Category Archives: Journalism

Principal Gains Unexpected Perks From Wiring His School

The Old Rock Schoolhouse
Daniel Hoherd via Compfight

By Anya Kamenetz, The Hechinger Report

Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, NJ is an unabashed ed-tech evangelist who has wrought some significant transformations in his “traditional blue-collar,” yet highly diverse public school through the use of technology, B.Y.O.D. programs, and particularly social media.

He says the lightbulb moment came when he joined Twitter just three years ago, in March 2009. “I was the principal that was the problem. I made sure policies were in place to block and ban every type of social media device. I thought social media and student devices were an impediment to the teaching and learning process.” When he started connecting online with colleagues from other schools, however, everything changed. Here’s some of the lessons he’s drawn on how social media can help schools; you can pull much more from his website. 

1) Expanded opportunities for professional development.

Sheninger’s own experience connecting on Twitter with a small group of colleagues at schools nationwide was the seed of all his experiments.

“I started following a few educators – Steve AndersonShelly Terrell, and Tom Whitby – and the four of us went on a journey together. Here’s what Twitter did for me: it was accessible anytime, anywhere, I was able to acquire knowledge, elicit feedback, reflect on my own work, and present what we were doing at NMHS to the world.”

Sheninger instituted a Google-inspired  “20 percent time,” allowing his teachers to use half of their noninstructional time–two or three 48 minute periods per week–as “professional growth periods,” which they can use any way they please to follow their passions as they impact the “bottom line” of student progress–for example, by finding and familiarizing themselves with new web-based tools. He also used contacts he made on Twitter to found Edscape, a conference for his teachers and others on the future of learning that is in its fourth year.

2) Improved digital citizenship and reduced cyberbullying.

Sheninger says that cyberbullying has gone way down as a natural byproduct of teachers and administration being on the same platforms as the kids and modeling how to behave productively online. He holds an assembly with each grade level at the outset of the school year to talk about privacy. “By allowing students to use these tools for learning they are building a greater capacity to create positive digital footprints.”

3) New resources and forms of expression for every discipline.

“In our journalism class students have created Twitter accounts to tweet out realtime news. In AP Biology students had to tweet the different stages of meiosis in 140 characters. In chemistry students are submiting their lab reports via YouTube and Facebook. An English teacher this year used Instagram to assist with illustrating a concept. Teachers are using Edmodo to flip their classroom. Others have created QR codes and are doing scavenger hunts. They’re using Glogster to create interactive posters, Voicethread for presentations…it goes on and on.”  Sheninger has a book for teachers on communicating and connecting with social media. Also see this recent post for more resources: “50 EdTech Tools Every Teacher Should Know About.”

4) Connect your students to the world–virtually and face to face.

“Because of our social media presence, we’ve had unparalleled educational opportunities that you could never replicate outside a classroom. We had Dan Pink Skype in with our students for an hour answering questions. We’ve had companies give us document cameras and student response pens to try. We have visitors on campus weekly. We sent students to Google in NYC to try out the Chromebook and give feedback to Google directly.” It’s also led New Milford High School to significant corporate sponsorships and media attention, which may not be the goal of all educators, but Sheninger argues that this has been helpful in exposing his kids to new opportunities and building student and teacher enthusiasm.

5) Expand your course offerings infinitely.

New Milford offers students the chance to take credit courses online through VHS, a collaborative online platform. Students in the STEM academy program recently completed a one-credit independent study using free online resources through Open CourseWare, choosing courses from Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Two of the students learned to code a video game in Python using an MIT computer programming course. “This is something that we could never do here at New Milford. We don’t have any programming courses,” says Sheninger. He is expanding the open courseware independent study opportunity to a full three credits, and MIT is currently doing a case study  on the use of open courseware in his high school.

This post was produced by The Hechinger Report, a non-profit journalism organization housed at Columbia University in New York. 

Heard: Pinterest Picking Up Stream As Classroom Tool For Curating, Showcasing

Pinterest is the new kid on the social media block, rapidly gaining users and raising questions of whether it will reach the echelon of Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr. Many are chattering about the possibilities of using Pinterest in the classroom as it lends itself for students to make visual scrapbooks, organize thoughts or research projects. We would like to hear readers suggestions and stories of how they are using it in school settings from junior high to higher ed. Here’s what A. Adam Glenn, a journalism professor at CUNY in New York writes:

One early adopter was University of Southern California’s Andrew Lih, who last October, long before he and many others knew the site would become a blockbuster, introduced it to online students in an entrepreneurial class to gather what he called a “mood board” for a project on public art. Lih explained that the students took advantage of Pinterest’s easy-to-use clipping approach to create a densely packed visual scrapbook of public and street art to identify themes that would have easily been missed had they gathered individual photos in a folder.

Aggregating images to share with students is an increasingly common classroom use for the tool. Jody Strauch at Northwest Missouri State University has used Pinterest to show good design work to her media design classes. Heather Starr Fielder uses Pinterest boards in her classes at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University to share visual material for collaborations and peer critiques.


