvas, some educators are exploring other platforms, particularly social media, that can help increase students’ following of course instructions. Generally speaking, one of the things that struck me the most at this year's AEJMC is how much social media is being pushed into classrooms. Some of the experiences reported seems very promising. At the same time, I think it would be useful if we had some more research looking at the effectiveness of these practices.
So here are two very interesting alternatives to Canvas or Blackboard as course management systems:
Quint Randle at Brigham Young University, has been using Facebook to manage his Visual Communication courses. He uses private groups, one for each course. Students are invited to join at the beginnig of the semester and are replaced by new students at the beginning of the following semester. Facebook allows for easy sharing of multimedia files; it allows private and group conversations, and also makes provision of feedback (both textual, sound and visual) relatively easy. Some of the problems of using Facebook as a course management tool include the possibility of some students not having a Facebook account or students whose access to the platform might be restricted by their parents.
Another interesting option is the use of #slack, a widely used communication platform and messaging system in the publishing, IT and media industries. #slack provides a very intuitive and easy to use interface that not only allows teachers to provide information about the course to students, but it also facilitates file exchanges and communication between students and groups. It appears to be particularly useful for capstone projects and classes that involve a lot of student group activities. One of the advantage of using #slack is that students get acquainted with a tool that is increasingly being used in the workplace. At the same time, it allows an easy integration with other social media platforms as well as file sharing services.
For a more detailed explanation on the use of #slack in the classroom, readers can refer to Zach Whalen’s (University of Mary Washington) detailed report on his experience using #slack or this teaching note prepared by Catherine M. Staub at Drake University, whose presentation at AEJMC got me thinking about using #slack in my Video Production class at CityU next semester.#Digital video editing with Videolicious
It is increasingly common for educators to include some form of video assignment in courses in the Social Science, as I found out at a teaching workshop I attended at City University of Hong Kongearlier this year. Because mobile video technologies have become so prevalent, it is fairly easy for students to use their devices to record good quality footage. A problem that often arises, however, is how to edit footage, because some of the editing software in the market has a rather steep learning curve. At AEJMC I learnt about Videolicious, an apparently easy to use mobile and desktop app that makes the process extremely simple. The advantage of using Videolicious is that students can focus on the content of their productions without having to worry too much about having a profound knowledge of editing software.
I gave Videolicious a quick try and it is indeed easy to use. It is not based on a timeline, like most editing software. Instead, users just select the order of clips and the software renders an edited version (with fade transitions in the free version). It is possible to add an audio track and soundbites. Videolicious comes with a free version and a professional version. The professional version is available for free to educators. I am also giving Videolicious a try this next semester in my courses. Lee Hood from Loyola University gave some interesting tips on how to use Videolicious—and by extension any other form of mobile video—in any social sciences class.
Dozens of good teaching ideas were presented at the conference. I am probably biased because of the courses I teach, but the ones that I felt I had to try out at some point were all technology-related. Here is my top 5 of engaging and creative assignments. Whenever possible, I include links to online resources provided by the educators who presented them.#5: Multimedia storytelling - Historical buildings
This exercise involves designing a video/multimedia piece that explains the history of a historical building in a city or town. To do so, students are required to access archival material (usually photographs), interview people who are somehow related to the building and shoot contemporary footage about the building. This exercise has students engage with archival research, it involves them with the community and it teaches them some interesting storytelling techniques. Joe Gosen, from Western Washington University has put together a guide on how implement an exercise like this.#4: Twitter in the classroom
While the number of instructors that use Twitter in the classroom has been increasing in recent years, some of the existing practices fail to engage students. Some assignments that have proved to work with media and journalism students include:
- Tweet the book: have students tweet the name of books of movies related to class, and ask questions to the authors/creators.
- Connect with authors and guess speakers: have students live report a conference by a guest speaker on twitter, and use twitter to collect questions from students.
- Twitter list of credible sources: learn how to build a list of credible sources and engage with the individuals through social media.
- Twitter question of the week: have students pose questions related to the content of the course every week and select the best question for extra credit.
Anthony Adornato at Ithaca College has students work on mobile reporting (newsgathering, distribution and audience engagement) with platforms that are not very commonly used in journalism courses, such as Snapchat. Students partner with news organizations which are not very proficient in these new forms of reporting and work together with students in covering large events such as elections or political campaigns.#2: Facebook Live
One problem many journalism students face when they land their first job is their minimal experience with live crosses. To solve this problem, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and, more recently Snapchat and Instagram, provide great opportunities for students to learn how to report in real time. Facebook Live reporting assignments typically involve groups of 3 to 5 students who attend an event and take turns in front and behind the camera. For more ideas and resources about how to incorporate video in the classroom, particularly live video exercises (probably more useful to students of journalism and media studies), Deb Wenger at the University of Mississippi has put together a list of great resources.#1: Social Scavenger Hunt
The use of games as a teaching and learning device might not be innovative on its own, but if we consider how technology can aide this process, then more innovative ways of designing games can be incorporated. One such example is the “Social Scavenger Hunt,” designed by two professors at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. It is an experimental learning exercise to teach students how to use different types of social media platforms in an enjoyable way. A very detailed guide on how to design a Scavenger Hunt in the classroom can be found in this guide.