The following column was featured on
the national blog of the Social Media Club on May 4, 2013
University professors hear a lot of commencement speeches. But one I heard this weekend was unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.
By combining the power of digital media, passion for philanthropy, and mobile technology,graduating students at Queens University of Charlotte helped the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation give away $100,000 on the spot during their commencement speech. The experiment was the brainchild of graduation speaker Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president of Knight Foundation.
During Newton’s address, the audience watched three videos from Communities in Schools, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, and Loaves and Fishes. In the videos, representatives from each Charlotte-area organization explained how they would use a $50,000 grant from Knight Foundation. Graduates were then invited to text in their votes to decide which organization would receive the grant.
Graduates awarded the grant to Communities in Schools, and the other two organizations were awarded $25,000 grants by the foundation.
For the campus community, the event demonstrated the ability of individuals to make a difference in their communities through digital technology. “Remember the night that your lives were both noble and digital,” Newton remarked to the graduates. Even on a night of celebration of their own successes, the Class of 2013 were reminded to give back to their community.
Queens and Knight Foundation have a partnership established in 2010 with the naming of the James L. Knight School of Communication at the university. The school has a special endowed mission for strengthening digital and media literacy in the Charlotte community. The partnership has created the website digitalcharlotte.org and launched the new online Journal of Digital and Media Literacy.
“We wanted to create an interactive and fun way to connect people to their social media – and show how it can cause some introspective reflection,” remarked Taylor Nelson, one of the designers of the project. “It was a short, simple, and sweet way to interact with people on campus. And the quiz took less than a minute to complete – a definite plus for the busy-bodies around Queens!”
Students in the digital literacy seminar at Queens University of Charlotte designed an interactive experience for their peers on campus as a class project. The student-designed project was simple in concept: create a quiz that offered twelve outcomes to define a person’s “ideal” social media use.
The rationale for designing a quiz was to demonstrate to users how they interacted with the technological world (i.e. varying forms of social media) and how that could affect their time spent. Ultimately, the quiz encouraged reflection about personal connections to the digital world. According to Renee Hobbs, reflection is one of the five key components of digital and media literacy. Hobbs’ white paper, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action was one of the key readings in the digital literacy seminar, led by Dr. John A. McArthur, an associate professor in the Knight School of Communication.
The quiz was created using the online tool inklewriter which allows writers to design “create-your-own-adventure” type experiences incorporating text and image. The quiz is still available online here.
The team, made up of students Nick Alito, Hannah Fraser, Greg Jaudon, Taylor Nelson, Douglas Sewell, and Katelyn Smith set up a table near the university cafeteria, with varying devices on which passers-by could take the quiz (iPads, cell phones, QR Codes, laptops and links). Candies and funky stickers proclaiming results from the quiz served a approachable rewards for participation.
“We hope that through our project others can become aware of their interactions on social media. We want them to be able to use social media effectively and enjoy the results of it.” Student Hannah Fraser continues, “Our project gave people a social media identity that best suited their interests. Whether people were most interested in current events, keeping up with friends via text or through photos or creating their own videos there is a place for everyone in the social media world. Discovering what you want to get out of it is how you decide which site to invest your time in.”
The twelve results used in the quiz were derived from six mainstream social media outlets and represented two extremes for the use of each outlet:
- Facebook Creeper
- YouTube Sharer
- YouTube Director
- Pinterest Dreamer
- Pinterest Hoarder
- Job Seeker (LinkedIn)
- Job Connector (LinkedIn)
- Hashtag (#) Horror
Below are some images of happy quiz-takers proudly displaying their results:
The digital literacy seminar at Queens University of Charlotte is part of the university’s interdisciplinary exploration seminar initiative intended to enhance faculty-student interaction on campus. Read about other projects and initiatives created by this seminar in past semesters.
Dr. John A. McArthur is an associate professor of communication and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte. This article and the accompanying photographs were produced by students in the digital literacy seminar, spring term 2013.
This semester, students at Queens University of Charlotte embarked on an exploratory learning experience in episodic, podcast-based radio.
