An un-book for your digital journalism classroom

searchlightOccasionally, when I’m feeling particularly ineffective or uninspired as a teacher, I head to Amazon and look for a textbook that will be the silver bullet for whatever problem I’m experiencing. This time, in the process of searching, being disappointed, then getting lost in disgruntled reviews, I came across something novel: a digital textbook on digital journalism.

About a year ago, an article appeared on the Knight Foundation blog announcing the arrival of “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes From the Digital Age of Journalism” and one of our colleagues, Michelle Harmon, posted it to this site. Somehow I missed that announcement, but man am I glad I found the source.

The beauty of this particular digital textbook is its dynamic nature, an exemplar for students in both form and content. Though the “book” has been available for more than a year, as of this moment, the last update was 11 hours ago, which is pretty amazing.

What’s even better, though, is the almost invisible Learning Layer of the textbook, a set of activities that classroom teachers can use to implement the readings in their day-to-day lessons. It’s a long list that’s, admittedly, a little overwhelming, but here are a few shining examples to whet your appetite:

  • In “How do you know what to believe?” students are asked to rate news stories based on their credibility. In one activity, students find out after completing the rating that the story was fabricated, and they discuss the ratings they gave it before knowing that.
  • In “Infographics are stories, too” students research the history/purpose of infographics, then create their own using an online infographic creation tool.
  • In “Nobody knows you’re a dog: or do they?” students find positive and negative examples of anonymous online comments, then draft a comment policy that addresses anonymous commenting.

It’s going to take some time to dig through all that’s there, but from what I’ve found already, I’m feeling reenergized and hopeful, which was the point all along.

Michelle Balmeo

Michelle Balmeo, MJE, is the adviser of The Whirlwind newsmagazine and online news publication at West Albany High School in Albany, Ore. She's done some print stuff, some video stuff, and some web stuff over the past 16 years as a student media adviser.

Michelle Balmeo has 66 posts and counting. See all posts by Michelle Balmeo

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