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Professional Development Articles

Why Journalism Might be the Class of the Future

May 10, 2018 jjamison

When we imagine the future of learning, we often hear about STEM and STEAM and things like robotics or coding. But I’d argue that one of the most relevant subjects for developing a maker mindset is actually journalism. Here’s why.

The Most Underrated Subject in Schools?

If you looked at my teaching contracts, it would appear that I taught journalism for three of my twelve teaching years. But that’s not entirely accurate. While I also taught self-contained and social studies, I always taught journalism.

It started in my first year of teaching when we were assigned intervention periods. Nobody else on my team wanted to teach writing intervention . . . which felt like a mistake, because writing is one of my favorite subjects to teach.

Still, I quickly realized that my students HATED writing. So, I began with the question, “How do you feel about writing?” They described the boredom, the anger, and the frustration of writing. They hated writing prompts and wanted the freedom to choose their own topics. They hated the formulaic nature of the editing process. They hated the fact that they were writing to no one but the teacher.

I realized that they didn’t hate writing. They hated fake writing. They hated writing in school.

So, I pitched an idea. “We are going to run an online magazine. We can do videos and podcasts. We can write articles. You get to choose the topics.”

At first, they still hated it. They grumbled. They whined. They told me that it wasn’t fun. However, something changed two weeks later when they saw their work online. Over the next few weeks, the class culture changed as they began to take more ownership in the learning.

For the rest of the year, this writing intervention class morphed into a journalism class. They called our blog Social Voice. Two of the students sketched out a logo:

This quickly spilled over into my regular social studies class, where students began filming documentaries and recording podcasts. The next year, we began using a PBL approach and added elements of design thinking as a way to start with empathy and eventually design media packages that we would launch to a specific audience.

What Do Students Actually Need?

When people talk about the future of learning, they often mention technology and engineering. Things like Sphero balls and Arduino sets and coding projects. While I love the emphasis on STEM and STEAM, I can’t help but wonder if maybe we miss out on the power of journalism because it isn’t shiny and new.

 

However, if you ask people what type of technology skills students will need in the future, you’ll hear things like digital citizenship, media literacy, and creative thinking. Unfortunately, schools tend to teach these topics in isolation, as if they exist in separate little buckets.

But journalism takes the buckets and mixes them all together. Here, these ideas overlap constantly.

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