Screencastify makes teaching custom maps easy

For this final project I wanted to focus on a skill I enjoyed learning, which could also be accessible and fun for scholastic newspaper staff members. I loved the “Timelines, maps and other cool stuff!” unit and activities in my Digital Media course, so I knew that’s what I would focus on.

My publication already utilizes Google Forms for surveys, and the timeline tool I used, Timeline JS, has tutorial videos embedded in its site, so I decided to focus on exploring and making maps.

Because the paper I advise is extracurricular, my lesson plans (click here to see them) are created to be activities the paper’s editors in chief can implement during training sessions, whether I am there or not.

Along with the two sequential in class activities, there are two at home “homework” assignments. One is more formal and has a rubric to act as a bridge between activity one and activity two. The second is to finish creating the map they begin working on during activity two.

This was my first time making a video tutorial, and creating the Screencastify video was mainly easy and intuitive, but I definitely learned from the process. 

I took the time to write a script and practiced saying it aloud a few times, which made me realize it was way too wordy and long. I revised to focus on being short, direct and simple.

Of course, as I was recording I learned my school’s Screencastify account allows for only five-minute videos, and I was cut-off abruptly before finishing even the abridged version of what I had planned. This happened three times. Ultimately, I couldn’t keep the tutorial to under five minutes so I recorded a second video and figured out how to edit the two together in a pretty seamless way.

I’m proud of the end result, and I’m excited to share the activities, and especially the video tutorial, with my staff members. I’m excited to see what they think and how they do with creating their own maps. In fact, this will work perfectly with the remote learning we’re experiencing right now due to the coronavirus.

I plan to take the skills I’ve learned through this final project to create a series of tutorial videos for my staff, and I also plan to have editors make their own tutorial videos to pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generations of young journalists.

Exploring and Creating Maps Lesson Plans

Customized Google Maps Tutorial

Building multimedia stories on Steller is easy

Because life is basically on lock-down due to Coronavirus quarantines and social distancing, I was relieved that our KSU Digital Media professor, Lori King, shifted our assignment from a reporting video to a multimedia Steller story to capture the reality of our lives during this bizarre time.

Steller is a free app that allows users to combine photos, videos and text to tell a story that can be shared through social media and on Steller’s own platform. The app is quick to learn, and although the free version I used has some limitations, I was able to produce a cohesive story I’m proud of. Here it is (click the link)!

This is the title page of my first Steller story, which was inspired by the joy my 2 year-old daughter Sylvia has when she plays outside.

After reviewing various resources and tips on mojo storytelling, I was ready to use my iPhone to capture the reality of my quarantine experience: life confined to home with my 2 year-old daughter, Sylvia.

Normally when we have whole days together on weekends we fill them with trips to museums and playgrounds or visits with friends and family.  However, for almost a month we’ve been confined to our home and our small yard. However, when you’re two the world, even when it’s small is new and exciting. I decided I wanted to capture my daughter’s excitement and joy about the simple things in life, especially outside.

This is the text page I created to introduce the context and subject of the Steller story. I wanted to make clear that her simple joy playing outside is despite the fear in the world and all of the good, fun things in her life that have been put on indefinite hold.

Over three days I shot photos and video of my daughter playing in our yard and street. I worked hard to keep the phone steady while shooting video and took various photo shots (overall, medium and tight) from different angles.

Shooting the photos and video was especially difficult because my daughter hates to have her picture taken, and every time she notices me trying she shouts, “No! No! Put your phone away!” This made attempts at interviewing her almost impossible, so instead of multiple interviews, I asked her to describe what she was doing while playing.

After collecting tons of photos and video, I spent a lot of time selecting and editing. I came up with a framework to structure the story based on something Sylvia said during an interview. I asked what she likes about playing outside and she said, “Sometimes we just do everything!”

I decided to then structure the story about the different things we do outside, which are simple, but which she sees as “everything.”

I narrowed down and organized my content, making lists and writing drafts of copy as I went. Finally when I had everything ready I began constructing my Steller story.

This part was fun and easy. I appreciate how intuitive it is to build pages and move them around. I worked on font selection and making sure there as a consistency to the story’s look.

