Making a change

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I’m going to share some brainstorming I’m doing as I prepare for the upcoming semester.

I’ve decided to make a shift in my class. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sure my students understand the basics of many types of software – a lot of them being part of the Adobe Creative Suite. As the semesters go by, most students “get” Photoshop, sort of understand Illustrator and struggle with the basics of Flash. I demand they learn a blog tool, a blog writing style and build their own online portfolio website.

My long term goal with my class is to send my students out into the journalism world with a thought process that instantly thinks about the many ways you can tell a story and share with your audience. If there’s a very visual story, I want them to default to shooting video and images with their phones and sharing it on Twitter and/or Facebook while also using their professional grade cameras to share the story on the air and more edited versions online. I want them to want to send a short web story via email to the newsroom so there’s enough information to post as soon as the information is confirmed. I want them to feel comfortable writing for the web and telling a story outside the standard broadcast package. I want my students to think in a flexible manner. I’m starting to think I need to spend more time on that flexible thought process and less on the software.

One of my colleagues started using to train students on software and I decided that I’d give that a try as well. This coming semester, I’m asking my students to take part in five different courses on the site that focus on Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. The one thing I have decided on is how I will gauge their learning experience with the website training.

I am not a fan of babysitting my students – I want them to learn and get everything they can from my class, but I understand each person has different expectations and needs from their education. I want each person to at least walk away knowing there are many tools that can help enhance and improve their journalistic adventures. Not every person will leave with a thorough understanding of all of those tools. But I want them to think about it and ask for help if they have a great idea on how to tell a story.  I do need to find ways to assess how each student benefits (or doesn’t benefit) from using Any ideas are welcome!!

BTW – I’m adding the new Twitter “Tweet Button” to this post for the fun of it (and to see how it looks)


  1. The flexibility part, I’ve come to believe, is the glue that holds it all together. I don’t care if they use a hammer to drive in a nail, but I want them to be able to hang a picture. So to speak.

    I’ve never heard of, will have to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’ve been using Lynda for a few years now. I think it’s so important for students to teach themselves new software and techniques. When they leave us, no boss is going to sit them down and say, “now click here, now try this.” They’ll be lucky if they’re given work time to learn anything. They should begin now figuring out how to master skills on their own. I’ve found that most students respond well to the video tutorials. Some really want one-on-one help, and they can come see me with specific questions.

  3. So far – I’ve gotten tips for journaling, conversations in class (both happen in the class already), peer review and maybe more team projects.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Making a change « Jen Lee Reeves --

  5. Jen,
    I totally agree with you- the storytelling should come before the software (pretty sure that echoes my convergence background, no?). I think requiring students to do some of these online tutorials to still learn the software is key though.

    In my years at the J School, I feel like we brushed through the basics, what we needed to tell the story and nothing more. It was ‘good enough’, but if you wanted more you had to do it on your own time. But, seriously, what J Schooler has spare time?

    Finding a way to require students to learn the software AND learn the storytelling is the best way to go. Good luck this fall!


  6. Scott


    For assessment, why not have their portfolio site require 1 flash element, 1 photoshopped element and 1 illustrator element? That way, it builds on something they’re doing already.


  7. John Mollenkamp

    I agree with Scott that including the stuff in the portfolio works. It’s what I do in my world, sort of.

    I’ve moved citation form (not central to my syllabus, but very important overall) out of class time and into the students’ “free time” with an on-line set of exercises they do throughout the semester. I worried they would find the extra assignments burdensome, but I’ve found instead that they like the freedom (and the instant feedback that an electronic “teacher” gives).

    As for assessment, I’ve continued to grade citation as a part of the final written product. I see much better citation without any need for my spending lecture hours on it. But, I’ve not made any before/after analysis of what my students are learning from the on-line exercises and what they are getting from the book. Maybe my insisting that they do the exercises tells them that I find it important, whereas telling them it’s important (half-heartedly, for one class period) didn’t quite convince them.

    Are you assessing the value of as a learning tool or are you assessing what your students have learned? If it’s only the former, student satisfaction might be all the measure you need.

  8. I’d like to assess my students’ learning from I also plan to assess the site itself by taking the classes on my own and seeing what my students think about the experience. Thanks for your input!

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