Entries from January 2010 ↓

Brainstorming for a new semester

I’m jumping into a new semester and as always, I’m mixing things up for the class I teach. In the last year, I’ve realized many of the tools I use are not a common part of journalism education: blogs, social networks, live streaming and blogging tools. The list goes on and on. So this semester I’m going to try to find ways to encourage my students to use these tools. I launched my class this week with a Twitter hashtag (#jenclass) and plans to use Google Wave, Cover It Live, Skype and many other tools to give my students reasons to play around and learn from experience.

I also learned about a website called Prezi today. I’m clearly behind the ball on this one. But the site created a new free version for students and faculty to use for presentations. I jumped in, created an account and created this step by step process that explains how to succeed in my class:

I also have an interesting challenge with my students. We’re all going to look for ways to take GPS-based games and find ways to bring news into those games. Right now I’m a fan of foursquare and I’ve been able to finally play it in my town when the site opened up to any location. (It used to only let you play in certain cities) I’m curious to see how news can get involved in games. Could we insert historical or newsworthy information about various locations? I’m curious and I’m planning on looking into that.

We have a whole bunch of projects to work on and I look forward to sharing the progress we make as the semester continues.

What a year

In the last year, I’ve watched my use of technology change dramatically… I used to tweet, blog, facebook openly. But I watched myself become more mindful and thoughtful about how I use some of these tools. If you read any of my updates on any of these social media tools, you may think I’m still quite loud. But there are some differences.

Twitter
I used to lifecast a lot more than I do now. As my number of followers jumped and as those followers were more and more involved journalism and technology, I became more mindful towards what I wrote and started to mindcast more. I explained my thoughts on lifecasting/mindcasting earlier in 2009. I think I still believe in a combination of mind/lifecasting. But I toned down the life portions. Twitter turned into a more professional venue than when I joined in 2007.

I also took Twitter and made it a mainstay in our newsroom. Thanks to the CoTweet tool, I have multiple people helping manage the tweets from all of our daily general assignment reporters in the newsroom. Feel free to check out how I explained the use of that tool if you’re curious. (Hootsuite is another option if you are curious about other options that offer similar benefits.) My focus on newsroom Twitter use quieted me down a lot on my personal account.

Facebook
I have always used Facebook as a place to connect with people I have met face-to-face. I’m more open about the information I share about my children and I post a bunch of pictures. I tend to connect with friends and family in this space. But in the last year, Facebook became a more powerful tool on a professional level and for my newsroom. I started friending more people in the industry and I picked up my use of fan pages for my newsroom. I plan to start using some of the settings that allow me to regulate security based on groups when I have a little time to myself. (Good luck to me.) I haven’t perfected a process of using Facebook on a professional level for the newsroom at this point, but I look forward to getting better at it in 2010. The one thing I do know about Facebook is I moved a lot of my lifecasting from Twitter over to Facebook in 2009. I also started looking at how a fan page may be more useful for certain businesses over building a blog or Twitter account. Of course it all depends on the target audience or customer. But I found myself recommending the creation of Facebook fan pages for the first time in 2009.

Blogging
I run three blogs. I have this one and blogs about each of my children. My son’s blog is mainly aimed towards family members. It hasn’t picked up a lot of organic viewership. I don’t market it… but it’s a sweet space to share his life updates. My daughter was born with a physical difference and it has gained followers organically through my membership in online communities and support groups. (I help co-moderate a support group in Yahoo Groups) After my trip to SXSW in 2009, I started considering taking her blog up a notch and actually working on SEO and increasing its marketability. I’m still not sure if I will go in that direction. My trip to SXSW in 2010 will probably convince me. Of course I have this blog. I wish I could give it more love these days. The newsroom job and my efforts to put my thoughts into practice are really important. I would love to spend more time writing out my thoughts on our work. These are excellent goals as we head into the new year.

The one major change I made in my blogging practice in 2009 was to move my mom blogs to WordPress. (This blog has always used the WordPress platform.) I spent more time playing with templates and learning the potential of this CMS for other news-focused websites. I played with the Money Commons site and there is a possibility the project could come back to life this year.

Mobile
I’m an iPhone user. I’ve had one since it first came out. Lately I’ve found I use it even more. The expansion of applications help me run a mobile version of almost every tool I use on my computer. I can work entire days without opening my laptop. I am not ready to travel without my computer, but I can see that happening in the near future if it becomes possible to upload the photos I take from my SLR camera or the HD video from my point and shoot camera to my phone.

Online Portfolios
I have taught an Internet-based course for the last four years and a major focus of it has been to teach my students the skills needed to build an online portfolio and know how to keep up with it when they graduate and move on with their careers. That way they can continue to promote their work online without needing to spend extra money or rely on someone else to build a website. In the last year I really focused on showing students how to take advantage of open source CMS or free tools (with the opportunity to upgrade) like Wix and Weebly. My tools page expanded this year to include document sharing and collage making tools. Since moving away from Dreamweaver and into more user-friendly tools, I’m seeing more of my students continuing to update their online portfolios and keeping potential employers interested in their work. These days I’m also talking more about why LinkedIn is a helpful tool. I’ve also expanded my use of these tools personally. I used Weebly to build a personal family holiday website and I’m starting to just jump in and use these tools to help friends expand their career potential online because I think what I’m teaching is useful for any career – journalism or not.

Other Tools
There are more and more tools coming out to help us communicate. In the last year, I started finding ways to use Ning, Livestream, Qik, Cover It Live, Google Wave and Google Voice. My goal is to constantly try these kinds of tools, offer my newsroom opportunities to test them and put them into the workflow of our newsroom if and when it is appropriate. In the meantime, I’m also hoping to find more opportunities to use these tools in the classroom. In 2010, I hope to allow my students the chance to live blog, tweet, stream… Whatever we can think of… Just to give them the experience of playing with these kinds of tools.

Happy new year to everyone and I’d love to hear how you’ve changed your use of technology in the last year.