For the past four months, a colleague and I have been working with a student e-journalism team that provided mobile coverage of the 17th Rural Education Congress, held in Saskatoon at the end of March. Our students put in hours of their time editing, re-editing, interviewing, blogging, vlogging, and taking pictures. In fact, the first night, most of our students were up until 5 am uploading and editing work, and then were back at the conference by 8:00 am. Throughout the conference, we introduced educators to QR codes, including a Lego version that worked, Twitter hashtags, and also created a virtual wall that iphone owners could leave messages on. It was amazing.
In truth, our students did such a remarkable job that when we approached the planning committee of the Early Childhood Education conference, being held in Moose Jaw at the beginning of May, to ask if we could cover their conference, our offer was gladly accepted. So we’ll be doing it again. But this got me thinking, what if we established a permanent e-journalism team and offered it as a class, so that students can learn the subtleties and nuance of digital writing and publishing, while allowing them to actually use their skills at real events? What if school becomes real life?
I pitched the idea to our Superintendent of Learning, and to make a long story short, I’ll be teaching an online ejournalism course this fall. Essentially, it will be a pilot project involving a cohort of 12-15 students, from around our division. Our school division is largely rural, and many of these schools struggle to offer a variety of electives. This may help a bit.
E-journalism will be the first course of its kind for our division. We’re trying to see what the possibilities are for implementing a course like this long term. While it will be run through Prairie South’s Virtual School, it will have face to face events that students will collaborate on and it will earn students a special project credit.
The class will have three foci: social media, multimedia journalism and global communication. I’m hoping, for each section, to invite experts into our classroom, via Elluminate, so that my students can learn from experts around the globe. No longer does where someone live need to determine who they receive their education from, or even the quality of the education they receive. Additionally, for the global communication section, students will collaborate on journalism pieces with students from other parts of the world, providing diverse perspectives to work with. Our world is no longer as small as it used to be. Students will also be required to critically evaluate current events and explore the world of photo journalism.
But here’s the best part, since it’s a special project credit, even though students will learn as a cohort, each student course will be designed and tailored to student interest. No two programs will be the same. Some may wish to learn more about creating multimedia, while others may want to focus on blogging and social media. Each project will have a component designed by the student taking it. Our students need to learn to design their own learning experience. And, of course, part of it is to prepare students to work together face to face, in a situation that adds pressure and real deadlines — where the cohort will need to collaborate and rely on one another.
I love the idea of school being real life, expanding the boundaries of student learning and thinking, as well as creating new possibilities for future students too. And I’m incredibly fortunate to be part of it, and to be part of a division that is willing to take risks to advance student learning. Another new adventure begins!