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A student of mine is writing a story about Twitter on campus for another class. I thought his questions — and hopefully my answers — were worth a blog post:

1) What’s your official title at Oregon State University? What name would you like to be referred by in the article? What’s your age? Finally, how long have you been teaching?

ANSWER: I’m an Instructor in NMC at OSU. Pamela Cytrynbaum. Second reference is always “Cytrynbaum.” I’m 43. I’ve been teaching in one form or another for 12 years.

Now onto our subject.

2) Do you think Twitter is widely used by students on campus? Have you encountered Twitter in any of your classrooms (as an interruption or distraction, perhaps)?

ANSWER: No, I don’t see much use of Twitter on campus at all. In fact, I’ve been surprised at how few students have even heard of it when I raise the question in all of my classes. Very few of my my students — most of whom are new media students — use it. I require my NMC 301 (Writing for the Media Professional) students to learn it and do one assignment where they Twitter an event. It’s important for them to know what it is and how to use it. Once that’s done, it’s up to them to continue or not. Some do.

I think it seems useless to many students. They’ve got texts and Facebook messages coming in…what do they need this shortened social networking tool for? Far fewer students seem to continue on with Twitter after learning it in class than with blogging. I have many students who blog for the first time in my class and then get hooked and build their blogs and keep them going. They see the value in that. I’m not sure Twitter offers enough payoff for the effort. For me, I’ve had lots of fun with it. I use it as storage for all kinds of links I want to keep for classes, to connect with organizations, media outlets, friends, writers, to keep up with their lives and work. I don’t follow anybody who uses Twitter to proclaim an ingrown toenail. I’m looking for actual information.

I’m a working, writing mom. I don’t have one second in the day to waste on that.

3) Do you think Twitter has any potential as a teaching aid? In your opinion, should teachers or campus officials use Twitter to spread information to students?

ANSWER: I can’t speak for any other teachers or tell them what to do. I know from being a Twitter Follower of the Chronicle of Higher Education (and a regular reader) that there are lots of professors arguing for and against the use of Twitter. One story I read was by someone advocating the use of Twitter DURING classes and conference lectures as a way to INCREASE engagement.

Personally, I’d lose my mind juggling that. I’d rather have somebody comment in person so I can see them, hear them, respond one human being to another. But this person argued strongly that for them, Twittering deeply enriched the teaching experience. It’s important to take it seriously, though, and not just ignore or disregard Twitter. There are plenty of stories and surveys that have found Twitter is the top social networking medium for helping people get immediate information on natural disasters, like the Indonesian Tsunami. But, as we’ve seen just yesterday in the news about the swine flu issue, it’s also a mechanism for spreading false or overly-hyped information that can be deeply concerning. Either way, it’s here, and the larger plugged-in world is taking advantage of this technology. We need to check it out for ourselves and make our own choices.

(more…)

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This is why I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Facebook. Seriously. It makes me cry all the time.

I was searching for people from my high school and the name of this guy popped up. He was a great person, very friendly and decent and fun to be around. So I Friended him. I didn’t even know if he would remember me!! But I loved high school and he had a warm smile and I remember him so well that I gave it a shot.

Below is the note I got back. I mean, I know Facebook serves lots of daily, mundane, plan-making, time-wasting, insipid purposes for those 20 and under. But for those of us in our 40s, at least for THIS old broad in her 40s, Facebook is like a human time capsule reconnecting me with my favorite parts of my life and the wonderful people from those times.

I just got Friended by a girl who was my bestest friend when I was in 2nd grade. My daughter can’t believe I was ever her actual age AND that I had friends! Old neighbors, colleagues; these are not mere social networky associations. Many of these peoples’ faces and names alone make me burst into tears.

I am so moved and happy to reconnect with them and our connection — new media freaky-deaky as it is — is genuine and important. Why wouldn’t I have called them or searched for them? That’s another post. But for now, read the note below from my Facebook wall, and know that I’m still crying about the sweetness of an old friend from high school teaching his daughter life’s big lessons.

My wife and I were sitting at dinner when my Blackberry went off with the notification from Facebook with your friend request. When I told my wife you had sent me a friend request, she said, “How do I know that name?” And I reminded her of how I told my daughter (and her) about you when she was in first grade, about 10 years ago or so.

As she started school we were telling her to be nice and kind to people and I used you as an example of one of the nicest, kindest, smartest and prettiest girls in high school and I hoped she grew up to be just like you. And she has. The funny thing is that she also is considering journalism!

I see you are in Oregon…were you with the Tribune at some point? I think I remember seeing your byline sometime when we were in Chicago.

Your daughter is adorable. Hope you are well.