The resulting “Royals Radio” is a product of Queens University of Charlotte, and Dr. John A. McArthur and was produced by students and faculty in an interdisciplinary studies class at the university. Each episode has a different producer and topic, but every episode studies the 30 acres of the university’s campus and the stories that can be found within. Listen to past episodes of Royals Radio below or on SoundCloud via the directory found here.
Season One of Royals Radio was produced in spring 2013 by William Boyd, Moiah Faulkner-Wheeler, Max Kaczynski, and Brittani Pedersen as part of a university-wide “exploration seminar.”
The following article was featured on
the Social Media Club’s national Social Media Education blog
on February 19, 2013:
As a professor who studies digital media, many people often ask me how I stay current in the field. Studying social media and digital media can be a tricky business in that new things are always being added to the market and new strategies proliferate for employing tools that exist.
In my practice, staying current is about three different components: Keeping up with the newest developments, experimenting with digital tools, and innovating in the classroom.
Keeping up with the latest tools
Keeping up with the latest tools is about finding a tool that will curate information so that I can most easily access and process it. You might be surprised that, for me, this tool is the (relatively old) standby, RSS. RSS, or real simple syndication, was developed to deliver information from the web to people who subscribe to that information. For example, most blog sites are equipped with RSS feeds which allow a user to subscribe to the blog and have the blog material delivered in a variety of formats.
I use the RSS reader in Google Reader to manage my subscriptions so that I am staying up to date with the most current research and trends in digital media. For me, though there’s a catch. I find the process of logging to access the content to be a little clumsy on my mobile devices. Instead, I need a more convenient way to digest this information on the go. I found two tools that make that simple. First, I often read blogs in between other things that I’m doing during my day when I have my phone available. On the iPhone, the Feeddler appbecame a great resource for me to manage the blogs and podcasts that I plans to read or listen to. The app alerts me when there’s new posts to read and I can quickly scan through the titles of the posts to see which ones capture my interest or relate to my learning. Second, sometimes I prefer to read posts in a more magazine-like style, especially on my iPad. In that case, I turn to Flipboard. Flipboard takes the RSS information puts it into a visual display like a magazine that you can scroll through by turning pages and clicking on articles to read the most recent updates.
Both Flipboard and Feeddler use Google Reader as their source of information, so all of the material that you read on any of these three tools syncs with the others. Therefore, when I mark items that I’ve read in Feeddler, they are also marked as “read” inside Google Reader and Flipboard. I also find it valuable to be able to share an article using Feeddler or Flipboard through Twitter, email, or other vehicles that allow me to connect these articles to my students and colleagues.
Experimenting with digital tools
When I read about a new digital tool that looks interesting, I usually try it. Often, this classifies me as an “early adopter” of technology among my colleagues. But through this willingness to experiment, I’ve tried out a variety of social media tools (as well as other digital media tools) in the classroom. My students have experimented with Facebook,Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, Storify, MindMeister, Goanimate, Audacity, and a variety of iPad and iPhone apps, to name a few, that allow them to connect to me and to each other in the classroom setting. Some of the links embedded above will take your articles I’ve written about these specific experiments.
Innovating in the classroom
For me the leap from experimenting in the classroom to innovating in the classroom comes at a point of confidence with the digital tool that I’m using. In a classroom experiment, I’ll try out the digital tool to see what might work what might happen and how students respond to the tool and its uses. Then, innovating with the tool in the classroom is about taking a tool and applying it to the course work in a way that generates learning for students. This is a widely unstudied body of knowledge in research literature mainly because the tools and practices are so new. As we move forward into an age of digital teaching and learning, researchers of instructional design should be able to consider the ways that innovations in digital technology can shape classroom learning.
In our graduate program in communication at Queens University of Charlotte for example, our faculty are innovating with the ways that media technologies can be used in the graduate classroom. Sometimes our students knew more than the professors about these technologies but other times the professors are introducing students to technologies being used in ways that they had not envisioned. And students are constantly making the connections between the major theories and concepts presented in the program, and the application of digital tools to those concept. This is the kind of work that will enhance and create opportunities for better and more sophisticated research into technology innovation in a variety of settings.
These three strategies are my way of keeping current with the changes in digital media technology and the ways they affect my classroom. We are all learners and, as a mutual learner with you, I’d love to hear about the ways that you stay current. You can contact me by leaving a comment here, by tweeting me at @JAMcArthur, or by going to my website and contacting me through one of the other channels there.
