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.

Questions:

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.”

Answer:

“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.

Advertisements

My 301 Writing for the Media Professional class will be in a frenzy of inaugural Twittering and blogging for tonight’s class. They’ve just set up their blogs and one student, Ryan, wrote a post I thought I’d share here. I asked students to write a “media self inventory” describing what media (new and old) they consume, in what format, how often, and for how long. Ryan’s co-op just completed a media blackout, which created an opportunity for Ryan to think and write critically about new media in the face of its absence. Read all about it:

Media Blackout…Good?

January 13, 2009 · No Comments

My first post for this blog is going to be a self evaluation of what media I consume and contribute daily. This self evaluation comes at an interesting time for myself. I currently am the president of a all guys Christian co-op just off of campus at Oregon State University. Towards the end of last term (Fall Term) our house decided that during the first week of winter term we would have a media blackout. A blackout from all electronic media including television, Internet, movies, and video games. The idea behind the blackout was to in some ways force people out of there rooms and be more social with each other. Having completed such blackout I have come to realize several things.

Read more at Ryan’s blog:

http://osusportsfan.wordpress.com/