Here’s the credit page for my Steller story.

One frustration I had was the way that if the video clip is on the short side, it kept looping until the story moves forward to the next slide. This happens with many of my video clips, but after changing the length of some videos, it seems to be working better.

When I was all done, I was proud to share my story of Sylvia’s outdoor fun on my social media accounts. Although it’s not a typical “news” story, I do think it’s important to acknowledge children’s experiences and to show some light, uplifting stories in difficult times.

I plan to teach my publication’s social media editor and photographers about Steller. I think they’ll find it, and the process, fun and easy, too.

A journey through maps, surveys and timelines

I was excited to try my hand at maps, surveys and timelines because I am a junkie for data visualization.  Give me a clean and clear chart or graph any day. Make it interactive? Even better.

Of course, I understand that the interactive data visualizations I see on professional media are created by talented, experienced pros, but it was great to learn about the free programs that can help us newbies get our feet wet and make share-worthy, publishable graphics. They are definitely easy enough for scholastic journalists to use as a jumping off point, too.

First I tackled the map portion of this assignment. After exploring multiple options, I decided to go with Google Maps because it’s what my students are most likely to use.

Our publication often runs restaurant reviews, and I think it would be great if they start creating maps to show the locations of places they review. Mapping could also lead to coverage. I’m imagining they may look into where various types of restaurants, stores and services are, create a map showing their locations (for example, where the nail salons are, which would be especially relevant before an event like prom) and then write mini-reviews of each of the locations they map.

With this idea in mind, I created a Google Map (see below) of coffee shops in our high school’s town, Northborough, Mass. After determining the locations I would map, I headed out to take photographs, keeping in mind I wanted each image to be similar, clearly showing the front of the shop, but not exactly the same, so I slightly varied the angles I shot from.

After collecting my data, the Google Maps interface was easy to use. After inputting the addresses and uploading my photos, I played around with changing map colors and marker styles to best suit my task.

While of course the publication I advise could simply run the map along with online reviews, I can also see mini-reviews being embedded right into the map or perhaps converting the map into a ThingLink with hot-spots where mini-reviews pop up.

Next up was my survey. I originally planned to create a survey to administer to school community members for feedback on our publication’s website. I had begun to draft questions and was pondering whether to include screenshots of various parts of the site in the survey.

However, quickly coronavirus precautions amped up and I found myself out of school for at least three weeks, so I decided change my survey to one for the wider public in connection with what’s on everyone’s minds: COVID-19.

Over the last few days, as we’ve been bombarded with news and worry, I realized people might actually want to share how the new coronavirus has impacted them. As an interactive experience, a survey not only collects data but also provides respondents with a voice. While my survey is on the topic everyone can’t escape, I wanted its focus to be one that helped people feel a little better by acknowledging and collecting data on personal impact.

I chose to use Google Forms, again because it is the mode most likely to be used by my scholastic journalists. I came up with five questions that utilized three different question forms (multiple choice, check boxes and range) so I could practice writing those formats and see how Google provided data visualizations for various question styles.

While writing the questions, I thought it was important to begin with demographics. For this brief survey I wanted to have only one such question and decided the most important demographic when it came to the impact of coronavirus is age.

I initially was going to provide only a few answer choices to group those under 20, those 21-59 and those 60+ together to represent potentially different risk and impact levels. However, I looked into how other media were covering the virus and referring to age groups in their data visualizations and chose to break the age demographics by decade so I could have more fine-tuned data. I also thought it could be odd for a respondent to see uneven age groups and wonder if I had a bias or agenda going in.

When it came to writing the other questions, I decided to look at how the new coronavirus has impacted daily life and future plans, attention to mass media, use of social media and general worry about contracting COVID-19. I took time to brainstorm and think about potential experiences other than my own while drafting answer choices.

I also did a lot of revising and rephrasing, with attention to clarity and consistency of wording. I wanted to make sure questions were not leading and the answer choices were not biased in their phrasing.

