Panel discuss tailoring the curriculum to the realities of the 21st century

Vanessa Shelton, Julie Dodd, Bonnie Layton and Karla Kennedy address curriculum changes in the 21st century

Vanessa Shelton (Iowa/Quill & Scroll) left , Julie Dodd (Florida), Bonnie Layton (Indiana) and Karla Kennedy (Oregon) address curriculum changes in the 21st century. Photo by Judy Robinson

by Casey Kochey

The second session  on today’s agenda at the Scholastic Journalism Division’s AEJMC midwinter meeting is a panel discussion, titled “Where do we go from here?” focusing on developing relevant journalism curricula for the 21st century.

The panelists – Vanessa Shelton, Bonnie Layton, Karla Kennedy and Julie Dodd – shared some general thoughts on the status of current journalism curricula and how they are adapting to incorporate modern technologies.  Below are some of the highlights from their talks.

Vanessa Shelton, University of Iowa/Quill & Scroll

At Iowa, a two-credit multimedia class is now required to bolster students’ understanding of modern reporting techniques.

Vanessa is working to teach students to use technology along with traditional journalism, including WordPress blogging and, beginning last semester, social media.

When developing a curriculum including these new technologies, however, a number of ethical issues must also be part of that curriculum.  These ethical issues must be discussed in the classroom before students enter the professional world, or the benefits of teaching these new technologies could be for naught.

Bonnie Layton, Indiana University

Bonnie shared her thoughts on technology in the journalism classroom, particularly in terms of matching the skills needed in the professional setting with the skills we teach in the academic setting.  In many cases, that means getting students hands-on experiences with Adobe software (InDesign and Photoshop).

Visual Journalism is now a required course for all communications students at Indiana. Print journalists need to understand the basics of photo and video, and visual journalists need to understand the mechanics of print reporting – there shouldn’t be a sharp divide between the two.

Other important developments that require attention: data mining and human-computer interactions.  How will we determine the way that humans interact with journalism as it increasingly moves onto the Web?

Karla Kennedy, Scholastic Journalism Outreach Coordinator, University of Oregon

How do we build “real journalism” at the high school level?  Karla said that journalism educators need to begin developing programs that help increase interest in high school journalism, specifically by teaching students how to report on sensitive issues. Covering controversial or sensitive issues can be difficult, but it’s an important step in developing “real journalism” at the high school level and defining the line between “real” and “citizen” journalism.

Another important front for building journalism programs in high school is reaching out beyond English teachers.  Journalism can be about sports, art, culture, but relegating journalism to the English classes or after-school programs (where teachers have far less sway) does a disservice to the students and to the future of high school journalism.

Julie Dodd, University of Florida

Julie said that journalism educators have been maintaining curricula that no longer reflect the realities of the professional world.  It’s never too early to begin looking at curriculum changes in our own courses – the world is constantly changing, and we should reflect that reality in our teaching.  Universities should be maintaining curriculum committees that can constantly evaluate the relevancy of current curricula. Synergy between different academic departments within a college can also make for more efficient, more relevant education for students.

As educators, we should also be making sure to incorporate Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) in curriculum development, so that university curriculum matches the measures looked at by accrediting organizations.

Curriculum Panel introduced by Calvin Hall (Appalachian State)

Curriculum panel moderated by Calvin Hall (Appalachian State University). Photo by Judy Robinson

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