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Category Archives: Journalism

Abraham, Martin, John, and… John

As the larger than life Arizona senator John McCain is laid to rest yesterday, some things about him stood out. And it’s not because of the eloquent eulogies of his daughter and two former presidents.

The one I remember most is his 2008 response to a question in a town hall meeting when he was running against Barack Obama. I showed this video to my communications class at the community college last week. Not because it happened to be the week of the funeral, but to analyze the ‘Transactional model‘ of communications. The audience, can and will talk back to the speaker, so it’s important to plan for it. Do watch the clip below, and notice how McCain responds instinctively.

One of my students pointed out to the reaction of a lady in the audience on the top left of the screen – a reflection of our reaction too, as a television audience.

McCain spread a culture of decency and integrity as if a counter to our disillusionment with government and those who represent some of its branches.

Recall that 1968 song, Abraham, Martin and John? Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy embodied something that larger than themselves, as John McCain did for our times. One of the much repeated quotes of his was about standing up for “a cause greater than our self interest.”

 

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Evidence that student writing (about chapatis and chickens) isn’t going obsolete

One of my passions is to help students become better writers. Many teachers will tell you that students are not writing enough. Anecdotally we know that information consumption (coupled with information overload) compounds the problem. Research supports this. Forty percent of college students who took the ACT writing test, lacked college ready skills.

As a computer and tech teacher, I am pleasantly surprised when students ask for scratch paper before they login. It’s not ‘old school’ to jot down ideas; to organize information before it gets into a brochure or PowerPoint. One of my lessons for 5th grade at the end of the school year involves teaching them how to write a radio script, and record it! A script, of course, isn’t like an essay. It gives a student an opportunity to adopt tone of voice that comes naturally. To speak from the heart. To talk about odd, personal, funny things that connect with the listener. Like a letter, I suppose. “Who writes those?” You ask! You’d be surprised how many Thank You letters are queued up to print next week. That’s my evidence, and I’m sticking to it! 

On that note, here’s some inspiring  student writing. One of the college application essays featured in the New York Times last week. Eric Muthondu, who’s entering Harvard, talks about his Kenyan grandmother.

“When I return, the chapatis are neatly stacked on one another, golden-brown disks of sweet bread that are the completion of every Kenyan meal.”

Or this piece of writing by Jeffrey C. Yu, a second generation Chinese American.

“Not all sons of doctors raise baby ducks and chickens in their kitchen. But I do. My dad taught me.”

These essays are worth a read, if only to recognize that good student writing exists –in certain places one has to dig to find. Here’s another place: Write The World. A global community for student writers I have been in touch with, and have covered in a previous post. By some coincidence, this month, Write The World has a Food Writing contest for students. First prize for a 6,000-10,000-word essay is $100.

More chapatis and chicken, please!

 

 
 

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‘Wall’ of illfame lands Arizona Republic and USA Today a Pulitzer

Funny how much a wall can do – even in its absence. The Pulitzer prize board awarded the Arizona Republic one of the most prestigious journalism awards, for reporting on Trump’s attempt to build that wall. Not one story, it was a series of stories in multi-media – newspaper articles, video, podcasts and even VR.

Here’s the story in VR, in 4 chapters.  And if that’s not enough, it’s the basis of a documentary, The Wall.

 

 
 

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Radio days! Podcasts back with a vengeance!

In case you’ve not noticed the podcast landscape had changed. I’m so glad this genre – audio story-telling –has survived in a digital age that at one time seemed to gravitate toward video, slapstick entertainment, and uninformed opinions.

These are highly-researched, well-produced shows – not just opinionated rants. 

Here are a few:

Code Switch – Fascinating takes on race and identity

Rough Translation – A great way to escape the echo-chamber!

The Hidden Brain – Shankar Vedantam’s insight into human behavior

The Tip-Off – Peeling back investigative journalism, by Maeve McClenaghan of London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism

 

Some older podcasts still give the newbies a run for their money. Those such as:

  • This American Life – Ira Glass’ extremely topical take on all things social, political, personal
  • Invisiblia – Gripping tales and insights about the forces that shape us.

 

 

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Algorithms do make mistakes! A teaching moment after Vegas

It’s so easy to assume that ‘algorithms‘ can do no wrong. Did you even use the fancy word prior to ‘Search Engine Optimization’ ?

So Google’s statement that, after the Las Vegas tragedy (and the inaccurate news that ensued via social media) they had to go in and over-ride the algorithm, says volumes.

“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Here’s what is worth teaching.

  • A search result that pops up may not be accurate. In fact it can be deliberately misleading. (The Tom Petty headline, being the latest in ‘inadvertent’ mistakes.)
  • Cross-reference your ‘facts’. Read the whole article before drawing a conclusion.
  • The headline in a tweet or a trending FB post is an incomplete picture. Or often carries a bias. Former Facebook ‘news curators’ have admitted they were instructed to artificially inject selected stories into the trending news module.

An algorithm is just “a process or set of rules” that are set up in advance for sifting through data, and making calculations with complex variables. Algorithms are not writ in stone. Especially when there is some Artificial Intelligence involved, they are supposed to ‘learn’ from the complexity and adjust. Sometimes they aren’t good learners, and are easily misled, or tricked.

And so are we!

 
 

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Writers wanted. Start Here!

Is writing a dying skill? It appears to me that good writers are in short supply – analytical writers, storytellers, creative writers.

I am talking up writing and publishing in my school because I see the huge gap between what people read, and what (or how) they write. Young people read Dr. Seuss, but hardly take a stab at poetry. They may binge watch on Netflix, but never consider a screen play, or even coming up with a skit. They consume the news, but seldom look at the nuts and bolts of news writing, features, or Op-Eds.

You want to write? Here are a few places to start.

  • WriteTheWorld, an organization I have been talking to, has a very interesting Poetry and Spoken Word Competition. It’s open to students between the ages of 13 and 18. And there are prizes. $100 for the first prize! More details here.
 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Journalism, Workshops

 

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Digital storytelling on Digital Learning Day

Today, being Digital Learning Day, I plan to get students to rethink cameras. How could camera create digital ‘stories’?

  • How would a background give your subject context and proportion?
  • What could you filter or manipulate a picture before you take the shot?
  • How could you change the ISO settings to get a different result with the same subject?

Who knows? Some of my students may turn out to be journalists, or take to photography in some shape or form. Despite the fact that most pictures today are taken on phones, understanding lighting and perspective will always be an asset. My 5th grade class was divided into three groups. One with a Digital SLR, and two with regular digital cameras and two tripods if needed.

Here is how one group shot a Lego device. Interesting how one chose the robotics table, and another chose the Moon landing poster as a backdrop.

lego_2

lego_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or take how they approached this subject. Long shot with an outdoor context vs a close-up shot, adding the human element.

rose_1     rose_2

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Journalism

 

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