Thank you to the faculty members at the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico for being excellent hosts. This week, I facilitated two faculty development workshops at the university. The workshops focused on (1) integrating technology into the classroom and (2) digital and media literacy.
The slides and resources for workshop participants are below:
Resources mentioned during the session:
- Putting Pinterest to the Test
- Sample student projects in digital and media literacy:
- Building a Class Twitterfall
- Community 2.0
Puzzled? My students are. At least in name.
This semester at Queens University of Charlotte, I have the pleasure of designing and facilitating an “exploration seminar” in the art of puzzling. The “Puzzled” course gives students the opportunity to learn and think about a variety of problem solving strategies, not the least of which is codebreaking.
Students in the course range from freshmen to seniors, but all participants are already challenging their assumptions about how classes operate. In the first two sessions, students worked together to solve group puzzles which tested their problem solving strategies. The first required them to define the rules of the puzzle, and the second used their assumptions about the rules to challenge their decision making processes.
Later puzzles will challenge participants to attempt problems using algorithmic, heuristic, trial-and-error, and brute force strategies, to name a few. And then the course will move into cryptography.
Cryptography (the study of “secret writing”) might be a topic you’d hear about in the halls of MIT, the Naval Academy, or training sites at Langley. But here in Charlotte, students will be getting a taste of the basics of secret writing, codes, and ciphers using Simon Singh’s popular The Code Book as a guide.
Over the course of the semester, students, will study, decipher, and encipher messages of their own, and connect their learning to current digital encryption strategies.
Puzzled is a one-credit-hour exploration seminar in puzzling and codebreaking at Queens University of Charlotte.
Exploration seminars at Queens are intended to contribute to faculty-student interaction within the university by providing opportunities for faculty-student teams to investigate topics of mutual interest. These topics are typically interdisciplinary (or non-disciplinary) in nature. Other past examples at Queens have included seminars in topics like digital literacy, philosophy of the body, the “ordinary heroes” project, latino tastes, and random acts of kindness.
Queens University of Charlotte and Dr. John A. McArthur were featured on CampusTechnology.com in a story about experimenting with Pinterest in the college classroom. The article highlights the COMM 360: Charlotte and the Convention course and its use of Pinterest as an archive tool.
Below are two excerpts from the article, which can be read in its entirety on CampusTechnology.com
Faculty wanted a way to archive the student experience; so as part of the assignment, participants were asked to chronicle their experiences on Pinterest. According to John McArthur, an assistant professor in the Knight School of Communication at Queens, the faculty are always on the lookout “for what’s next.” …
(S)tudents began to view Pinterest as an “online photo gallery as opposed to a real-time updateable site like Twitter or Instagram.” From that perspective, he adds, “it became more of an archive than a timeline.”
With experience, McArthur now believes that Pinterest is best suited for “very niche courses” because it provides a “great opportunity for instructors to create student-generated archives of information related to class material,” less a digital portfolio than a tool students use to share things they come across in the news or online.
For example, he’s currently using it in a class on proxemics to study how space and technology combine. When students come across a particular story that might relate to the topic, they’ll pin it to the class Pinterest board…
McArthur encourages others to just try out the site. “Experimentation is the pathway to innovation with social media in the classroom,” he says. “Explain to [your] students that it’s an experiment we’re trying together, and we’re going to see how it works. Part of the outcome is to learn a social media platform you’re not familiar with–have a good time with it.”
Thanks to Dian Schaffhauser for her interest in our classrooms in the Knight School and thorough reporting. Read more about our Pinterest experiment here.
“We did this to make people realize that what they tweet is public information and can be seen by anyone.” First-year students Nick Simonetti and Jeremy Swick created a project called You Are What You Tweet for their freshman seminar course in digital literacy at Queens University of Charlotte.
The premise was simple: ask students to wear one of their tweets on a nametag on their shirts. Simonetti came up with the idea, and Swick chronicled some of the tweets on Instagram. Swick commented, “People should take responsibility for what they say on Twitter. When you tweet, that information is public.”
