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My distracting laptop

My distracting laptop

I’ve updated this post after discussing the issue with my class. 

I can think of no journalism professors I admire more than Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen. But I (so far) disagree with them on the subject of whether to allow students to use laptops and mobile devices during class.

Clay has explained in a blog post why he bans computers from his classroom. Jay chimed in his agreement:

They both have notably more classroom experience than I do, and they might be right. I encourage you to read Clay’s full explanation and won’t try to summarize it here, but he cites research about how multitasking can interfere with learning.

My limited experience is different. I was very glad yesterday that a student had her laptop and multitasked in class. (more…)

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Thanks to Steve Klein for this contribution to my series of advice for a new adjunct journalism professor:

Steve Klein

Steve Klein

Too often, new instructors are over-ambitious in the classroom.

And even some veteran teachers never seem to learn that one thing.

A teacher can bring a packed 20-pound bag of valuable learning to a class but probably only has time — and the necessary students’ attention span — to empty a fraction of it.

Which brings me to “The One Thing.”

What do you most want your student to learn from each class?

What will each student remember from each class?

What will each student remember at the end of the semester?

What will each student remember five, 10, even 20 years later?

That’s why you don’t want to over-pack that bag you bring to class.

And that’s the one thing every teacher should remember!

Steve sent this slide show to make his “one thing” point:

Buttry note: I welcome guest posts from other journalism faculty — adjunct or full-time — for this series. Or if you’re a current or recent journalism graduate, I’d be interested in your observations about what your professors did that was most effective and what didn’t work as well. Please name any professors you’re praising, but I’m not interested in giving you a chance to publicly bash professors you didn’t like. If you’d rather contribute from your own blog than as a guest post, send me a link and I’ll promote it here.

Earlier advice for a new journalism professor

Advice for a new journalism prof: Teach lessons a variety of ways

7 types of content to include in journalism classes

Curt Chandler’s advice to a new J-prof: Don’t assume, show examples

J-prof’s challenge: Use experience to teach specific lessons, not to bore

Teaching advice from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham: Learn how academia works

Chris Snider’s teaching advice: Students learn from presentations

Journalism teaching advice from Pam Fine: Get ready for grading

Teaching advice from Norm Lewis: What students learn is most important

Tim McGuire: ‘Experimentation is the soul of effective teaching’

Lori Shontz’s teaching advice: Listen to your students

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This continues my series of posts on advice for a new journalism professor. This is a guest post by Lori Shontz, senior editor at The Penn Stater alumni magazine and an adjunct lecturer in the Penn State College of Communications.

Lori Shontz

Lori Shontz

I start every semester by telling students something like this: “Writing is a craft. Reporting is a craft. As you do things over and over, you get better.”

I’ve found that teaching is similar. I tweak, I worry, I experiment, I revise. I reflect.  So my transition from the newsroom to the classroom felt familiar. I learned to teach partially by reporting — asking questions of veteran instructors, observing and analyzing speakers, mulling over ideas just as I do as a journalist.

Reading other syllabi helps, too. I’ve found the journalism teaching community to be generous with their time and materials, and the syllabus exchange at Poynter’s NewsU is a terrific resource, too.

All that said, here are the three biggest things I’ve learned in nine semesters teaching a 200-level introductory news writing and reporting class at Penn State: (more…)

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Tim McGuire, photo linked from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

I am delighted that Tim McGuire has responded to my call for advice for a new adjunct journalism professor.

Few professors can match Tim’s combination of newsroom and classroom experience. He’s the former editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I highly recommend reading his post about respect, experimentation and different learning styles. It includes this gem:

I find that experimentation is the soul of effective teaching This is my 15th semester of teaching and I’ve never used the same syllabus twice. Sure, I keep some elements from previous semesters but every semester I essentially redesign my courses.

He also linked to an earlier post about engaging students.

A new journalism professor can’t do much better than a double dose of advice from Tim McGuire.

Earlier advice for a new journalism professor

Advice for a new journalism prof: Teach lessons a variety of ways

7 types of content to include in journalism classes

Curt Chandler’s advice to a new J-prof: Don’t assume, show examples

J-prof’s challenge: Use experience to teach specific lessons, not to bore

Teaching advice from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham: Learn how academia works

Chris Snider’s teaching advice: Students learn from presentations

Journalism teaching advice from Pam Fine: Get ready for grading

Teaching advice from Norm Lewis: What students learn is most important

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This continues my series on advice for a new adjunct journalism professor. This guest post is from Norm Lewis of the University of Florida:

Norman Lewis

Norman Lewis

It matters not what you teach; it only matters what they learn.

You can best focus on what they learn by identifying – in writing – the outcomes you want for your students. (These belong in the syllabus, by the way.) And an outcome must be observable and tangible. For example:

Bad outcomes:

  • Know the material
  • Understand how to use Twitter as a journalist
  • Become familiar with elementary coding

Good outcomes:

  • Persuasively argue both sides of the evolving debate over Internet privacy
  • Create a Twitter feed that results in two crowd-sourced stories
  • Customize an attractive and customized WordPress blog by editing HTML and CSS codes

The key is that what a professor tells the class is just breath. The only thing that matters is what the student can do: analyze, evaluate, compare, create, etc. So we start by identifying what we want the students to do. Then we focus everything in the class – every exercise, reading, homework assignment and test – to produce or measure those outcomes.

Earlier advice for a new journalism professor

Advice for a new journalism prof: Teach lessons a variety of ways

7 types of content to include in journalism classes

Curt Chandler’s advice to a new J-prof: Don’t assume, show examples

J-prof’s challenge: Use experience to teach specific lessons, not to bore

Teaching advice from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham: Learn how academia works

Chris Snider’s teaching advice: Students learn from presentations

Journalism teaching advice from Pam Fine: Get ready for grading

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This continues my series of posts on advice for a new journalism professor. This is a guest post by Pam Fine, Knight Chair for News, Leadership and Community at the University of Kansas.

Pam Fine

Pam Fine

It’s not unusual to hear professors moan about grading, not just because it can consume entire weekends — which it often does — but because of the tension over how much and what kind of feedback on assignments is actually helpful.

Many professors I know, including myself, continually experiment with ways to provide comments that are constructive and instructive.

As some educational experts say, today’s college kids were “not allowed to skin their knees.”  So, it’s important to provide honest feedback in a way that’s effective for a generation used to getting positive reinforcement.

My advice is to be as clear as possible about your expectations, and self-edit so your key points stand out. (more…)

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This continues my series on advice for a new adjunct journalism professor. This guest post is by Dr. Kathleen Woodruff Wickham, associate professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi (more about her at the end):

Kathleen Woodruff Wickham

Kathleen Woodruff Wickham

The previous posts had many wonderful suggestions. I will try not to repeat them. Experience tells me that many new adjuncts and instructors moving from the profession to academia do not understand the academic culture, nor grasp the necessities for what appear to be arcane practices. They also frequently come in deciding to run their classroom like a newsroom. You have to remember that if you are teaching lower-division classes you are teaching 18- and 19- year olds, not adults who are professionals. These are professionals-in-training.

For example, in a lower-division course don’t say, “You are expected to follow AP guidelines. Here is the book.”

Rather, hold them accountable for certain sections (titles, ages, addresses).  In our entry-level writing course, I would prepare a hand-out of the basics and start the penalty off at 1 point, increasing each week by a point to a maximum of 10. (more…)

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