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Too cool for J-School


When I tell people I’m entering my senior year of college as a journalism major, they usually look at me funny. Whether it’s an “I feel sorry for you” or a “good for you” look, I can never truly tell. However, there are two worlds of thought on the future of journalism, and I seem to have run into an illustration of this dichotomy on my last first day of school.

On Thursday morning, my first class of the day happened to be the last course I have to take to complete my major. I strolled in with my laptop in one hand and my latte in the other, ready to redefine the term “journalist” during my last hurrah at Emerson College. But that was far from what was written on the syllabus.

As soon as the class began, the professor instructed us to turn off our cellphones and physically put them on her desk. I thought this was some sort of joke or cruel ice breaker, but sadly, I was mistaken. This is how class was to be for the rest of the semester. The rules were as follows: If we were caught with our phones on, we would be kicked out of class. If we were caught with our computers on, we would be kicked out of class. In fact, any new technology was a big no-no altogether.

“You are to hand in your broadcast work on VHS, not DVD. And don’t even think about turning in an MP3 – I can’t play those things. I want cassettes,” she said. “And I don’t put those ear buds in my ears either. I want to keep my hearing as long as I can. I’m very low-tech.”

I was puzzled. Did my final journalism professor just flat out proclaim that she was “low-tech?” I found myself wondering, how was she going to prepare us for an industry that is nothing but high-tech? And while I respect her knowledge and skill when it comes to writing and producing TV News, the situation left me skeptical about the struggle for J-School teachers to stay relevant at all these days. Perhaps this is why more professors should attend courses like that offered by the Poynter Institute called Multimedia Journalism for College Educators, a workshop for “college educators looking to get caught up on technology.”

As that class ended, and I was finally able to turn my iPhone4 on again, I braced myself for the next one on my schedule: “Social Media Marketing.”

Upon entering the class, our professor told us to make sure we checked in on foursquare. The class was a registered venue, and there was even a “special” at the location- 3 points extra credit! Professor @DavidGerzof introduced the course by saying, “I encourage you to be on Twitter, Facebook and whatever else it may be while I teach.” He went on to explain how our classroom conversation would be extended online under the hashtag #ESM via Twitter.

Not only was I excited, I was appreciative of the fact that someone is keeping up with this technology and taking the time to teach it to us.

Furthermore, our guest speaker in the class proved that you don’t even have to be older than 13 to understand this “high-tech” world. @KidCriticUSA (pictured) explained how he is doing just that while giving a powerpoint presentation on the Twittosphere. Yes, I admit it- on my first day of senior year, I was schooled in social media by a 13 year old.

However, I’ve come to terms with that fact. And I can only hope every J-School teacher can come to terms with that too, learning to embrace technology instead of pushing it out of the way and out of the curriculum. Because really, I don’t even know where to buy a cassette.

3 Comments for this entry

September 11th, 2010 on 1:54 am

Abby! First, I love the website! Second, omg I started ENG this week, and had the same exact feeling! Being without my Android phone for 4 hours was unheard of… especially in a class where we’re being taught to report! How can we report when we are completely cut off from any type of news for 4 straight hours?!

isiah carey
September 11th, 2010 on 2:20 am

I loved your post. Tell your first professor in a civil way to get with the times. of course, in a very nice way.

Tim Windsor
January 26th, 2011 on 12:31 pm

“You are to hand in your broadcast work on VHS, not DVD.”

Really? Physical media? That DVD is only about .02% less absurd than the VHS.

Good luck with the last semester!