David

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Dan Reimold wrote a spot-on post on College Media Matters today, focusing on the potential perils and pitfalls of some of the new models for new media. I want it all to be great. I want these new ways of publishing to be fair and free and push democracy to new heights. But, (enter the nattering nabobs of negativity) but Reimold and others raise just the questions we all should be asking as we push ahead.

New Student Site: One-Stop Shop or Pretend Journalism?

I’m ambivalent.  Here’s the deal: The Philadelphia Inquirer has announced it is launching a new Web site aimed at providing a platform for the journalistic and creative work of college students throughout the Philly area, according to a new report in The Hawk at Saint Joseph’s University.  News reports, op-eds, blogs, photos, even fiction pieces are all fair game for the soon-to-be-active site, which apparently will feature dedicated areas for each school involved.

If the idea actually works, I envision an interesting mishmash of a site that might draw students in occasionally to see what their peers are passionately espousing or creatively vetting.  If the idea flounders, it will join the ranks of the growing number of what I’ve started calling pretend journalism sites, pseudo-professional outlets that seem more just for their creators to have a place to publish and not for the audience to actually have something worth reading or watching.

The question I am left with that makes me cynical about this particular venture: What does it *really* offer average students that their campus newspapers, the blogosphere, Facebook, and other area outlets do not already provide?  Sure, a one-stop shop for all types of content can be convenient, or it can come across like an overwhelming, inexplicable campus graffiti wall.

Lots of decent people struggling with hard issues in this tangled story.

Is Steve Smith the (as my daughter would say) “escape goat” in the Emerald action? Or maybe more accurately the newspeg for the Daily Emerald strike?  Smith updated his blog, shining more light by opening the documents in question for all to read.

The more I read and hear about this the more — I can only speculate — but the more it seems this is a larger fight for the students sparked by Smith, that shocking $80,000 number, and the simmering, long-brewing battle for independence that always seemed to be percolating just barely beneath the surface in most of my dealings with the Emerald students. It was years ago, but most of my efforts to offer advice, workshops, career stuff, were not welcomed by a lot of the Emerald staff. They were polite and appreciative, but their eyes remained on the prize of independence.

I stopped by the Emerald office once to promote the Snowden internship program, which I was running at the time. The editor then was not there. She later e-mailed me and in no uncertain terms told me I should not come to their office without an approved appointment. I had affronted her sense of the boundaries between the J-School faculty and the student paper — as if just having me come in there to say hello and push and internship challenged some deeply ingrained yet invisible line of demarcation.

I don’t blame them. If independence is what you’ve got, it’s smart to hold onto it. But now what have we got? Something better? A new, stronger foundation? A quagmire? A deep loss? I don’t know.

Here’s Steve Smith’s take from his blog:

Still A Newspaperman » Blog Archive » Emerald documents posted

Emerald documents posted

Good evening,

For what it is worth, I have posted in the Emerald thread below copies of my original proposal to the board for the interim publisher position as well as a copy of my draft job description for the publisher job.

Both documents were prepared at the request of then-Chair Mark Watson. If I had been thinking more clearly earlier today I would have posted both items in the interest of transparency.

For those who are interested in considerably more detail, the documents might hold some interest.

I also drafted, at the board’s request, a new job description for the Emerald editor position. I believe that description was tweaked some before it was posted on the Emerald site last week.

But my original draft contained this language, drafted by me and representative of my commitment to student independence.

READ THE WHOLE POST BY FOLLOWING THE LINK ABOVE

The plot thickens, or, as my Dad always says at the height of the narrative arc in every move he’s ever watched: “What a revolting development THIS is.”

The paper came out without its staff. The staff is dutifully and impressively documenting every move from all sides on their various public content vehicles, Facebook group, Twitter, blog. They offer a PDF of the errant issue. I’m deeply moved by that. They are indeed walking the walk of freedom of information.I’m still wating to see two additional new media technologies used by the students: YouTube videos documenting their strike, and streaming video.

Here’s the blog post updating us:

First Emerald produced since 1900 without student contributors

March 5, 2009 by independentjournalist

Uploaded tonight to the ODE drop (an internet resource we use to publish) was a copy of tomorrow’s “Oregon Daily Emerald.” (Quotes are intentional.) We decided to repost a pdf the first-ever non-student newspaper ever published at the University of Oregon under the masthead of the “Oregon Daily Emerald” here tonight for our readers, advertisers, and community to review.

Contained is a series of articles covering our strike, including content pulled from our blog and a statement from the ODE Board. The rest of the articles are from the AP wire, meaning that tomorrow students will receive from the Emerald the coverage of news written not by other students but by journalists working elsewhere.