Once the five-question survey was done, I shared it in a few ways: through Twitter, on Facebook and by posting it as an announcement to my high school classes. I encouraged people to share the survey with others. I was really excited to see my original tweet re-tweeted by a woman in England, Deborah A Stansil, who has over 13,000 followers. I used the hashtags #poll and #coronavirus. I guess the hashtags worked!

I re-tweeted and reposted a few times, and I really enjoyed seeing the responses come in. As I write this blog five days after releasing my survey, I have 418 responses and they keep coming in.

The data is fascinating and I’m including the current results here.

Age demographics results from the survey I conducted via Google Forms from March 13, 2020 to March 18, 2020. The survey is still open.

Because there were so many choices along with an “other” choice for question two, “How has your life been impacted by the new coronavirus / COVID-19?” the data is more difficult to share and analyze.

I don’t think there would be a different way to phrase this question, but if I were using the data to inform reporting, it would definitely take me a while to go through this part of the spreadsheet. It would also be necessary, especially for this question, to create my own graphic and not use the one generated by Google because it is impossible to read.

Multiple choice and range questions such as the age demographics above and the three questions below resulted in clean, clear graphics.

These are results of the survey I conducted via Google Forms from March 13, 2020 to March 18, 2020. The survey is still open.

In terms of students, a survey like this is an excellent way to represent student voices and generate localized data to include in reporting. I think these types of surveys can also generate story ideas and help find sources by allowing respondents to leave contact information if they wish to be interviewed.

Once we’re back in school, I plan to have my editors create a survey like the one I originally imagined so we can get some user feedback on our website’s design and content. I’m hopeful the survey I’ve conducted will also inspire my staff to create their own COVID-19 impact survey as they work from home.

Finally I tackled making a timeline, which proved to be the most time consuming of the tasks, but it was rewarding to see it come to fruition. I decided to create a timeline of some key moments in the history of the paper I advise, The Harbinger.

After studying various timeline generators, I chose to work with Timeline JS because the examples they provided were engaging and professional. I also appreciate that it is free with a lot of tutorials and resources.

I began by identifying points in history, collecting all my data, writing blurbs and taking pictures and screen shots I planned to use to illustrate the timeline. While doing so I learned how to find old Tweets from pretty much any account which I think could be useful to my student journalists. You simply go to and enter the username under “From these accounts” under “People.” You can then select date ranges or key words.

I watched the site’s simple tutorial video and copied the Google spreadsheet they provided. I decided to upload the photos I took to my Google Drive and made sure that they were “public” before I put the image links on my timeline.

When I was all done inputting my data, I crossed my fingers, hit preview and it worked! Here’s the link to the timeline.

I’m really proud of how professional the timeline looks, although I do wish I were able to shoot the newspaper images somewhere other than my dining room floor, but it has the best lighting in the house I’m basically confined to due to COVID-19 precautions.

I’ve already shared the timeline via link and embed code with members of my newspaper staff, hoping it inspires their own work and teaches them about the history of their publication. These projects have been really fun to work on, and I’m excited to share these skills with my staff!

Tables turn as adviser interviews editor in chief

Ethical Relics is an exploration of challenging ethical situations faced by scholastic journalists.
Episode 2, “Catherine Hayden Talks Ethics,” is an interview with the editor in chief of The Harbinger, the student newspaper at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, Mass. Hayden discusses ethical challenges she’s faced including granting anonymity, minimizing harm, avoiding stereotypes, selecting vaping images and, well, sugar daddies.

While I learned a ton more about recording and editing audio while making my second podcast episode, the most valuable part of this experience was stepping into the reporter’s shoes with one of my students as my podcast guest.

As teachers and advisers it can be easy to forget how nerve-wracking—and how fun—interviewing can be.  I’ve realized from this experience how important it is to keep doing what I’m teaching and how great it can be for students to see teachers struggle.

For the second episode of my show, “Ethical Relics,” I was required to conduct an interview resulting in a 10 minute episode. Because I planned well and had a bit of luck, editing my recordings down to 10 minutes wasn’t as hard as I imagined it would be.

The hardest part was the interview itself, but I learned a lot in the process that I’m excited to pass along to my students.

