Thursday, May 15, 2008

digital journalism

last year, my digital journalism students began the semester working collectively on a group blog and ended the semester working individually on blogs of their own. this year, we did the opposite. students spent the majority of the semester working individually on their own blogs (and flickr accounts) and ended the semester working collectively to create a map of our city.

we diligently followed the digital journalism syllabus for the first six weeks, but by week seven things had to change.

in early march, i attended a panel discussion in the donohue rare book room (third floor, gleeson library). the panel included sasha carrera, education coordinator for the corita art center in los angeles, and amy franceschini and stuart mckee, both USF graphic design professors. the panel was part of the opening of POWER UP: Serigraphs by Corita Kent in USF's thacher gallery. long story ridiculously short: corita kent, also known as sister corita, ran the art department at immaculate heart college in los angeles until 1968, the year she left the order and moved to boston to focus on art and social justice. her serigraphs gained gained international fame during the 1960s and 1970s, and although you may not recognize her name you might recognize this:

or, perhaps, this:

during the panel, i learned about an assignment sister corita would give to her art students. first, she would have them draw an object. next, she'd give the students two or three days to draw the same object one hundred times.

during discussion, a number of audience members identified themselves as former students of sister corita, including one who remembered well the draw-this-a-hundred-times assignment. "i began thinking i knew what i was drawing," she said. "but after four or five drawings, i realized i had no idea. after a while, maybe around seventy or eighty drawings, patterns began to emerge. by the time i reached one hundred, i had a better understanding of what it was i was trying to draw."

the following day class met and i had a proposal for my students - let's suspend the syllabus for one week, maybe two. instead, i proposed, we'll explore different parts of USF campus and blog about them consistently and creatively.

the proposal passed unanimously.

over the course of the semester, i assigned my students three beats. first, campus. next, golden gate park. third, san francisco. and like sister corita, i'd tell my students to do it and do it again and do it again. they'd come to class to share a killer blog post they wrote the night before (or that morning) and we'd use a laptop to project it on a screen on the wall and i'd read it aloud and we'd laugh and say "yeah!" for the parts we liked and gave suggestions for the parts in need of improvement and then right when my students began to feel comfortable even content with what they had created i'd say: "good, now do it again."

through my assignments (grueling!) and their interest in blogging (budding!), i kept my students busy. all i required was that they had to physically visit the places they were blogging about. log off before you blog off.

and they did, first with campus.

later, we turned our blogging and photo-snapping attentions to golden gate park, a park packed with goodies to explore and located a cool two blocks from campus.

finally, we stepped into the big leagues and gave san francisco a spin. then, the last week, fueled by pizza, we filled our map full of posts.

although corita kent may have scoffed at our mere fifty pins, i'm sure she'd acknowledge that my students - austin, brigid, emilia, jacob, laura, and miles - and i now have a better understanding of the campus and city we call home.


....J.Michael Robertson said...

Do it a hundred times. That's a beat! Now to explore the map.

Jay Fienberg said...

Very cool!

miles said...

hey silver- why isn't "blogging" or "blog" in the dictionary yet? we need to get moving :)

knowledges33ker said...

The way that you adapted sister corita's drawing exercise is pretty interesting. I'm curious about when you say that you had them "redo" the blogging as corita had her students redraw their chosen object, do you mean that you literally had them rewrite their blog post, perhaps from a different perspective, or did you have them retell the story using a different mode, perhaps visual rather than textual, or was the process of moving (directionally) outward from campus to golden gate park, to the city at large your adaptation of the "redoing" process? I think it'd be an interesting exercise to have them try taking some issue that's not time sensitive but tied to a specific geographical context and have them trying retelling the story with different approaches and then see what gets foregrounded with each mode. Is the time of day more important with the visual part of the assignment while the sounds and movement become foregrounded in a vlog while the nuances of description emerge with the text? or maybe something else entirely would emerge....what do you think?

knowledges33ker said...

BTW - have you heard about the new YouTube channel for Citizen Journalism? Here's a link for the ars technica story about it...just in case

david silver said...

hey knowledges33ker, thanks for the comment!

your first question is excellent and my answer is: "neither."

when i say "do it again" i really meant "do another blog post about another part of campus." so, my six students came to class having blogged six different parts / buildings / art / event on campus; we'd read and review it collectively; then i'd say, "go find another part / building / art / event on campus and blog about it."

the same with golden gate park. students would blog a portion of the park, we'd review it, and i'd say "go discover and blog another part of the park."

corita kent had her students draw over and over again a single object. i had my students blog over and over again about a single geographic space. whether my students were blogging campus, golden gate park, or the city, geography was extremely important.

your question about the importance of time of day is one we talked about as a class but never really addressed. for example, USF campus is divided into two sections. to travel between main campus and lone mountain campus, you need to cross a tall, beautiful set of outside steps. see the steps! during class, we talked about how the steps, the people on the steps, and the moods of the people on the steps changes according to the time of day. but we never got around to blogging about it.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

What a fine assignment, David. Having had the privilege of meeting the students, I can imagine some of how this went. Had to blog this.

Question: how was CommunityWalk?

david silver said...

hey bryan!


actually, it wasn't the students you met and worked with. that class was digital literacy. these students were enrolled in digital journalism.

and finally, indeed: CommunityWalk.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

D'oh! Well, I hereby wave back at those fine folks.

How was CommunityWalk for your students? Difficult to use, stable, etc.

david silver said...

CommunityWalk was cool.

about two weeks before we began this final project in earnest, i asked the students to experiment with various mapping tools. as a class, we came up with a number of options that we wanted to use (ability for others to leave comments, ability to color-coordinate pins according to what they represent, etc) and i asked each of them to assess whether the mapping tool they selected allows such options.

through natural selection CommunityWalk came out on top.

that said, the week the final project was due, one student, jacob, re-explored google maps and found that they had significantly improved a few problems we noticed earlier. so, it's possible that in future versions of this assignment, i'll go with google maps. stay tuned.

if you, bryan, or anyone knows of others easy to use and free mapping tools, please let me know through the comments.

Mike said...

good post