I have this conversation with painful regularity with journalists, some old friends, some new ones, in varying states of transmogrification from old school to new. How do I take what I DO know, value what I know, but build on it with all of the bells and whistles I NEED to know to keep/get employment.
I’m still shedding my own skin with this work even though I’m teaching it as I learn it. One of the key people in this field who has the magical ability to learn it, do it, teach it and write about it beautifully and accessibly is Mindy McAdams. I’m a fanatic about her work and the way she presents it. She’s generous beyond belief as she pushes ahead, shouting back to us all about what works and what doesn’t.
No matter what your interest or position, goal or ambition, her work has something crucial for you to learn.
(For the record, I don’t know her. I’ve never met her. I’m just one of many crazed fans.)
Check it out:
Everything Mindy McAdams writes is essential to read if you’re interested in New Media in any format.
Here’s Mindy’s Reporters Guide to Multimedia:
Here’s how I used to do it:
Students go out, conduct interviews, cover events, do research, write stories, suggest headlines and possible “art,” reach the assigned length, hand in stories in hard copy. I took a red pen and edited the blazes out of it from start to -30-. Bled all over the thing, covering every element from misplaced modifiers to reporting holes, lame quotes, weak transitions, splended kickers, dazzling nut graphs. I’d “make visible” my thinking, my editing, in this bloody conversation on the page with every single student, on every single assignment. The students felt (after discussing and venting) fully and fairly evaluated, highly feedbacked, individually educated, and astonished at my relentless pursuit of clarity, accuracy and writing power on their behalf.
I did not have children back then.
Today, well a couple of weeks ago, I graded 140-character Tweats on Twitter for a class assignment. I create and borrow and redefine (thank you MindyMcAdams!!) ways to assess blog posts, combining how deeply I value the “old school” requirements of accuracy, sourcing, fairness, newsworthiness, etc… wtih the new media requisites of personal writing, rampant opinions, hypertexting sources in lieu of actually citing them etc..
Normally my NMC 301 class, Writing for the Media Professional, completes group multimedia projects in teams of two, three or four, with a solid writing component, an actual rough draft with words I can write on.
This term I have a particularly fiesty and motivated group who early on came up with their own project, which includes 18 of the 27 students. I face a new assessment challenge. First, do I let the class take over itself and trust they’ll do it. So far, so good. The two students leading the charge are phenomenal organizers and send out more task lists than I did for my wedding. The project is a massive, multiplatform look at “What is New Media Communications” at OSU. What’s the industry, what’s the program, and what are we doing to prepare students for, well, as we keep hearing, jobs that do not yet exist.
So if you’re someone who wants to write red on words, hundreds of words bumping together to tell a story, how do you give a grade to a class-wide, multimedia, multiplatform project where the “rough draft” is a run sheet, hours of raw vide footage, outlines, hundreds of pages of transcripted interviews, story boards of shots, notes on napkins, a soundtrack in a student’s head…..AND how do I “grade” or account for or reward each student fairly and universally, when they all started out with different skill levels, when many of them have gone to heroic lengths to not only tell stories but learn complicated software programs in order to tell these stories…AND how do I reward the idea of leadership? Several of the students are running the show with the kind of mastery and leadership skills I can only sit back and learn from with awe. Other students are participating, watching, doing their share, pushing themselves in ways not fully verifiable but clear to me in their weekly blog posts I require them to write documenting their work and experience on the project. If somebody who is a full-on class leader, whose work is professional-grade is an obvious “A,” how about the student who learned the technical skills she never had before, who took assignments and executed them…who didn’t come up with her own ideas but from where she started, pushed herself equally, worked equally hard, who may actually have learned MORE than the obvious A student. How do I account for the nuances and subjectivities in that story?
Well, this term, this is what I’ve come up with to respond as fairly and transparently to all possible scenarios. Wish me luck!
Final Project Assessment Guidelines
NMC 301 Winter 2009
Like new media itself, your final projects will cover and demonstrate a wide range of skills, technologies, media, styles, writing forms, perspectives and experiences. This wide range makes the assignment an excellent one, but also one that is challenging to assess.
