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 Tuesday, March 24, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


New media revolution requires critical thinking
by Corey H. Jones, senior, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
 

Blogosphere. Facebook. Wikis. RSS feeds. Twitter. While these and other new media buzzwords continue to flood the campus, University of Colorado at Boulder experts emphasize the importance of wading these waters sensibly.

After all, users are still working to grasp the uses and implications of this information and communication revolution, said Rick Stevens, an assistant professor in CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Often in American history, we segregate historic ages by technology, and it’s important to consider the transition in between two periods,” said Stevens, an expert in new media development.

The professor added that many adoption theorists suggest it takes about 30 years for a new technology platform to fully penetrate society. “Most people say we’re just past the first decade of what is at least a three-decade process,” he said.

New online media offer more avenues for interactivity, allowing users to engage more with the platforms, the content and other users. This allows users to participate in an exchange, rather than simply consuming content. “I think it’s actually a recovery of the way the culture used to work before we had mass-media, when people interacted a lot more,” he said.

As the presence of Web 2.0 – referring to the interconnectivity and interactivity of web-delivered information and communication – increases, faculty and staff across campus continue to adapt.

CU is producing more digital videos and audio slideshows to satisfy the growing expectation for multimedia content, said Mike Liguori, a University Communications videographer. “It allows us to get a message out in a more dynamic way,” he said “It’s definitely a much more exciting way to tell a story in certain cases.” However, the CU staff member considers several factors, including visual elements, to determine what stories would be best served by showing them in action.

Within the classroom, faculty should take a holistic approach when deciding whether to integrate new media components into the curriculum, said Joel Swanson, director of the Technology, Arts and Media certificate program (TAM). “There can be social pressures to stay current,” he said. “It’s good for people to know what tools are available, but it’s also about looking at the wide spectrum to make sure that the technology fits the need.”

Swanson is among many who think faculty should use these resources as a means to enhance learning – not just as a substitute for previous methods. After determining what technologies or platforms fit well, faculty should also pursue and encourage active participation – such as producing content or applications – as an effective means of exposure.

For example, faculty can create wikis – an online document that allows a community of users to access, contribute and modify content – to facilitate collaborative learning. Swanson pointed to Ning, an online platform used to create secure social networks, which can connect faculty and students outside the classroom.

“The sense of never being disconnected is an important part of our lives,” said Diane Sieber, associate professor and director of the Herbst Program of Humanities. The program teaches writing, ethics and digital citizenship to engineering undergraduates.

As more users familiarize themselves with new media, it is also necessary to understand the implications of information technologies and the digital world, including privacy issues, cyber identity, social etiquette and “digital distraction,” Sieber said. “All of us are learning at the same time what our rights and responsibilities are and what is possible,” she said.

Sieber, who leads seminars and gives lectures on campus, added that faculty and staff should convene to reflect on their experiences. “Universities help people interpret the world, and this is a very new and interesting aspect of our world that we’re just beginning to interpret,” she said.

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