And Robert Quigley at the University of Texas in Austin showed students what ad agency GSD&M did with its South by Southwest “survival board.” (He also wrote up a tips piece for news users on Pinterest and now plans to have students create a Pinterest channel for a new social media-only news agency for college students that he has in the works.)

But social curation journalism is, not surprisingly, one of the main applications for Pinterest among J-school faculty. For example, Carrie Brown-Smith, a journalism prof at University of Memphis, had students use Pinterest as part of a “social photography” assignment in a media site. She said the best Pinterest work came from students who have beats or blog topics, such as fashion, that are well-suited to Pinterest’s strengths. Similarly, at Colorado State University, Michael Humphrey found students with an interest in lifestyle and arts, such as architecture, food or fashion, tended to lean toward Pinterest when given the choice with Tumblr or Posterous for a digital media aggregation assignment. At Minnesota State University Moorhead, Deneen Gilmour assigned students in a “writing for the web” class to produce stories for their Doing It Downtown blog to use Pinterest as a curation tool for visuals, while using Storify for social media and Spotify or LastFM for music. One student produced an innovative story with the Pinterest boards she gathered to help guide restaurant and shop-goers to gluten-free menus items.



Exclusive: Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Considering Online Courses, Degrees


Columbia University Graduate J-School

By Paul Glader

Columbia University’s vaunted Graduate School of Journalism in New York City is considering offering online courses or degree programs.

A letter that went out to some alumni on Monday said:

The School is thinking about how to incorporate the best practices of web-enhanced learning for both on-site students and those who could potentially enroll from a distance.  In tandem, we are also exploring the potential to expand degree and non-degree offerings to take advantage of the talents of our expanded faculty and to respond to student demand in new areas.  But we’re proceeding carefully in this vein.  This Spring, four faculty members at the School are piloting online courses in a blended format to current degree students and in the Continuing Education program.  We hope to learn what works and doesn’t work online, so that we can build a high-quality program that maintains the standards and uniqueness of the School’s academic legacy.

The school invited alumni to take a survey “to help inform us further about your interest in and concerns about the possibility of new degree and non-degree programs offered with online components.”

One question in the survey included:

As opposed to a full master’s degree program, if Columbia were to offer a graduate certificate in journalism, communications, media studies or a closely related field of study, how interested do you think aspiring journalism, media or communications professionals might be in taking a fully online and highly interactive format non-credit courses or certificate programs from Columbia?

The school is regarded by many as the top graduate journalism program in the country (though alumni and faculty of Northwestern in Chicago, U-Cal Berkeley in California, U-Missouri, would take issue with that). We see that the University of Missouri already offers an online graduate program in journalism. Columbia J-School started around 1912 with backing from media tycoon Joseph Pulitzer. Appropriately, it houses august institutions such as the Columbia Journalism Review and the Pulitzer Prizes and other important awards. Columbia J-School graduates are very well-represented among the ranks of top authors and journalists in the US. All this being said, the fact that Columbia J-School is considering the MOOC – Massive Online Only Courses – idea or online certificate or degrees is a big sign to the burgeoning online education industry. Up till now, Columbia J-School offered some webinars for alumni but has largely remained an in-person, brick and mortar program.

What do readers think? Should Columbia offer online journalism classes and degree programs?


(Full Disclosure: I attended Columbia J-School as a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in 2007-2008, taking classes at the J-School and Columbia Business School and receiving an M.S. from Columbia J-School.)


Heard: Outsourcing University Journalism Instruction To Non-Profit Organizations?

Fox Business’ web site published an interesting story this week by Emily Driscoll titled “Universities Turn to Outsourced Professors to Cut Costs.” She notes that some cash-strapped colleges and universities are outsourcing faculty – hiring outside organizations as adjuncts rather than hiring individual faculty or adjuncts – as a way to save budgets. It is going beyond use of part-time and adjunct faculty members. She highlights the Florida-based journalism training organization called the Poynter Instutute, a non-profit that owns the St. Petersburg Times newspaper. Poynter is now moving into offering journalism classes to state universities. She doesn’t show convincingly, however, that the trend is widespread beyond the Poynter Institute example.

With high unemployment and an average state budget shortfall estimate of –16.9%, most state public universities faced significant budget cuts for the 2011 school year, according to a study conducted by US News and World Reports.

Both Florida Atlantic University and Missouri State University recently partnered with the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism training group, to outsource their online journalism classes. “FAU’s decision to participate in the pilot program was based on the forward-looking vision of its journalism program, with its focus on multimedia journalism in a convergent digital media landscape,” says Eric Freedman, assistant dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University.

Although colleges argue that outsourcing professors and academic programs are beneficial to both the students and the school, some worry this cost-saving measure can taint a school’s reputation and take away from the students’ learning experience. What this means for schools While Missouri State University decided not to continue its relationship with Poynter because students weren’t writing as much as it wanted, the school isn’t giving up on outsourcing staff. Mark Biggs, head of the Media, Journalism and Film Department at Missouri State University, argues outsourcing faculty can add more resources for less money—good for both the school and students.

Via Fox Business