Pizzacasting for answers

I had an interesting time last night at the Pizzacast session. It was a small group with a wide range of interests (journalism, public relations, computer science, theater, business, aggregators), and the conversation ranged wildly from the on-topic question of what to teach in the upcoming New Media class at SJSU’s j-school, to some pleasantly off-topic tangents about open source textbooks and the Future of Newspapers.

Steve Sloan recorded a podcast, which you can grab from his post. Not sure if this is part 1 of 2 or if he cut the pre- and post-pizza conversations into one file.

Andrew will probably have some webcam video or audio of his own up later today. (Note to self: Sit as far away from wide angle webcam lens as possible next time…)

Oh, and the bonus mystery guest, who read about the beer-and-pizza plan on Valleywag, was Gabe Rivera of Memeorandum. That was unexpected.

Anyway, the whole point was to discuss what and how to teach undergraduates about New Media, with the idea that they should come out of the course with some practical knowledge about blogging, podcasting, video podcasting, and related will-get-you-hired-if-you-know-how-to-do-it technologies.

Here’s a few takeaways, filtered through my own opinions:

  • Teaching some theory is okay, but just enough to get students excited about the practical things they’re learning. Let’s read this stuff online when possible; even better, let’s just read blogs on certain issues so that we’re reading current ideas, not stuff from three years ago.
  • The lab portion of the class should include blogging, podcasting, and video podcasting. Use a minimal amount of equipment and as much pre-fab content as possible, teach students how to use an open source (read: FREE) content management system like WordPress, Joomla, or Mambo.
  • The goal is to train online editors, not just online reporters. The class should logically follow 132 (Online Information Gathering) and 134 (Online Reporting) in the progression of courses. Students who have taken the class will be prepared to be the Online Editor for the Spartan Daily, Access magazine, or Update News. (Yeah, I know, Update doesn’t have a website. An Online Editor would fix that, eh?) These students would also have a big head start on creating online content for all three of those student media outlets.
  • Guest speaker suggestions: Robert Scoble, Shel Israel, Dan Gillmor, Shel Holtz (Prof. McCune – I think this is who you were thinking of), Jon Fortt and/or Mike Bazeley, Dai Sugano, Bruce Koon, and lots of other Silicon Valley online journalists or tech bloggers/podcasters. I think the speakers should always be tied to something practical in their area of expertise. Ask Scoble to demo an aggregator, ask Dai to talk about photo/audio slideshows, ask Fortt or Bazeley to talk about managing blogs and podcasts, ask a podcaster to demo whatever hardware and software he or she uses, etc.
  • Storytelling is key. Let students rework old stories (from 132 or 134?) for a new medium, then have them write new web-native stories. Teach them to have an eye for what makes a good story online.
  • Assign a blog/podcast/video podcast for weekly reading/listening/viewing for the whole class so there can be some collective discussion of a new media product.
  • Assign each student one blog to follow for the whole semester. Students need to consume the medium they want to work in, whether that’s print newspapers or online news or blogs or podcasts or video. There’s no understanding RSS or tags or hyperlinks without reading blogs in an aggregator on a regular basis, playing with the tools they become interested in. Students will probably notice things like Digg, Technorati, and Delicious before you get to them in class if they’re reading a few blogs.

I’m sure other folks will have more to say about this, and this was just a sort of brainstorming session. The folks who will be teaching this class need to hear more from students about what they already know and what they want to learn. How often does the faculty ask the students what they want out of a class? If you’ve got anything to contribute, you might want to start talkin’…

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