The days of “old school” journalism are long gone. The world of public relations has been flipped on its head given the advent of social media. There are few fields facing more technological turn over than that of Edinboro University’s Department of Journalism and Public Relations.
These changes, along with the rise in online course work, has led to a very fluid technological environment when it comes to the department’s professors and their educational techniques.
Dr. R. James Wertz is a professor in the department and the faculty advisor for ETV, the campus television station.
When it comes to technology in the classroom, Wertz uses university-sponsored technologies like D2L and Blackboard Collaborative, especially for big groups.
“I have a grad class with 28 people online and I use Blackboard Collaborative to record a meeting when I need to tell them something. Then, I will post it back into D2L so if people miss the meeting they can go back and see what they missed,” he said.
In smaller classes, Wertz turns to other forms of technology primarily because, “I think in the private sector, when students graduate and go out and get jobs, they are rarely going to interact with a platform that functions like D2L,” he said.
“I like to introduce students to more global technologies and ones that I think are being appropriated in the private sector, so that they can walk into a job and say ‘yeah, I know how to use WordPress’ or ‘I know how to use Google Hangouts and Google Drive.’”
Wertz has effectively used Google Hangouts to record lectures and post the podcasts online. He’s also used something called “Remind 101,” which is a texting service that students can register their phone number anonymously, if they wish, and then he can go in and text the class reminders for tests, special class meetings or if they need to bring something to class that day.
“I try to be really consciousness of saturation levels and what’s appropriate when we’re using those kinds of technologies,” Wertz said.
“Just because you have access to communicate with people, doesn’t mean you should communicate with them all the time or you should be blasting messages at them all the time. If you’re doing that, ultimately, the consumer or the student is going to get tired of that message and ignore everything. So when I use the text service I try to use it just for reminders about important dates and things like that.”
Facebook has worked on occasion for him, mostly when he has specific tasks for students to do on Facebook, in a group, where they can have conversations and collaborate outside of the classroom.
“As class sizes get larger and more diverse, in terms of the departments students are coming from and the curriculum they are coming from, we really have to make a greater effort to try to reach them in different ways, where people feel comfortable in engaging information in whatever way works best for them,” concluded Wertz.
Dr. Terrance Warburton, a professor in the department, praised the tech staff here at Edinboro University. He added that the access of Internet provides, “unlimited resources, but what you want to do isn’t always intuitive.”
Warburton feels technology is much more related to establishing a visual culture, while incorporating it into what you do. For example, he uses PowerPoints and the projector in his class, as well as communication through Edinboro’s D2L.
He would add that the Internet and technology allows him to teach a graduate course online, with students from all over the country, while still having class discussion on discussion boards.
“It also provides the opportunity for students to obtain positive relationships among students and provides access to those who may not have it (the class),” he added.
Warburton did point out a negative side to the cross of technology and education, though. He explained how it’s hard to tell a person’s enthusiasm when you aren’t face to face, while adding that sometimes difficulties such as the Internet being down or troubleshooting the computer or projector that day can hold up class time.
While Warburton calls himself a skeptic, he would state, “If I see a benefit to use new bells and whistles in the classroom, great. The challenge is when to incorporate it as a supplement and not a substitute.”
“There are things out there that I could incorporate, but I have suspicions about bells and whistles because people use it as a ‘oh look at me,’ but what are you really accomplishing?”
He would finish by explaining that technology enables you to do things that a generation ago, you couldn’t, and with that the possibilities are endless.
Dr. Ronald Raymond is a professor in the journalism department, as well as the faculty advisor for WFSE 88.9 Fighting Scots Radio.
In Raymond’s class, you’ll find him using the Smart Station consistently, as well as PowerPoint, D2L, Adobe Audition (for one class) and email. Occasionally, he will use a CD player or Skype to help enhance the learning process that day.
In terms of technology as a benefit, he would state, “I think everything is intended to be used to support the information presented in class. The best sessions to me are the ones in which topics are introduced, often through or accompanied by technology, and interactive discussion occurs. D2L provides a nice resource for sharing information without having to print everything out.”
In terms of failures, Skype hasn’t been promising, as it’s buffered quite a bit, making it hard to communicate, Raymond added.
When asked if technology has enhanced the educational process, Raymond said, “On the whole, I would say yes. My intent with technology is primarily to use it as a support or supplement for the instruction and discussions that take place. It’s in that function that I find it most useful.”
Professor Chris Lantinen is a professor in the journalism department and the faculty advisor for The Spectator.
In Lantinen’s classroom, you can find him using Powerpoint or Prezi presentations for information delivery. In his intermediate reporting course, he teaches certain Apps that would be beneficial to a reporter, so he asks students to have their cell phones out at those times.
Lantinen also offers live demonstrations for programs like Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop through the projector or Smart Station.
With technology, there’s always something new and exciting waiting to be used. Lantinen recently started using Prezi.
“Prezi is a relatively new presentation software and I believe students react a little more positively to the motion it provides and the unique templates it offers,” he said.
He also recently started using WordPress and Tumblr. In terms of technology as a benefit, Lantinen said, “ It can only help the educational process. Our students now grow up through the Internet, so if we’re not connecting with them through these digital channels, if we’re not encouraging them, especially in our field, to utilize mobile technology, then we’re teaching them in prehistoric fashion.”
In the future, Lantinen would like to find something that allows him to connect his phone to the projectors so that entire classes can be done on mobile devices, stating, “It’s the reporter’s greatest tool at times.”
According to a recent study by CompTIA — which surveyed 500 K-12 and college instructors across the country, it was revealed that 78 percent of teachers and administrators believe technology has positively impacted the classroom and the productivity of students.
The report, “IT Opportunities in the Education Market,” states roughly 65 percent of educators surveyed also believe students are more productive today than they were three years ago, due to the increased reliance on technology in the classroom.
If you know of any teachers that incorporate unique technological features in class, email firstname.lastname@example.org to see your professor’s tech-savy tools featured in the newspaper.
Karlee Dies is the News Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at email@example.com.