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Student Journalism and Technology Part I

One of the topics I have had the pleasure of presenting about at the 2013 UMaine Summer Technology Institute was on Journalism and Technology. This is a topic I got involved with for a couple of reasons. One, I am passionate about getting students work out into the world to access a more authentic audience than just the classroom teacher. Two, I have had some first hand experience with journalism as a student journalist and a journalism teacher.

While at the University of Maine at Farmington I joined the campus newspaper (the UMF Mainestream) under the direction of an overstressed and power-wielding editor by the name of Dan Ryder (maybe you've heard of him). Sure deadlines were hard but they were real. Who wants to hear about last month's dance this month? Wanna see that visiting writer, oh, yup that was last week, sorry. It carries it's own sense REAL relevance to a deadline. Also, if you misspellllll a wurd other people WILL point it out and NOT as nicely, perhaps, as your high school English teacher would have. Words, tone, bias and supporting details are all crucial in how you portray events to the readers.

Journalism also pulls student out of the classroom and into the surrounding community. Letting the community see them and the students to immerse themselves in their community as well. Both being VERY valuable. When we ask students to step outside of the classroom, they often step outside their comfort zone and that's when we start to see real learning. I suppose it's under that philosophy that my editor sent me on my first assignment to cover the Table Gaming Club on campus, an organization I would not have known much about if I hadn't had to interview them.

Technology now allows us to have an almost instant audience for student work (provided we handle the release forms properly). Blogs, video channels like Youtube, and free magazine creation sites like allow for any number of venues for sharing print, photographic, audio or video journalism pieces. Additionally technology has made it easier then ever to capture, record, interview, compile, and edit content to present it in a more balanced and engaging way.

Teachers often think of journalism as a full fledged high school or college level student newspaper ,which of course can be extremely rewarding and valuable, however smaller journalistic assignments have merit as well. Essential questions arise like:

  • What is the difference between fact and opinion?

  • How do we know what is true?

  • What shapes a person's perspective on a topic?

  • What is Free Speech? Hate Speech? Slander?

Journalistic assignments run the gamut from photoessays to investigative reporting; movie reviews to human interest stories. I hope you consider using some journalistic assignments in your subject area in the upcoming school year. I will write more on this topic next time since it is so vast. I'd like to hear from you if you do ANY journalistic writing/production with students.

In the mean time, to wet your whistle, I have included a few links to get you thinking. The first is to the workshop page I developed to teach a session on tech tools for student journalism.

The next I include just to show how striking publishing options have become for students with technology. Though this example is not strictly "journalism", I have linked to the Yarmouth High School web publication "Play in the Street" which I have also embedded below. It is a student produced magazine of visual art and creative writing. Thanks to Alice Barr for forwarding the link on Twitter.

Be sure to check out their publication here.

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