The first lesson I learned, which I’m glad I realized before recording, is when conducting a podcast interview it’s essential to think about the order of your questions. Unlike when interviewing for an article, when it’s expected that the order of your source’s responses will be reorganized into a new order in your final piece, with audio you have one shot to get a pretty cohesive flow.

Sure, you can and will edit and cut pieces from the interview, but the final product needs to flow with the momentum the interview builds as it goes.

The next lesson is to let the guest know key details about the interview topics and even potential questions, especially ones that would benefit from some reflection, ahead of time.

While conducting an interview for a news article it’s completely fine for a source to stumble over their words, repeat themselves and pause for big spans of time, if that happens too much in a podcast interview, you’re setting yourself up for an editing nightmare. Of course, it’s equally important to ask spontaneous follow-up questions while recording the interview and to follow the unexpected paths that open up along the way.

My next lesson was to not jump into the interview the moment the guest arrives. Take some time to small talk and get comfortable. Practice using the mic and experiment with your seating and distances from the microphone. Let the guest know your goals for the interview and episode. Explain what to do if the guest stumbles over their words (pause for at least three seconds and start what they were saying again) and how you may signal to them to wrap up or slow down. I also found it useful to remind my guest that I won’t be responding to what she says with verbal affirmations, but I’d be doing a whole lot of head nodding.

All of that set-up ahead of time led to the interview going really smoothly. With my intro and conclusion the full recording came to about 16 minutes which were fairly easy to edit on Audacity by cutting a few questions and responses along with minimal stumbles and long pauses. Editing this podcast made me feel more comfortable with using Audacity, and I look forward to encouraging my students to try their hand at podcasting.

The best part of the experience, though, was being vulnerable in the position of a reporter with my own student in the expert role.  At first it was awkward and funny, but we fell into a groove quickly. I learned a lot from her and was incredibly impressed by her thoughtful and animated answers.

In many ways, even though I’ve worked closely with my guest, Catherine, for three years as her teacher and publication adviser, conducting this interview and succeeding together brought us closer.

The experience reminded me about the power of journalism: it brings people together as they share their stories and truly listen to each other.

Creating a podcast reveals challenges, fun of audio journalism

Creating and publishing my first podcast reinforced how fulfilling and valuable it can be to learn by doing. I have my scholastic journalists learn by doing do all the time, but it’s been a while since I have embarked on doing something utterly new to me.

After a lot of reading through materials, watching tutorial videos and listening to my regular two hours of NPR a day with an ear focused on not just the content but also the style and structure, I was ready to take the first step toward completing this assignment: gathering equipment and software.

I downloaded Audacity onto my laptop and the “Voice Record Pro” app onto my iPhone. I borrowed an iRig mic from our publication’s meager equipment closet and ordered a table-top mic stand for this assignment and for my staff to use in the future.

Step two was choosing a topic and drafting my script. From my readings and experiences as a listener, I knew having at least some narrative elements would make the podcast more interesting.

I settled on journalistic ethics, specifically cautionary tales from my publication’s past, which I thought students could benefit from hearing. After my initial idea to name the podcast “Ethical Wreckage” with a loose shipwreck theme, I decided that was too negative and came up with “Ethical Relics,” with a focus on remembering, reflecting on and learning from the past. Title and tone matter, just like in print journalism.

To further set the podcast’s tone I searched through Incompetech for slightly haunting music and settled on a piece called “Magistar,” which got me in the mood for script writing.

While reading aloud my first draft I learned how important it is to break the script into ultra-short grafs to help with pacing and pausing. I also realized long, complex sentences and some phrases can be challenging to read aloud and are hard to understand when listening.

After reading “Writing a Radio Script” by Dave Gilson, I made my script more conversational and more dramatic in places to drive home key ideas. I reworked convoluted sentence phrasing and made sure there was a lesson in the end. Basically I learned a podcast needs just as much editing as a written article.

To record the audio tracks I situated myself in an upstairs guest room, hoping the mic wouldn’t pick up the screams of my toddler playing below (Or the cats that suddenly had to get through the door. Or the hissing of the radiator.). I realized if I’m going to encourage kids to make podcasts, I need to find a small, quiet space they can record in undisturbed.

