Trying out blogging in the classroom has been a fun experiment. This third year has been my best year. I think the reasons were: The topic was focused, and most entries were directed on a neighbourhood – meaning students were reading each others work with far greater interest (the entries were not random). Therefore, engagement with each other went up.
Also, because they were blogging regularly on the same topic (as most blogs are), they were able to develop some confidence with their writer’s voice. I enjoyed reading them–because I got some inside scoop to their frustration and also their interests. It was a good gauge for me.
The blogs were worth ten percent and writing style, use of original photos, analysis, research and inclusion of additional links were the criteria used to grade. As well, students were given peer evaluation forms to use as a basis to further discuss and assist each other’s process.
Yesterday I spoke with a group of folks at my university about using tech tools like blogs and wikis in the classroom. It was an interesting experience and reminded me how much we need to share ideas in this new emerging genre and field.
Below are the the directed blog assignments I sent my students. I did not give them these all at once but posted them weekly on blackboard. As you see, the topics increase in difficulty. To see their reactions to these questions, go to: http://www.diverscite.blogspot.com.
I’ve also posted one of the topic questions I used for my class last year. The class was 170 students and I created this assignment based on feedback from my TA’s and students. I used the internal university system, Roller.
There seemed to be some interest in the ideas of wiki’s as well (I use pbwiki.com)
Below are the blog assignments from week three to week 12:
JRN 906 –Online Reporting: Multimedia Reporting Through the Global City
Assistant Professor: Vinita Srivastava (email@example.com)
Blog: http://diverscite.blogspot.com/ (linked through the website) – you will need a gmail account.
A Word on the Blog:
- You will be expected to post at least one entry per week during the term and may not make up for missed entries by making multiple posts in one week, though you are encouraged to post as often as you like.
- You are asked to express your opinions (whatever they will be) but will be expected to be intelligent and respectful about both the approach to and the crafting of your posts. (Subject matter, language, and tone.)
- You will not be expected to reply to every comment that your posts might receive, but you will need to monitor them for SPAM and delete as necessary. If you choose to respond to comments, you should do so in a courteous and professional manner.
- All entries “published” will be immediately made live and public.
- This is a pilot project and, as such, I will be looking to you for feedback (both positive and negative) about the process. You are welcome and encouraged to share your opinions.
Blog Topic One:
Wandering through the local: what do you notice and observe?
1. Chose a small section of the neighbourhood we are covering this term, bounded by these streets: Shuter, Gerrard, River and Parliament. What did you notice that might be unique to this area? What are your first observations? Do some streeters. Who did you talk to? What questions come up in your mind? What ideas and research does it lead you to? That is, once you have taken your walk and you are now at home writing, what context can you add from a distance? Are there any photos you can share?
Blog Topic Two:
Depict or Describe Images of the Future in Regent Park
The way a society envisions their future can reflect the hopes, fears and expectations of its residents. According to Jim Dator, a professor at the University of Hawaii, “one of the things futures studies tries to do is to help people examine and clarify their images of the future—their ideas, fears, hopes, beliefs, concerns about the future—so that they might improve the quality of their decisions which impact it.” The term ‘image’ in this context includes much more than purely visual depictions of the future.
Images of our futures can include depictions of dystopias, utopias, aspirations and despairs.
What evidence can you come up with this week of Future Images in Regent Park? Remember; the future can be depicted anywhere; on billboards, advertisements, in clothing, in the movies, on television, in graffiti, public murals, architecture, and urban planning.
The future belongs to the present and represents our hopes, fears and expectations.
Some examples of depictions of our future in the past: http://davidszondy.com/future/futurepast.htm
Past, Present, Future
1. What are the issues for Regent Park residents in the upcoming Ontario Provincial elections? What impact might some residents, organizers and community leaders hope to make in the October 10th elections? 2. What are the issues for Regent Park residents in the upcoming Ontario Provincial elections? What are some of the big issues that the Toronto Centre-Rosedale riding leader, George Smitherman has had to deal with? As a politician? As a leader for a diverse riding that includes Regent Park? What is the history of the riding? What areas does it encompass? What impact might some residents, organizers and community leaders hope to make in the October 10th elections? What are some of the challenges Smitherman has faced? In particular, what projects and issues has he undertaken in regards to Regent Park? What might he face in the future?
2. Visit the exhibition, “A Walk Down Oak Street” and provide a critical and informative review.
This exhibition focuses primarily on the development of Regent Park North along Toronto’s Oak Street during the late 1940s and 1950s. It explores the story of a single street involved in a larger public debate, as part of Canada’s earliest efforts at urban renewal and social improvement.
