Where Are The Voices?

Yesterday I was in a meeting of faculty that seemed to have a strong political agenda. After the meeting I was chatting with some of my colleagues as they discussed this politics and they mentioned something that got me thinking.

We had an incident on our campus right before the holidays. All I knew was that a popular foreign exchange student, who had gone home for the holiday received a letter stating that he was not allowed back the following semester. Our school newspaper ran a story about it, all of the students were “up in arms” about it, but only on YikYak. One of the professors I was talking with said, “In my day, we would have had our pick signs out on the mall and refused to go to class until we got answers”.  And that is what got me thinking….

Is our next generation so passive, or so “ME” that they no longer care to stand up for things that are unjust, unless it is anonymous and easy to type with your thumbs?

Or, have we created this generation?

In a report published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examining the concerns of Millennials, there has been a decline in young people’s “trust in others, their interest in government and the time they said they spent thinking about social problems.”(APA 2012)

I believe that , as a teacher of communications, it is my responsibility to help my students find their way to being civically engaged members of our media and society. I find that many of my students are floundering in what they want to do with their education and, if only, they had a social cause to commit to, they just might find their way.

Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both the political and non-political processes. (Ehrlich 2000).

I am interested in more research in this area. I have been concentrating on the technology of media for sometime now and will continue to do so, but, there needs to be a direction for the use of this technology and social and civic engagement is that direction.

I am in the process of creating a course on Emerging Media and Civic Engagement. This course will concentrate on how students use technology to create social awareness for a cause. As in my Interactive Documentary for Social Change class, the research and proclamation of one’s cause is one of the most difficult aspects of this class. Working with students to help them find a cause that fits will be a wonderful challenge. This course could be a blog based course that concentrates on social media and interaction with like minded people and organizations.

I would appreciate any ideas, research or comments about this work.



American Psychological Association(APA) (2012). Recent Generations Focus More On Fame, Money Than Giving Back. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/03/fame-giving.aspx

Ehrlich, T. (2000). Civic Responsibility and Higher Education. The Definition of Civic Engagement. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/collegespecial2/coll_aascu_defi.html

Wooodruff. J. (2012) How Civically Engaged Are Millennials?. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/how-civically-engaged-are-millennials/







I have wanted to create a blog about ideas in teaching interactive documentary and storytelling for some time now, so here it goes….

I am currently teaching 2 classes that I would like to share that might be of some interest to some teachers out there wanting to use interactive technology as a tool for storytelling.  The idea of this blog is to share ideas, lesson plans and syllabi that might allow us to form a community of Communications professors who want to bring the latest technology and interactivity into the classroom.

My dissertation area of research was Interactive Documentary; Emerging Technologies for Social Change.

I would like to continue on this path of research to help my students create a broader base and audience for online interactive documentary and storytelling.  I am currently working on ideas in order to be an effective teacher for this subject area.

My goals are to give communications students a better understanding of the technology that is both, currently at their disposal, and on the horizon, so that they can use it in their media, communications and art endeavors to be a voice for their generation.   There is no longer a need to be a computer scientist to have a working knowledge of communication technologies and how they will benefit our work.  There are many free and easy to use applications available for the creation of interactive communications.

Millennials are very fast paced and in the moment.  They want their media in small quick bits. I am sure that most of us can agree that we are all becoming “swift-media” consumers.  We spend more time using media but want our stories to be faster.  And then there is the necessity of interaction.

With all of this in mind, we now are charged with teaching our students how to create media, whether it be on radio, television, film or online media, with our consumers in mind.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believe there is a need for the more slow moving, beautiful scenic cinematography that I grew up loving but I believe that there needs to be an effort to teach students to create to an audience of their peers.

This is where critical perspectives and creative production practices are imperative in teaching our next generation of media producers.

First making sure that Communications/Media students have both the historical and theoretical backgrounds to lay the groundwork in their craft but then making sure that they have knowledge of the groundbreaking technologies available to help create fast-paced, informative, entertaining and interactive story-making.

I see the work as all interdisciplinary.

As a documentary filmmaker, actress and television producer, I understand the “art” of media.  As a Communications professor, I understand the necessity of reporting and disseminating information.  And as someone who does work for the non-profit sector, I see the need for expanding outlets for good.  I also see the need to utilize “new media” technologies to advance these causes while reporting information and creating art.

Two course examples:

1) Advanced Technologies For Media Interaction
1. With this class the student begins by creating a website, using a front-end web design tool, such as Wix.com.(the prerequisite for this course is Web Design 1, which is a code-based web development class, so there is a background in creation)
2. The student must choose a social cause or their capstone subject area and create the site in that vain. The site is require to have at least 4 pages, video, audio and interaction to start.
3. We then create a mobile app to accompany the site.
4. Next we look at virtual and augmented reality. We are currently using Aurasma to create augmented reality photos that can be placed on the website and also a business card or brochure.
5. We then play with gaming and animation and create a game that will be added to the site.
6. In an effort to get the sites up and running and test their interaction, we create and connecting all social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube page, Soundcloud, Pinterest and LInkedn. We also set up our Analytics.
7. The final phase of the class is launch the sites, create a social media tactical plan/campaign and track the analytics. This course not only creates a home-base for the social cause, but it also allows for several convergence points for audience interaction (Mobile, Augmented Reality, Gaming, Video, Audio). Audience can be analyzed from each location they come to the site through the analytics.

2) Interactive Documentary for Social Awareness
This course begins as a video productions based course.(prerequisite TV Productions 1, so that students have a basis in production techniques, i.e. camera, sound, control room, lighting, editing)
1. Students are required to create a 10-15 minute documentary for a social cause or capstone project. Once they go through the initial writing and storyboarding of the documentary idea.
2. The storyboards are broken up into 2-3 minute segments, each having a complete story, but weaving together to create one story for the cause.
3. The student will then film and edit their documentary into the 2-3 minute segments.
4. The student will then create a website through a front-end web design tool to house the project.
5. Create and connect all social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube page, Soundcloud, Pinterest and Linkedn. We also set up our Analytics.
6. Launch media campaign and track analytics.
7. Present documentaries to the school community. The website will have at least three pages: Home page housing the project, about page and contact page. All pages will have interaction (comments, likes, allow additional content). Ask community to add content and comments.

I have just begun teaching these courses and will be looking at the data from both the analytics and the class experiences for my research into this area. I am asking for any help, ideas or comments to this message as a way to better understand how the community is dealing with and teaching “new media” in some old media settings.