My first few runs-through were painfully slow and there were certain words I kept saying weird, like “journalists.” Sigh. Finally, after way longer than expected, I got the three tracks recorded in a way I liked.

The next thing I learned? How to convert .m4a file types to .wav files. Then it was on to my first experience with Audacity. After watching tutorials and experimenting with the program, I quickly learned to use various tools and how to do effects such as fading. Snipping, moving and adjusting the tracks’ volume were fun, and it was especially satisfying getting the episode to exactly five minutes.

Next time I would add a brief clip of the music between the main script and conclusion. This would sound more professional and help smooth the transition in the modulation of my voice between the two clips. Now that I know how easy it is to cut and move in Audacity, I would also not spend so long re-recording my main script. I’d take the advice you gave to count to three and re-read the section I messed up on and simply edit later.

After setting up my SoundCloud account, it was easy to upload and share my first podcast episode. Doing all of this for the first time has made me so much more capable of encouraging my students to do the same. I feel equipped to help them get started while encouraging them to learn by doing, just like I did.

Young and old access news differently, but some buck trends

While it’s important to identify trends in how people of various demographics use technology and access the news, it’s equally important to acknowledge individual differences in a world that is rapidly shifting in terms of news access and mobile technology use.

The Reuters Institute’s 2016 and 2018 “Digital News Report” identified key trends in mobile and social media technology use.

The report identifies young people are heavy smartphone users with less TV and radio use but higher use of YouTube and podcasts. While older people tend to have higher TV and tablet use, the reports finds a decline in paid print media access among most age groups.

According to the report, when accessing digital news, women tend to use social media apps while men are more likely to visit individual news sites and use dedicated news apps.

My recent informal Twitter poll confirmed these trends. The poll (conducted from Feb. 2 to Feb. 8) asked users to identify how they get most of their news and stay informed.

Eighty-four percent of the 13 respondents selected “news sites/social media,” with eight percent selecting “cable/TV news” and eight percent choosing “radio.” None chose the fourth option, “print newspapers/mags.”

However, even if most people do not use print as their primary news source, many do pay for some of their news.

According to my Instagram poll (conducted on Feb. 3 and 4), 83 percent of the six respondents said they pay for some of their news media.

High school teacher Deborah Saltzman, 58, is a print subscriber to The Boston Globe and the Sunday New York Times.

“I don’t read The Globe cover to cover, but I certainly read the front page each day,” Saltzman said.

Saltzman spends a good part of every Sunday morning picking through the Times, and she sets aside sections to read leisurely throughout the week.

Saltzman both fits and bucks the trends for her age and gender demographics.

She, unlike people across all demographics, identifies print newspapers as her primary news source, followed closely by radio and TV news.

Saltzman begins each morning listening to NPR as she gets ready for work and ends the day watching the local 10 o’clock news followed by “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah.

“He puts his humorous spin on the news,” Saltzman said. “It’s surprisingly possible to keep up with the big issues through that lens.”

Facebook and direct email updates from The Globe and Times round out the news for Saltzman.

When accessing digital news, Saltzman says she occasionally clicks links in her Facebook feed and emails from the Globe and Times, but usually will read only the headlines.

Saltzman has a Twitter account but never uses it.

Conversely, and in line with the “Digital News Report” trends, high school senior Jonny Ratner, 17, gets almost all his news on his smartphone through Twitter and Instagram.

Ratner says he rarely clicks on links in these social media apps.

“Mostly I get news through headlines,” Ratner said.

To round out his news, Ratner uses the Apple News app and gets notifications from ESPN and Bleacher Report, occasionally visiting their sites directly on his phone or laptop.

Ratner estimates he uses his smartphone six hours each day, listening to music and watching YouTube after school and before bed.

Recent college graduate Anna Bebbington, 23, also uses her smartphone throughout the day to stay informed, but in a way different that’s from Ratner.

Like many young people in the “Digital News Report,” Bebbington, who prides herself on being well informed, depends on podcasts for news.