Each student starts at a different place, brings different skills, works and grows at a different pace and level. Working in teams can be especially motivating for some students and not so much for others. I do everything I can to create an infrastructure within the class to make sure the range of work put into the final projects is made visible and fairly assessed.
By requiring you to write weekly blog posts chronicling your progress on your projects, I can see who is – and is not – doing what. I am so looking forward to reviewing your rough drafts next week, and seeing your final projects presented on March 10.
In classic new media style, these projects will reflect a wide range of your work. The following guidelines are my way of offering expectations and clarification for assessing this big tent of work.
More specifically, here are the components I will use to assess your final project:
Total: 100 points
1. Weekly blog posts describing your work and experience doing the project: 10 points
2. Final “process memo” blog post. This 400-500 -word post, due March 10, 5 p.m., must include the following:
a final summary of all the work you did, what surprised you about the topic, your skills, your sources, the experience. What skills did the project enable you to develop or enhance. What assumptions did the project help you challenge? Honestly describe how hard you worked on this project, what you did well, what role you played on the team and what you would have done differently. 10 points
3. Class presentation of a draft form of the project that must include: must include as many parts of the project in draft form as possible… could include a run sheet, raw footage, an outline, a draft script, transcriptions of interviews, notes from meetings. 5 points
4. Full credit will be given for a final project that:
a) began with a strong idea; did you come up with a compelling, newsworthy story to tell? Is your work accurate?
b) includes a wide range of well-chosen sources; did you conduct well-researched interviews? Do you give proper attribution to your sources (people and documents)
c) includes a written component in addition to final blog post, ie: a script, voice overs, verbal transitions/bridges; is your script written in punchy, clean, clear style; is the tone, word usage and voice appropriate for the medium and subject? Is your copy clean and smooth? Does it read well? Does it demonstrate good editing and careful proofreading?
d) demonstrates strong visual and graphic choices; do your video/audio/graphics/photos enhance, humanize and deepen your story or merely repeat your script?
e) reflects thoughtful, powerful choices about which media platforms best tell this story. Is your whole package compelling? Does it leave viewers/readers/listeners better informed?
f) reflects your best efforts. Did you bring you’re a-game to this project? Did you come up with ideas, contribute good work, work well with the team, execute your parts to the best of your ability, learn new skills; Did you lead or follow? Did you push yourself or sit back, do the minimum and skate by?
The students in my NMC 301: Writing for the Media Professional course are creating a multimedia project on the New Media program at OSU. They came up with the idea and are organizing themselves rather astonishingly. I’m doing my best not to micromanage and that seems to be the most effective way for them to work. Alas. Luckily I can still boss my daughter around.
One student is interviewing the NMC faculty about the courses they teach. Here are the questions she wrote to me and here are my answers. I like being forced to think about what I’m actually doing and why I’m actually doing it.
In these days of craptacular budget cuts and layoffs and all manner of nightmares, it’s nice to remember what I do and why the hell I do it.
Why are the courses listed below required for an NMC major? What will students get out of the class? Are the courses based on theroy, journalism, gaming, ect? And how will students be able to use it later in life, say reporting, video game making, media rule, ect? Thank you.”
“I was not here when the decisions about curriculum were made for NMC, so I cannot answer why those initial decisions were made about NMC 101 and 301. However, I can say that I’m thrilled these classes were created and required because I’m having the time of my life teaching them! NMC 101 is required as our introduction to the program.
NMC 301: Writing for the Professional Media, is required because it is our WIC course, which means Writing Intensive Curriculum.
Because the common theme uniting all of our work in the New Media program is storytelling, we want to be clear with students that while we love playing with all of the technology, it’s useless without a great story to tell that is also well told. NMC 101 Introduction to New Media Communications, has evolved from its original format. At first it was taught from a mass communications foundation from a mass com textbook with fill-in-the-bubble exams.