The museum curator, Carol Moore-Ede has said she is available for interviews with students. They should contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Visit the following installation and provide a critical and informative review.
The National Film Board of Canada’s Filmmaker-in-Residence program presents the Street Health Stories installation which gives a human face and voice to Street Health’s statistics.
Four photographers who have experienced homelessness — Adrienne, Jess, Keneisha, and Meghan — document the stories of 28 homeless men and women through audio recordings and portrait-photography. The exhibit presents eight Street Health Stories in large lightbox prints with headphones.
Blog Topic Four:
1.Go see Mary Ellen Mark (info below) and record your impressions. How might her approach to her work inform your Regent Park feature?
Over the course of her career Mary Ellen Mark has produced numerous widely acclaimed and influential photographic series whose subjects have included women in the Oregon State Mental Hospital’s maximum-security ‘Ward 81’ prostitutes working in the Falkland Road brothels of Bombay runaway children in Seattle as well as a series focusing on the legendary Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
She is the recipient of many professional awards including the Cornell Capa Award from the International Center of Photography the Infinity Award for Journalism and the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for outstanding work in the field of journalistic photography. Readers of American Photo recently voted her the “Most Influential Woman Photographer”.
She has published fifteen books including her most recent Exposure which showcases one hundred and thirty four of her best images.
2. Go to the World Press Photos Exhibition (03 October 2007 – 24 October 2007)
Find the photo that affects you the most. Describe it. List the details (photographer, prize category). Analyze it. Explain why it might have this impact on you and on the judges. Can you get a copy to share on the blog? Can you include some additional information? Do not forget to mention where you saw the exhibit and what the scene was like at the show.
Blog Topic Five:
1. Monuments remind and warn. For example, WW II monuments line University Avenue: Whose memory are they honouring? Is this considered a public memory? Whose history might be missing?
Monuments speak to the future and the past. Discuss this play between past and future, opening dialogues about what society chooses to remember or forget, and what underlying values and ideologies are embedded in these markers of ‘public memory.’
Contemporary political events have weighed heavily upon the need for public monuments to form a bridge between individual lives and larger institutional values.
However, if we look at monuments in a broader sense, monuments can be anything and can be determined by a community–outside of official institutional decisions. Eg. a Rest in Peace graffiti in an inner city neighbourhood might be seen as something that evokes ‘public memory’ of a shooting.
What do monuments say about public or institutional values? What do monuments say about specific neighbourhoods?
Find a public monument in Regent Park and discuss. Or write about the absence of a public monument and discuss.
Eg. “One in a Million” by J. Asselin on your diverscite blog
2. Take a walk through Rosedale (“roughly bounded by the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks to the north, Yonge Street to the west, Rosedale Valley Road to the south, and Bayview Avenue to the east, is divided into a north and south portion by the Park Drive Ravine.”). It is often the neighbourhood most often juxtaposed against Regent Park. How might you compare this to your first walk through Regent Park? What did you notice that might be unique to this area? What are your first observations? Who did you talk to? What questions come up in your mind? What ideas and research does it lead you to? That is, once you have taken your walk and you are now at home writing, what context can you add from a distance? Are there any photos you can share?
3. Write a poem about Regent Park.
Blog Topic Six:
Telling Stories—Visual language
1. Start the reporting for your feature story. Remember a story is best told through characters and a series of small moments. Have you met any characters yet? Write a description of one of them on your blog. What makes them important to Regent Park? Can you include a photo? Perhaps you have not met them in person yet but only spoken to them on the phone—how will you begin to sketch out their character? Write a short (max 500 words) describing them. Your aim is to write a mini profile, but not necessarily a ‘news’ profile. They key here is to write visually. What do they look like? What is their environment? What do you notice about them? Answer these questions as you think about active visual writing: Who What When Why Where How. IF you have not met any one yet, you may describe a location/scene related to your feature instead.
For inspiration read this excerpt (below) from Nicholas Lemann’s profile of George W. Bush in the New Yorker, published Jan 31, 2000.
These next blogs can be about your experiences as a reporter in RP or a topic you’d like to write about but have no time for in your class assignment. Or perhaps you found something out but have no room for it in your feature story? These blogs are the place for juicy tidbits, frustrations, ‘value-add’ reported information, other flaneur adventures within Toronto, completely unrelated to Regent Park. Notes from another city – but related to RP. If you’re unsure, discuss your ideas or thoughts with your instructor.
The Story behind the story
Read Daniel Lak’s “From our Correspondent” (BBC) and think about your experiences reporting your feature in Regent Park. Can you model your last blog entry after this idea?