She begins each day downloading three podcasts: “The Daily” from The New York Times, NPR’s “Up First,” and the BBC’s “Global News.” Bebbington listens to these podcasts during her morning routine and while driving to work.

Bebbington also gets notifications from various news sites including The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN.

Unlike Ratner, “I really don’t like the Apple News app but would rather just get notifications from the news organizations I choose,” Bebbington said.

Bebbington, who uses her smartphone and laptop throughout the day, says she “basically never” watches news on TV, which is in line with the “Digital News Report” findings for her age demographic.

Equally in line with his age demographic, Joe Raulinaitis, 70, identifies himself as “a big TV news guy.”

Raulinaitis, who watches CNN, Fox News and local news affiliates, says he likes TV news “for the visuals and how well they are done.”

“I try desperately to get a balanced picture of the country and the world,” Raulinaitis said while working at a café on his laptop.

Although his major news sources are cable and local TV news, Raulinaitis says, “When all else fails, you can go to the computer.”

When accessing digital news, like many of his gender demographic, he goes directly to cable news websites.

Reulinaitis says when seeking news online he uses his laptop to go to “organized news outlets with a responsibility to report accurately.”

He almost never uses his smartphone to access news sites, and while Reulinaitis has a Facebook account, he never uses it.

Whether through social media or podcasts, like most other young people, Ratner and Bebbington depend on smartphones to get their news while like other older news consumers Saltzman and Reulinaitis depend on TV news to keep up to date with what’s happening in the world.

However, each person is an individual that makes choices, which don’t always line up with what’s trending in the wider world.

Activity: Evaluating our Publication’s Digital and Social Media

Objective: For staff members to understand the concept of an “audience” versus “users,” to identify if our publication’s online presence is geared more toward an “audience” or “users” and to evaluate how well our publication’s digital media, both website and social media presence, engages users.

Summary: Because the publication I advise is an extracurricular and I do not have any of the editorial board members in class, I am creating materials the editors in chief can use to run workshops and editor/staff training sessions whether or not I am present. They are designed to work during hour-long weekly meetings or during longer summer workshops. Together, the two activities will take about two hours to complete, including large group sharing and discussion time.

Each activity can be printed out or shared digitally with students. The activities include contextual information, detailed steps for small groups to follow and links to exemplary student publications (selected CSPA 2019 Gold Crown winners).

The overall goal is for students to closely analyze aspects of our publication’s digital presence, look at other publications in comparison and as possible inspiration and set goals for the future.

Because students participate in The Harbinger as an extracurricular, they are not graded and do not receive course credit for their work. Therefore, I have not included rubrics or homework with these activities. Instead, these two activities can run during concurrent weeks or be spread out over time. Staff members will be accountable for their work and insights by sharing verbally with the large group and by generating Google Docs to be shared with the editors in chief.


Evaluating our Publication’s Digital and Social Media

Our publication’s digital media should be more than simply a platform to publish and share. Our website and especially our social media should be not only a place to publish and promote our reporting but also a place for interaction and engagement.

As Steve Hill and Paul Bradshaw explain on page five of “Mobile-First Journalism”:

The term audience is problematic as it suggests passivity, i.e. a group of people passively watching TV in their living rooms. It is a model of media that presents the audience as the ‘child’ and we, the journalist, as a ‘parent’ who is ‘teaching’ the children what they need to know about the world…[traditionally] mass media is shaped like a megaphone—content is ‘broadcast’ from a centralized location to a large audience made up of passive receivers of content. A radio show or article in a print newspaper cannot be changed, altered or interacted with by the audience. Social media and mobile technology encourages far more interactive modes of communication.

In a nutshell, our digital, mobile and social media should provide interactive experiences that are different from that which we provide in our print publication.


Activity One: Is our website geared toward an “audience” or “users”?

It’s important to first consider how we perceive and treat the consumers of our digital media. Are they an “audience” or are they “users”?

Break into small groups of 3-4, grab a copy of the most recent print issue of The Harbinger and gather around at least one computer. Record your observations, insights and ideas in a Google Doc so you will be prepared to share them with the editors in chief and report to the large group.

