The End is Near–Before We Begin Again

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Tomorrow will be the last “official” class of our Comm 2221 iPad Newsroom, although we will gather once more during finals week for one final moment of passage: the return of the iPads.

One of my favorite parts of the semester: Seeing Comm 2221 students like Maddie using their iPads in other classes.

One of my favorite parts of the semester: Seeing Comm 2221 students like Maddie using their iPads in other classes.

It is hard to believe how quickly 15 weeks have gone by–and how much of a roller coaster we have been on. I have seen the iPads become second nature for so many, as they navigate through apps and files to make assignments that seem to leap from the screen. As the articles got more difficult, however, I also saw some students pull back from the new technology to rely more on that which they knew.

(For our final online research post-test, 10 of 27 headed for laptops instead of the iPad.)

The flipped classroom executed through iTunes U became what we hoped–a self-contained learning environment, for students to take their class learning with them at home and on assignment, and the knowledge the brought to the class newsroom each week to execute the stories we needed to write was inspiring.One student even told me how she whipped out her iPad at a family gathering to prove the legality of one-party recording in certain states.

We had an extraordinary amount of sickness this semester, and the lectures allowed students who missed class to not miss out on learning–or rely on others’ notes. Grading on the iPad allowed me to return articles in half the time to allow even more revision or work together in office hours, and probably saved a small grove’s worth of trees.

All told my students spent $2.99 on reading materials for the class, and only a handful spent any more on additional apps or a bluetooth keyboard (to be supplied to the next class, thanks to money left in our Digital First grant).

Not all was completely rosy, of course. I did not factor in enough times to go through the apps, and many wonderful and handy ones were left unopened. We will address that better since the iPads will be ready to go from day one, as opposed to the week-plus delay we faced in Autumn.

I also overestimated comfort on our data story assignments, and the lack of source cooperation made that early assignment frustrating–a mistake I will not make again.

A previously unconsidered ramification seems to be that this push to become multimedia journalists solidified the path for whose who were or became committed to the craft. To those who were less sure, the push toward multimedia has promoted them to rethink their major a bit quicker than they may have in the past.

In past semesters, it was the speed or quantity (quality) of The Lantern class that may have turned them away from reporting. For others, our multimedia class could have been a tipping point. But this semester, Comm 2221 gave them a sample of all those pressures and responsibilities, some did not feel it was the right path for them.

For the students who became enamored and entrenched in journalistic technique, the iPad did all we envisioned it would. The world of multimedia reporting opened up and they created packages of which they had not even before imagined. One student who came from Agriculture Communications and was reluctant about the iPad and worried about his own writing skills produced one of our best feature projects, complete with video package.

Even he, however, acknowledged that certain skills are better utilized, when possible, on the laptop–such as video editing and WordPress blog navigation.

I am truly sad to see this semester end, for we came together to be quite the community and do some incredibly work. But I just as excited to begin the spring semester, which will allow me to use all that we learned to make even greater strides forward.

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