Thoughts on integrating Publish2 into Cal Poly's journalism curriculum

Full Disclosure: I have been employed by Publish2 as a product designer since January.

My favorite Cal Poly journalism professor emailed me this week asking how he could use Publish2 in his journalism classes. Although this list of ideas is specific to Cal Poly's journalism curriculum, it could easily be adapted to other j-school courses as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with Publish2, it's a collaborative curation platform powered by journalists (i.e. a way of link saving and sharing powered by the most authoritative experts in the news field). Because all Cal Poly journalism professors and students are journalists, the service is free to them.

Before I jump into my implementation ideas, there are four general assumptions I am going to be making (or really, they're standards I'm encouraging) for journalism students and professors.

  1. All journalism professors should maintain a blog -- either personal or for the courses he/she teaches.
  2. All students should maintain a blog.
  3. All students should subscribe to their professors' blogs and vice versa.
  4. All journalism students should be consuming excessive amounts of content (news, blogs, tweets etc.) -- more on this later.

If Cal Poly wants to integrate Publish2 into its curriculum, every student should make an account in their first journalism class and continue to use it throughout their four years of college.

Journalism 203: Introduction to News Reporting and Writing

Introduction to the fundamental techniques of reporting and writing news articles from print and online perspectives. Extensive laboratory and field practices in
gathering and evaluating information. Writing basic news stories under close supervision. 3 lectures, 1 laboratory.
The best use of Publish2 in this class would be for curating the best journalistic reporting on the web. One of the best ways to learn to write, in my opinion, is to read really good writing:
  • Each lecture in this class usually focuses on a specific element of news writing (leads, nut grafs, transitions, inverted pyramids, soft leads, etc.) that eventually culminates at the end
  • Prior to each lecture, students could add links to the newsgroup of the best writing that relates to the upcoming lecture
  • Each student could add a comment along with their link about why that example is important
  • The professor could make this a requirement for each class and make it count toward a grade (although, more on this later too)
  • This example and following examples would make for effective assignments that are easy to submit and grade (no printing out work or keeping track of stacks of paper; professors would simply navigate to the newsgroup and read everyones' analyses).

Back to my earlier premise that all journalism students should be consuming excessive amount of content: In an ideal world, this would be true. But as a recent college graduate, I've seen first-hand that many students don't stay up on news. Making it a requirement for class won't encourage it either; I'm against requirements as a form of habit-building. If you force students to read news, it won't be fun and they won't want to do it. If you give them an incentive to read news (discussing current events at the start of each class; creating a reward-based system for those who curate the best links), rather than assigning a grade value or quizzing students on news consumption, it will be more effective.

JOUR 285 Introduction to Web-Based Journalism

I was still at Cal Poly the first quarter this class was introduced. I helped write the syllabus and contributed to the lectures each week. From the course description:

Introduction to the social, editorial and technical issues surrounding the Web as a new form of communication. Fundamentals of gathering, writing and publishing content for the Web that includes using photographs, sound, pictures and video to tell a story. 3 lectures, 1 laboratory. Prerequisite: JOUR 203.

Although that sounds vague, the class actually had a very specific goal: each student created a blog and by the end of ten-week quarter, they were semi-experts in bloggings, curating, tweeting and amateur multimediography.

  • Each student maintained a WordPress blog with a very specific beat (prime target for Publish2 usage)
  • In addition to commentary, analysis and original reporting on topics specific to the beat of their choice, each student could curate a newswire of links relevant to their blog
  • If some students' beats overlapped (local music blog and local art critique blog, for example), the students could create a newsgroup and collaborate together.
  • (This same process can be applied to JOUR 304 Public Affairs Reporting in which each student is assigned a geographic beat. Although they're not blogging as a requirement to this class -- sadly-- they could still use newsgroups and save the links to Publish2 without publishing to a blog).

The ability to be an expert curator is a huge part of journalism these days when it comes to finding the value in context in an era of information overload and content pollution (more here, here and lots here). Finding the top news and tweets relevant to a beat is one of the best ways to learn curation (and even at the professional level, it's what high profile journalists are doing -- and they're even using Publish2 to do it).

JOUR 303 Multimedia Reporting and Production, JOUR 410 Applied Multimedia Reporting

These classes are parts one and two in a hierarchy of multimedia classes. Over the span of these two classes, students learn how to take photos, record audio, make slideshows, audio slideshows, video, podcasts, interactive maps, a little flash, and how to publish all those media types on the web. I see a few potential uses of Publish2 in this realm.
Collaboratively generate "reading materials" for class:
  • I'm of the opinion that you can't learn multimedia by reading a textbook. Much like good writing comes as a result of reading good writing, the same goes for multimedia. Students should be expected to read over classmates' comment and links in the newswire before each class.
  • Students should be scouting the web to find good examples of multimedia as relevant to each lecture, saving those links with comments to Publish2, then discussing them each class
  • This could serve as a very useful, thought-provoking assignment that gets students to read and provides interesting content for class discussion to supplement elements of the lecture.

Showcase student work:

  • One of my introductory assumptions at the start of this post is that each professor has a blog (Brady has a WordPress powered site for each of his journalism classes).
  • If each student adds a link to his/her published work through a newsgroup as a result of class assignments, professors can easily display that work on the class site/blog along with analysis of how the assignment went.
  • Because Publish2 gracefully integrates video into saved links, a multimedia class is a perfect use case

Department-wide usage

One of the key concepts Publish2 was built around is collaboration. So, naturally, the product would be more effective if its usage wasn't only broken into silos for each class, but if journalism professors used it to curate news for the department to read. An even better situation would be if the entire department -- faculty and students -- were collaborating together. I'm sure plenty of other uses would arise once that collaborative network was initiated.

I'm open to any other suggestions for how Publish2 could be used in the classroom to encourage collaboration. Good luck and happy publishing.