  1. Take a few minutes to flip through our most recent print issue of The Harbinger, refreshing your memory of what we published and in what form (page design, graphics, etc.).
  • Visit The Harbinger homepage. Scroll through and study the homepage only, clicking links to see the full stories.
    • Discuss as a group how similar or different the experience of reading through the homepage of our publication’s website is from reading the print edition. What are the notable similarities and differences in terms of the subjects and forms of the content?
    • Do we seem to perceive those who visit our site as an “audience” or “users”? How?
    • What ideas do you have that could make our homepage and its content more engaging for users?
    • Provide links to examples to support your observations and ideas.
  • After visiting the homepage, dive a bit further back in time by clicking your group’s assigned section from the navigation bar (News, Opinion, Feature, A&E, Profile, or Sports).
    • Looking through the first page of each section (12 stories), list in your Google Doc any examples you encounter where you are treated as a “user” and not just an “audience.”
    • As you go through the content in your assigned section, also brainstorm ways each of these stories could be made more engaging for users. For example, could they be formatted differently? How? Could there be additional multimedia content? Interactive features? List and describe your ideas on your Doc.
  • Now select the “multimedia” tab of the menu bar. What types of content do you find? What is most interesting and engaging and why? What aspects are geared toward “users” versus an “audience”?
  • What ideas do you have for making multimedia elements of our site (and reporting in general) more engaging, interesting and interactive?

Here are a few examples of multimedia from 2019 CSPA Gold Crown winners for inspiration. Feel free to include links to elements you really like in your Doc!

If you finish before other groups, take some time to explore deeper into our own website or those listed above.

When the groups are done, the editors in chief will lead the large group in a discussion of realizations you’ve had about our website and ideas for the future. They will also project the Google Analytics for our site so you can look at and discuss elements such as user behavior, most viewed stories and how users are moving around the site. Be sure to come up with an action plan of what we should do take our user experiences to the next level.

Activity Two: How engaging is our publication’s social media presence?

As Hill and Bradshaw assert in “Mobile-First Journalism,” “For content to work on social media it really needs the user to engage with it—this could be a share, comment or like.”

Hill and Bradshaw say social media is an important tool to fill humans’ social needs such as the needs for human interactions and engagement, knowledge and insights needed to be a citizen and a desire for entertainment and help with the everyday tasks.

Using Hill and Bradshaw’s ideas as a framework for analyzing our publication’s use of social media, we will break into groups to look at what types of social media content we’re producing and how users are interacting with it.

If YOU are not yet following our publication on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, get on it right now!


After breaking into small groups of 3-4, each group will be assigned one of our publication’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) to look at closely. Record your observations, insights and ideas in a Google Doc so you will be prepared to share them with the Editors-in-Chief and report to the large group.

  1. Look closely through The Harbinger’s social media account you were assigned to. Take notes on the following:


  • How many followers do we have?
    • From a quick scroll through the followers, who do they appear to be (not specific names, but types of people- ex. current students, alums, teachers, parents, other high school publications, etc.)?
    • What types of people seem to make the largest percentages of followers?
    • Is there anything that surprised you about our followers?


  • How many times have we posted in the last 30 days?
    • What types of posts have we made in the last 30 days? (Consider both subject and style)
    • About percentage of our posts are promoting content from our website versus original reporting/content we created especially for this platform?

User Engagement:

  • How many of our posts contain an element overtly encouraging users to interact with /engage with the post? (If any, what elements were used?)
    • What was our most “liked” post from the last 30 days? How many likes?
    • What was our most shared post from the last 30 days? How many shares?
    • What was our most commented on post from the last 30 days? How many comments? Who commented and about what?

Please note anything else of significance you noticed, discussed or pondered.

  • After closely analyzing one of our social media accounts, visit the social media accounts (for the same social media platform) of the publications we looked at in the website analysis activity. (If you click the links to the publications’ sites, you will find direct links to their social media accounts at the top of each website.)

Although you do not need to take notes on all of the elements you listed above, please note in your Google Doc what you find interesting in contrast and comparison with our own social media presence. Give some specific examples. What ideas can we get from what they do?

