Archive for December, 2012

5 College Newspapers Giving up on Print

Dec. 28th 2012

In October 2012, Newsweek instigated a shockwave throughout the journalism community and mainstream readership alike with its announcement of a move to an all-digital format come January 2013 after almost 80 years as a magazine. The expected outcries of how this signifies the death of traditional print media followed. While it likely will not phase out entirely — books still exist even though .pdfs and other file formats exist — news outlets are undeniably adapting to the major technological shifting toward soaking up the latest stories online. Unsurprisingly, this trend certainly exists on college campuses as well, with student-run papers and other periodicals shifting to either all-digital or digital-first strategies. Not only does this move so often save money, it also addresses consumer demands for instant, on-the-go reads and a desire to always know what’s up as it happens.

  1. Red & Black:

    University of Georgia’s student-run newspaper launched in 1980, eventually growing into the largest of its type in the state. By 2011, Red & Black stunned students, faculty, and college journalists across the United States when it decided to only start printing weekly. Reporting daily, of course, but shifting the most recent news and views to its online media outlet instead. Known as Red & Black 2.0, the initiative marked one of the most significant moves from print to digital at the time, considering the paper’s clout and national popularity. Staff members considered the transition something positive rather than a slow, painful death march toward traditional journalism; they went so far as to declare themselves part of a “revolution,” after all. In fact, the ad revenue from the website, which always sells out space, manages to cover costs of the reduced printed editions since about 15,000 unique visitors hit them daily when school’s in session.

  2. The Daily Emerald:

    Somewhat notoriously, The Daily Emerald released its statement regarding cutbacks to twice a week and a bulkier digital presence the same day the legendary New Orleans Times-Picayune made similar announcements. It has served the University of Oregon community for over nine decades but received an ousting in favor of The Emerald Media Group. Monday and Thursday print editions still run, with updates on sports and other campus news early in the week, with arts and entertainment later. Beyond reporting, the new look for the old paper also includes a development lab focusing on web and mobile apps as well as marketing and advertising services. And with each new generation of incoming student journalists, familiarity with how to maneuver the Internet and cater to a digital audience only increases.

  3. The Daily Skiff:

    Texas Christian University just could not quit The Daily Skiff, which started running in 1902, but it wound up the Woody to the shiny new TCU 360’s Buzz Lightyear. It prints four days a week while class is in session, but beyond that, anyone wanting to know what’s going on with the campus and its student body is pushed more toward the student-run website. So while the newspaper itself never shifted to an all-digital format, the poor little Daily Skiff wound up shunted to the side in favor of something more in line with what today’s plugged-in audiences expect from their media outlets. TCU 360, as one can imagine from the name, covers happenings and opinions at the eponymous campus all the time, every time. Staff members actually post their stories here first before publication in the original newspaper — if at all.

  4. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Post:

    University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Post, as a print publication, passed away in late 2012. However, it plans to pull a phoenix and arise anew from the newsprint-scented ashes in January 2013, assuming humanity doesn’t experience the Mayan apocalypse before then (it won’t). Although visitors can already read the paper online, the official launch will not happen until after the new year ticks. Even though the Post, as it’s now called by all the cool kids, began operations in 1956, few mourn its voyage to the great Gutenberg In The Sky. In fact, they seem to enthusiastically embrace this new path paved with zeroes and ones, believing the step just another major “life event” in the periodical’s history.

  5. The Western Herald:

    Like Texas Christian, Western Michigan University is slowly phasing out its traditional print paper in favor of something more virtual by letting everyone down gently using a “digital-first” strategy. This means the website breaks all the news and views first before the monthly newspaper hits campus stands. Social media in particular plays a role in shaping The Western Herald’s new direction, as they encourage Facebook and Twitter readers to participate in discussions of events and incidents as they unfold, for a more citizen journalism-oriented look at WMU. In addition, students, faculty, and staff can sign up for the Daily Buzz, an e-mail digest keeping them informed of any pressing stories and interesting or popular tidbits they might otherwise miss.

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Online Education: Non-Profits Fight Back?

Dec. 13th 2012

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Mobile Lives of College Students

Dec. 4th 2012

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Where’s Siri in the Classroom?

Dec. 4th 2012

At the time of its release with the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, 2011, the personal assistant software known as Siri was touted as AI without compare in consumer electronics. It was going to revolutionize computing just as the Mac had done. Though not specifically an educational program, many in the academic field believed Siri could soon come to play a big part in the classroom … but that hasn’t happened. We’re looking into where Siri has made some inroads and why the smooth-talking lady has had a rough go.