My colleagues and I decided to completely review and re-invent the course to truly reflect a real introduction to both the new media program at OSU AND the new media industry our students will be facing in the workforce. The course is now a discussion-filled romp through every aspect of new media. Each NMC professor gives an introductory lecture that lays the groundwork for all of their later classes. The students are introduced to the crucial terms, ideas, themes, concepts and thinkers in the field of new media. I bring in NMC graduates who give advice.
We confront and think critically about the ethical dilemmas jumping from the headlines of the day. What do students get out of it? The course addresses all of the areas we specialize in because all of the faculty members come in to share their expertise. We cover it all – theory, career advice, multimedia, investigative reporting, journalism, gaming, animation, law and ethics, planning your classes…you name it, we cover it. We also drill into students how crucial it is for them to take an active part in their own education, to make thoughtful decisions about classes and to take full advantage of the extraordinary opportunities for learning new media at OSU. We have a television station, radio station, school newspaper all putting out some award-winning work and offering students the chance to get the training and practical experience ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED of a new media communications graduate.
The idea is that you get the basics in 101 and the later courses and the practicum deepen your knowledge and experience. The feedback we’re getting is terrific, that the course is a great foundation for the rest of the curriculum and program as a whole. I hope they’re having fun, and at the end they’re coming out of the class seeing the incredible potential, chaos, challenges and fun available to them if they choose new media.
NMC 301: Writing for the Media Professional, is our WIC course, part of the Writing Intensive Curriculum. As I said above, it is required as part of the larger writing curriculum. We also require this course because we want our students to leave our program able to write with accuracy, clarity and power, to think critically and to put those thoughts into coherent, interesting stories worth reading/viewing/interacting with. Successful new media graduates must have experience in all of the new media writing formats. My class, NMC 301, offers just that.
It’s a challenging course requiring students to explore all forms of media writing. For example, they Twittered reports and interviews gathered as a campus-reaction story on inauguration night. They set up their own blogs and explore the differences in tone, voice and style between bloggers and “mainstream media” writing. They blog all term long, posting their assignments, updates on their projects, process memos that help them think through their experiences, and posts that analyze and critique articles and studies about new media.
They write and think about the big, theoretical questions of the day, including: “What is the best way to tell a news story”; “Is Jon Stewart a journalist?”; “Are all bloggers journalists?”; “What does objectivity mean in the blogosphere?”; “Is Twitter useful or a complete waste of time?”; “What are the similarities and differences between the rules governing television and newspaper writers and bloggers?”; “What ARE the rules governing bloggers?”
In NMC 301 the students talk, write and think critically and deeply about the key new media issues of the day. The culmination of this learning takes the form of a team-based, collaborative final multimedia project. The students brainstorm their own ideas, decide on what story they want to tell, what sources to interview, what research is required, what media platforms will best showcase the story, and then they’re off. They write and record, edit and design, film and blog their way through some truly impressive work. I’ve had students create full documentaries on topics including race relations on campus, and the political views of members of the military on campus. Students have created blogs, slide shows, podcasts, vodcasts, articles for The Barometer, music and interview shows for KBVR, photo essays, graphic design extravaganzas! It’s hard and overwhelming.
They complain that there’s too much technology to learn, that they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. And then, somehow, we do peer edits and I give them feedback and things come together. By the end of the term, there’s this “aha” moment (like Oprah says) and it all comes together.
The last night of class we do a final presentation. We invite NMC faculty and profs who were interviewed in the projects, as well as anybody else who appeared in the projects or who is interested. It’s a great night and we’re inevitably all proud and impressed and wish we’d had more time, and I tear up with pride — which is exactly what it’s like in the “real world” of new media. AND, the students then have real portfolios with real work representing their learning and growth that they can present to potential employers (which is ESSENTIAL in the real world of new media). Amazingly enough, when we start out, only one or two students of the 25-27 has a blog. By the end of the class everybody is blogging and most of the students continue to use their blogs after class ends, some well after graduation!
For me, that’s the real payoff. They can really take what they’ve learned into their lives and make it their own.