Simonetti and Swick hoped that by taking tweets out of the digital format and turning them into physical, wearable signs, people would stop to think about what they tweet. As Simonetti points out, “Some people just don’t have the same filters you might expect.” Some nametags were emblazoned with profanity or derogatory language, but at the very least, people were owning the tweets they had written.
Swick was surprised to learn that some students were apprehensive about recording their actual tweets and posting them on their chests. He hopes that this means they were considering the public nature of their tweets. Other students gave a lot of thought to their tweets, Swick said.
Below are some of the other tweets that authors offered to share with the project creators:
The You Are What You Tweet project was part of an undergraduate seminar in digital literacy led by Dr. John A. McArthur, an assistant professor in the university’s James L. Knight School of Communication.
I was privileged to present a paper – “Digital Cities: Urban community development through information design” – at the annual conference of the National Communication Association in Orlando, Florida.
The paper is an extension of my work on space, technology, and user-experience. The theoretical argument sits at the intersection of information design, city planning, and placemaking. The presentation slides and examples of case studies are included below:
To kick off the panel, Darlene Hadrika presented a beautiful animated short film created by students at the University of Central Florida that showcases nonverbal communication in eye contact, body posture, and music.
Lon Smart, a head character artist at Walt Disney Parks, showcased some of his work (which includes the Lion King’s hyenas and Mulan’s MuShu.
Smart explained a few features of facial animation. first, he explained that Disney characters have such large eyes to exaggerate the expressions and uses the body movement to over emphasize action. Anime and Japanese animations teach us that size and shape of eyes indicates heroes and villains.
During Smart’s time working on the hyenas on Lion King he encountered a particular challenge: how to portray a villain who is mean yet funny. Moving the hyenas from happy to shocked takes a series of designs that exaggerates the head from (1) smiling to (2) small to (3) large, stetched, and overly shocked to (4) settling into the expression.
And the expression can give a lot of information. According to Smart, in many Disney animations, if the character is thinking about something new or deciding what to do (or lying), the character looks up and to his left, if he’s remembering, he looks up and to his right.
In a nonverbal animation, animators must be able to tell a story in a quick sketch. Portray a story in 3-4 lines. “Think with a pencil,” by communicating expression and story first, then embellish and appreciate.
For example, over a lunch break, Smart created a MuShu scene that is totally nonverbal. An explosion happens and MuShu casts false blame by pointing to the cricket. No dialogue. When Smart saw this in the theater, everyone laughed at this nonverbal humor. Someone in the theater exclaimed, “That Eddie Murphy is so funny,” attributing the humor to the voice actor rather than the animator. Smart just laughed and shrugged.
Kim Johnson, a costume production designer, discussed transitioning the characters from film to the stage in the Lion King – animals as a “people performed live expression.” She used the gazelles to demonstrate how to blend costumes with color and pattern into the puppets.
Timon is an example of difference. The character in a park can’t change facial expressions, so the body posture and gesture have to change dramatically to welcome kids. In the Broadway show, the puppet and the actor merge. The puppet doesn’t change expression, but the actor does.
Rafiki transforms into a person in makeup. Rafiki brings Africa with sound. The music drives the experience of Africa, not through a mimicked costume, but through the same feeling.
The actors portraying Scar, must instead lose the person in the character. The costume helps, but the nonverbal body positioning really sells Scar’s disdain.
Smart and johnson point out that when characters of any sort leave the movie and enter the parks, they lose the ability to change facial expression, but *teaser* that will soon be changing. Technology will be invading the characters in the park to allow them to change facial expressions.
Finally, Louise Mares of the University of Wisconsin shared her research. She observed that children receive lots of a movie’s ideas through nonverbal communication, but they often missed the verbal message of the plot. She compared first time viewers of Sword and the Stone with those who had seen it before.
Asking the question, what happens when a character undergoes a physical transformation, Mares found differences in cognitive understanding. The older kids called “conservers” understand the character transition without issue, but younger non-conservers did better only with repeated exposure.
She asked children to retell the story, then asked them about the prevailing feelings. Her learning indicates that kids do not understand sarcasm. They have poor understanding of moral lessons, negative emotion was hard to eradicate with happy endings, and ironic cues are often misunderstood. But they appreciate the beauty and action of the scenes while learning about narrative structure.