How it’s being used

  • Record-keeping:

    This seems to be the most common way Siri is being employed in classroom settings. Today’s teachers have to maintain copious amounts of documentation on their kids, and many have streamlined the process of note-taking and documenting conferences with students and parents by using Siri.

  • Calling and emailing:

    These are among the top uses of Siri in the general population, and teachers are no exception. With her they don’t have to lose their place in gradebooks and exams when they come across the need to call or email a parent or a colleague about a troubled student or an upcoming meeting.

  • Problem solving:

    Kansas teacher Marsha Ratzel’s students used their iDevices to gather info for an estimation problem involving diapers in a large shipping package. While it couldn’t give them the exact answer, it did help them discover info on the different sizes of diapers that helped them reach a solution.

  • Setting reminders:

    The reminder function of Siri is one of its biggest draws for adult users. With it, school kids are able to keep track of homework, projects, and tests with just a word to their animatronic friend.

  • Note-taking:

    Although better options exist (see below), older students in high school and college can and are putting Siri to work taking notes and transcribing lectures.

  • Opening apps:

    If anyone has their hands full on a typical work day, it’s teachers. Siri now has the ability to open apps by voice command and teachers, who are always looking for ways to save time, are taking them up on it.

  • Cheating:

    Oh dear. As the student in this video discovered, Siri makes cheating a cinch for the right classes. And if it’s that easy, we have to assume other unscrupulous kids are using the software dishonestly.

Why Siri hasn’t caught on

  • Siri kind of sucks:

    Reason numero uno for why Siri is unpopular: a lot of people think it doesn’t work very well. And these people aren’t just Google fanboys; everyone from TechCrunch to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak have voiced their displeasure with her abilities. Either she’s having trouble connecting, or she’s turning your dictation into gibberish, or she’s bringing you web results you didn’t ask for. Apple has even been sued for overstating its claims of Siri’s abilities.

  • She doesn’t play well with children:

    Today’s kids are not an audience that is going to be patient with technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. They’re too used to products that deliver what they want, quickly and accurately. As The Digital Shift pointed out just a month after Siri’s release, when the software malfunctions in kids’ hands, learning moments are lost and curiosity wanes. In such a case, no tech is better than high tech.

  • Apple doesn’t really stand by her:

    To date, Apple’s website continues to refer to Siri as “beta only” (in fine print at the bottom, of course). As in, beta testing, a stage usually reserved for unfinished, unshipped products. It’s like they’re leaving the designation in place as a way of writing off complaints. Their answer to the functionality lawsuit? If you hated Siri so much, you should have brought the phone back. It’s easy to see why teachers have little motivation to introduce the software into their classes, as Apple’s push to get Siri into classrooms has been nonexistent compared to their efforts to sell iPads as an educational tool.

  • Siri has privacy issues:

    What goes on in a classroom should obviously be above-board and open to inspection by anyone. Still, Siri’s data collecting is vague and advanced enough to reasonably give parents and teachers pause before allowing it to be used in school. Siri gets her amazing ability to learn by collecting info on what is being searched for, where she’s being used, patterns of usage like what time of day and for how long, even the tone of voice of the speaker, all things people have been uncomfortable turning over to Apple.

  • She hasn’t been very available:

    iPads are taking education by storm. One-to-one iPad initiatives, where every student is given a device, are all the rage. However, Siri has not been a part of the equation because neither the original iPad nor the iPad 2 came with Siri compatibility. The iPad 3, released Sept. 19, 2012, was the first to have Siri functionality, meaning Siri’s only appearance in the classroom until very recently has been on the iPhone. To get iPads with Siri now would require schools to replace their current iPads, which are at most barely two years old.

  • There are other simpler and/or better options out there:

    Google Voice Search is Siri’s main competition in the “personal digital assistant” niche and many claim it’s more popular than Siri even with iPhone users. But for dictation, there’s market leader Dragon (for both Android and Apple), plus a new app called Evi by the same company. For other functions like web searching and reminder setting, there are dozens of apps and programs that work just as well as Siri, only they require button-pressing, which it seems has not been burdensome enough for teachers or students to make the switch to voice.

  • Teachers may be wary Siri could inhibit learning:

    Granted, it would be difficult for a student to use voice recognition software to cheat on a test in a small, quiet classroom. But educators have to think beyond the classroom walls, and they probably aren’t wild about the notion of Siri replacing learning. Teachers could hardly be blamed for keeping Siri at arm’s length, seeing as it is specifically designed to take the work out of daily life, and a student’s daily life revolves around learning. The teachers that are using Siri are having to get creative with the software, restricting questions to only ones Siri can’t answer. In other words, Siri seems almost more trouble than it’s worth.

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