When I first received the e-mail notification that I had been accepted as a 2012 Reynolds Institute Fellow, I was initially moved to treat it as one of those e-mail spam letters stating something to the effect of, “Application to claim your fund in our depository please be inform that, we just received the below’s stated account’s today, etc.,” except that the grammar was perfect. I would expect no less, of course, from a journalism institute. Upon verification of the facts and receipt of an officially typed letter, I realized that I was indeed the fortunate recipient of the single best professional development opportunity I have encountered to date in multi-media education.
Not only did I not have to settle for the peanuts that first day, my two-week experience was all expense paid including airfare, hotel accommodations and meals. Benefits to the students of Sharon High School include a library of journalism and multi-media related books along with membership to state and national press associations.
The Reynolds High School Journalism Institute is an intensive two-week multi-media training program for high school educators. Instruction is based on the core tenets of 21st century learning, journalism and the skills needed to produce a top-notch student publication, primarily online with multimedia tools. The Reynolds Summer Institute, which is sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the American Society of News Editors, was held this year for the 11th time. In order to be accepted into this summer institute, educators who participated went through a rigorous application process. Each of the five participating universities receives at least 100 applications yearly. The selection committee reviews essays and applications to pick educators they feel will act as catalysts in incorporating multi-media education within their schools and districts.
Giving up two weeks of summer vacation to travel hundreds of miles to the Midwest during the hottest week ever recorded in St. Louis, Missouri in order to spend 10 hours a day attending a rigorous, hands-on institute may not sound like the ideal summer experience, but I found it to be a highly valuable, transformative event. The opportunity to fine tune and expand multi-media teaching skills by using software such as Final Cut and In Design, while also exploring the changing professional realm of print and broadcast journalism and the influence of technology and social media tools in our world was outstanding. The quality of speakers and workshop presenters left participants with a renewed passion for the field of multi-media education along with expanded skills that will assist us in making a difference in our districts.
Teachers who participated in this program were as diverse as the geographical areas from which they came. Many were highly experienced educators with little multi-media experience, while others came from the professional fields of print and broadcast journalism or technology. Some had advised newspapers for a number of years but needed to learn how to improve their publications to create an online presence and/or to incorporate social media tools such as Twitter.
During the two-week institute, presenters reinforced the value of journalism and multi-media education programs across the country, and the idea that these programs will only stay strong through collaboration and communication with both the professional and scholastic journalism communities. Support for journalism education exists from national and state organizations, university faculty, local newspapers, curriculum websites and other online services. Multi-media teachers need not feel alone.
The program is successful because of the high quality of the individuals selected to instruct. They ranged from university professors to newspaper editors, broadcast news producers, online research experts, reporters to scholastic press law experts and master teachers. Many teachers who participated in this program felt empowered by the Institute to integrate new technologies and social media in teaching their classes, and all left feeling eager to share what they learned with their students.
The opportunity to present during “unconference” breakout sessions was another benefit of the Institute. I enjoyed sharing about coverage of global issues in student produced media projects. Participants returned home with many resources and lesson plans in their toolboxes.
Through the hands-on study of multi-media journalism, whether received through separate classes or integrated into other subjects, students develop critical thinking, communication, problem solving, team work and technology skills. These 21st century learning skills will provide them with the tools to succeed and to act as change-makers in our world.
The Reynolds Institute has equipped me to better incorporate cutting edge technology and social media tools in the teaching of 21st century information literacy skills across grade levels and subject areas. That alone was worth its weight in gold, though I am grateful too that I can save that bag of airline peanuts for the next rainy day.