A few months ago, I attended the Journalism Interactive Conference held in Gainesville, Florida. Unlike other conferences I have been to, Journalism Interactive was not research or theory oriented—in fact, it felt more like a gathering of new media professionals and academics who simply shared their experiences on how to integrate the constant changing technological environment with journalism as a profession and with teaching journalism.
I currently teach three courses at Kuwait University: Mass Comm Intro, Multimedia Journalism and New Media Platforms. Honestly, out of all the classes, I was the least comfortable with teaching New Media Platforms. This class should have been about introducing students to new and advanced ways of reporting and becoming better journalists or new media personnel, but what I taught my students in previous semesters was just history of technology and new media, and the theoretical frameworks behind utilizing such technologies. I really wasn’t able to connect my vision with the content I was presenting—that was until I attended Journalism Interactive, of course.
In almost every session I attended, there was always a new site, a new social media platform or a new phone application that was introduced to me by the speakers. Moreover, I was introduced to new exercises for journalism students using such online tools. I jotted down most of what I could just for the sake of it.
Before I left to the conference, we were two weeks into the spring semester where I have already developed a course and gave my students their syllabi. On the way back from Gainesville, however, I looked through my notes and decided to completely change the direction of this class. My students were shocked at first, were happy when I told them I cancelled the mid-term, and got really really confused when I introduced to them their new assignments-the course now focuses on the uses of social media for reporting, public relations and campaigning.
In an assignment that they have just completed, I asked my students to attend Fototalks 2013, an annual conference for photographers in the Gulf region. More than 500 guests attended the main event of the conference in the first two days where a number of professional photographers gave thirty minute speeches about their specialties in photography.
In an attempt to implement what I have learned from Journalism Interactive, I assigned my students to live report from that conference. The assignment included individually tweeting at least one tweet from every speaker, posting at least four Intsagram pictures a day—they were told to also use the event’s (#fototalks) and the class’ (#mediakuniv) hashtags with every tweet and Instagram pic–and blogging about their experiences. As a group, I have asked them to interview at least seven people via Qik and upload their videos onto YouTube and, finally, develop a Storify about this event.
I didn’t know how would it go at first and I definitely wasn’t excepting it to be a success. Even though there were bumps here and there, I think my students did vey very well. Moreover, I believe my students’ tweets and online coverage was what kept the conversation about the conference going and motivated others to tweet. They did a wonderful job live tweeting the event and taking pictures. They had some minor issues with the videos and that was mainly because I didn’t have enough time to teach them about online video techniques and because they had a hard time finding people to interview as people in Kuwait are usually very hesitant when it comes to media exposure. What I was most happy about was the Storify. I think this is the first Storify made by Kuwait University students—I actually haven’t seen any Storifys from Kuwait, so it could be one of the first ones from Kuwait too.
With this Storify, my students were able to curate their live reporting in one place and show it to their friends and families; I am able now to show it to others and brag about how wonderful my students are; and the event organizers can use it for advertising for next year’s event.