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Vadim Lavrusik Rss

Tips from a director: Teaching social media in journalism schools

Posted on : 07-09-2009 | By : Vadim Lavrusik | In : Online Journalism

Tags: , ,


newspaperSeveral weeks ago, I wrote a post on “10 ways journalism schools are teaching social media” for Mashable.com. The post mostly focused on the what and not the how. I did include a few tips at the end from a few professors I interviewed, including those from Paul Bradshaw, the course director of the M.A. in Online Journalism program at Birmingham City University in the U.K.

Since that time, there has been a lot of buzz on the topic. Today, Poynter Online is hosting a chat titled, “What Are Practical Ways to Teach Social Media Skills in Journalism School?” Ryan Sholin, director of news innovation at Publish2 will be discussing his “Five Keys to Authenticity” and answering questions. There were some great things that Bradshaw mentioned for tips that I wasn’t able to include in the Mashable post. Here are some of his tips (sorry if some of these are repeats from the Mash post, but they will serve to provide some good context):

  1. Be there yourself. You can’t teach this stuff without being in the middle of it, playing with it, experimenting, being prepared to make mistakes, and seeing what works. That also gives you a wealth of experiences and examples that you can talk through.
  2. Put students there. Enough talking already. Get them using the tools – one by one – and learning by doing.
  3. Do it publicly and socially. One of the most successful teaching experiments I did was ‘Twentoring’ where I posted an appeal on Twitter for ‘twentors’ to help my students who were new to Twitter. Each student was paired with a Twentor and that social dynamic worked really well as they were able to ask questions one to one. We followed that up with #twask where students and anyone else posted questions on Twitter with the hashtag #twask and anyone answered them.
  4. Tie in the assessment criteria. Students tend to be results-focused, and if they’re not getting marks, motivation can be hard. This year I marked on 3 things: news production, newsgathering (research), and social activity online and offline. And I explicitly said: you are getting marked for making new friends, not talking to existing ones.
  5. Encourage people to have fun. Last year, Tuuli Platner recorded a song about the news website they were running and I show this as much as I can, along with the likes of Rocketboom and Ze Frank.
  6. Experiment, fail, and learn. Stop obsessing about results and focus on process instead. Forget everything you thought you knew about journalism. Anyone can process content now – so make your role more than that. Be a positive part of at least one online community. Add value to your communities, and let your communities add value to you. Grab this opportunity to redefine journalism in the shape you’d like it to be.

What tools/sites specifically do you find most important for student journalists to know and why?

  • WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Flickr and YouTube are pretty obvious ones – you need to be where your community is, where potential news is, and to understand distribution networks.
  • Shozu and Qik are essentials for mobile reporting.
  • Seesmic is a great way to have and publish a video conversation.
  • Google Reader, Google Docs and Google Maps are all pretty straightforward.
  • Vuvox is good for Flash interactives; Sproutbuilder also.
  • Widgetbox and Feedburner for widgets. Yahoo! Pipes shows them the possibilities of mashups.

Any other suggestions, leave them at the Poynter chat or in the comments below. Follow Paul Bradshaw’s blog at Onlinejournalismblog.com.

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