  • Pathfinder, Parkway West High School, Ballwin, MO
  • Southwest Shadow, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, NV
  • The HarbingerShawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, KS (their social media links are at the very bottom of the homepage)
  • The Kirkwood Call, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, MO

When the groups are all done, the Editors-in-Chief will lead the large group in a discussion of your findings and ideas. They will also project the Analytics/Insights for our accounts so you can look at and discuss elements such as impressions, reach and user engagement. Also discuss:

  • Are we treating those who access our social media an “audience” or “users”?
  • How can we increase our followers on each social media platform?
  • What do our various users want to gain from our social media presences?
  • How can we increase user engagement so we get more shares, comments and likes?

What I’ve learned: The megaphone has changed hands and it’s now a smartphone

As journalists and scholastic newspaper advisers, it’s time stop thinking about “audience” and start focusing on engaging “users” who are active participants in the media they consume.

In “Mobile-First Journalism,” Steve Hill and Paul Bradshaw assert we need to shift from the idea of mass media as a megaphone projecting news to its audience. Instead of thinking of passive audiences receiving information, we must connect with users on a deeper level through interactive elements, social media tools and even crowdsourcing.

Whether teens or adults, today’s users are empowered to make choices about what’s important and interesting. In ways, they’ve taken the megaphone into their own hands in the form of a smartphone.

We tend to spend a large portion of our days staring into phones and interacting with the world we can carry in our pockets. Users expect interactive media where they can comment, share, like and more, amplifying and responding to journalists’ work.

As teachers, instead of presenting journalism as an elevated form of communication transmitted from “those who know” to “those who don’t,” Hill and Bradshaw say digital media, and especially social media, is an important tool to fill humans’ social needs.

This idea threw me for a loop at first. Is it possible the platforms I mindlessly waste away hours (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rabbit holes they send me through) actually fill my needs as a human? Is social media not just a way of promoting stories and pulling readers to our publication’s website?

After some thinking (as I scrolled through my various social feeds) I realized that yes, many of my needs are fulfilled as the minutes fly by. This fulfillment comes not just from Instagram “Cats Doing Things” and the endless rants and brags of moms in my “October 2017 Babies” Facebook group.

My needs are also filled by the way I’ve curated my feeds to keep me up to date and engaged with the world. I’m part of the conversations when I respond with vitriol to @realDonaldTrump or share a powerful piece of news analysis on Facebook. I’m connected when I vote in an Instagram poll and direct tweet an educator I admire. I may be in my living room but the expanse of what I can learn, ponder and respond to is limitless.

As an adviser, I need to help my staff see digital media as more than a platform to publish and share. It can and should be a place of interaction and engagement. I’m excited to learn from this course how to do this effectively.

According to Hill and Bradshaw, today’s journalists must think about human interactions and engagement, the knowledge and insights needed to be a citizen, and the entertainment and tasks of an everyday person.

Journalists, both professional and scholastic, must form relationships while reporting and making sense of news, helping users navigate the noise. Just like the pros, scholastic journalists have to understand their users’ needs, go where their users are and engage them, not just report to them.

It is also essential for scholastic publications to think about the devices used to access their content. If 80 percent of the time users access a publication site on their phone, then the site better be configured to work well on a small screen.

With smartphones in our pockets, we can both consume and create images, audio, video and, yes, even text. However, when it comes to content creation, we need to teach scholastic journalists need to shift from thinking about mobile journalism (or MoJo) as simply a way to record video or post and share static written content. True MoJo is flexible, creative, and interactive. It has a sense of flux.

As “Understanding mobile journalism” from the “Mobile Journalism Manual” states, with MoJo there’s “a new workflow for media storytelling where reporters are trained and equipped for being fully mobile and fully autonomous.”

I look forward to experimenting with this new workflow and learning how to help my staff be more autonomous. All of my publication’s journalists, not just the online and and social media editors, should think mobile-first which can impact their modes of reporting and potential narrative structures.

MoJo can transform users’ experiences and energize journalists as we share the megaphone and open up the possibilities in exciting new ways.

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