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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Digital journalism course utilizes advanced resource classroom to debate changing world of news

“I would often need to have the students compare two different news sites side-by-side,” he said recently, taking a break from completing the footnotes on his soon-to-be published second book, “Counterculture into Cyberculture; How Steward Brand and the Whole Earth Network Informed the Politics of Information.” (University of Chicago Press, 2006.)

“Before I came to Wallenberg, students had their individual computers, but then everyone would be staring into their own little screen. It’s very hard to get a collaborative discussion going under these circumstances. But going from the laptops to the large screen (computer enabled Webster boards) and back again fosters teamwork. I can task each small group with identifying or studying a news organization out there on the web. They do that and put up a basic presentation in about 20 minutes.”

The course Digital Journalism, which is offered through the Communication Department, aims to explore shifts in media technologies, corporate structure and the organization of public life that have combined to transform the practice of journalism. Winter quarter was Turner’s second time teaching the class, but his first in Wallenberg Hall. Working closely with Dan Gilbert, Academic Technology Specialist (ATS) for SCIL, Turner tried a variety of technology tools to support his teaching.

"Throughout the quarter, Dr. Turner's class used the iRoom software to share and compare the representations of news on different media sites,” says Gilbert, whose job involves helping faculty design, carry out, and evaluate learning activities in Wallenberg. “This class pushed on the collaborative technology as hard as any class we've had here to do the kinds of activities that Dr. Turner previously only wished that he could do."

Although Turner says he doesn’t consider himself to be especially “technology savvy,” he found the use of multimedia gave him a new kind of freedom.

“The technology lets you play intellectually in ways you might not have for a while,” he says. “The students experience working collaboratively with machines and groups at the same time, and it’s a mini version of the phenomenon we are studying. The technology doesn’t tangle the students up, it allows them to be active coworkers.”

The collaboration extended beyond the classroom when Turner shared ideas with colleague James Fishkin, Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication and Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science, who also has taught in Wallenberg Hall.

“Integrating and sharing our ideas is a big part of the challenge,” Turner concludes. “I’m an apostle.

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