Google search tips for students (and everyone else)

Google_ScholarThere are times when my students say “I Googled it, but I didn’t find anything.” I always find this a little hard to believe. It is more likely that they were overwhelmed by the hits because the search was too broad, or they were not looking in the right places. This is a great post on how to use Google for research. Some tips for Google Scholar and other tools. Check out this great guide from Lifehacker.

The newest net neutrality twist

radio_microphone 507px-Wireless_tower.svgI am a devoted fan of On The Media on WNYC. This week host Brook Gladstone and Siva Vaidhyanathan, chair of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of The Googlization of Everything (and why we should worry) presented an excellent overview of the court decision on net neutrality (here is a post from on what net neutrality really means).

There are some definitions, but this piece on OTM was an excellent summary of the history, the mistakes (FCC’s), and the future. Vaidhyanathan calls these 20-or-so years we’ve had a bit of a nirvana. Here’s the whole piece: Net Neutrality and You.

In 2010 he said (also on OTM)

“If we decide that the only level playing field is that wire coming out of the wall into our personal computer, we might find that we’ve relegated all the freedom in the world to  the 8-track-tape deck in the next 20 years and that could be a terrible mistake.” 

Reminds me of the establishment of the Radio Act of 1927. In the 20s there was an open season on radio waves in this country — it was the Wild West back then when anyone could throw up an antennae and broadcast. It didn’t matter whether your signal ran over someone else’s signal – it was a bit of mayhem. The establishment of the FRC (precursor to the FCC) help regulate the airwaves and put together some rules of the road on what is (still) considered a public resource. Frequency space is limited and the “air” on which all of those signals float is ours — at least here in the U.S.

As Vaidhyanathan points out, we might have enjoyed a “blip” when it comes to “internet freedoms.” Just as when radio (and then other broadcast) grew and a few dominated the media (think networks and station owners), connectivity is heading toward more control, not less. 

The whole piece is worth a listen, but here’s another great excerpt:

“What Google thinks is important is what we think is important.”…..

In reference to “hopefulness” about the future of a platform that allows all voices to be heard?….

“In a democratic republic we have a responsibility to be open about what could be and keep fighting for it.” 


A professor’s good day

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This is the first week of spring semester classes at Northwest University. I love that I can say “spring semester” when many in the Seattle area are in “winter quarter” – it makes me feel a bit smug.

This term I teach a favorite course – Multimedia Principles – it is near and dear because it combines a lot of things I love. The students will learn about great sound-gathering, photojournalism, video and simply good story-telling. It’s just a blast.

But…the best thing on Tuesday afternoon? I sat at the instructor’s computer in our lab as I set up the projector, cued up sites and sorted my various lists. As I sat, the students wandered in and for the first time in 5 years at NU I knew everyone in that class. OK – there was one guy I didn’t know, but out of a class of twenty-five or so that is pretty great. They smiled and joked and hugged when they saw someone else  they knew. Granted, NU is small and the communication department is just a slice, but it made me smile and then laugh out loud as they convened as a class. I think I even whispered “all the cool kids are in this class” and one of my students just looked up and grinned.

Then I was able to say “wow, it’s so wonderful to see you all.” And along with that I said, “I love teaching this subject and we are going to have so much fun.” Being the journalism geek I am I also fawned over a book we are using (Photojournalism – Kobre). It is just gorgeous.

As this poster reads: Love what you do. 

I am one very happy professor.

On being a communication major

“Communication is the basis of the human race. From the drawings left by the cave men, to a twitter update, humans want to tell each other things. I’m not saying that the cavemen were telling everyone what Starbucks drink they got but you catch the drift. We spend time with friends sharing stories, laughing at jokes, and talking about what matters to us.”

I am forever grateful for my journalism degrees (yes, that’s usually in “comm”) and for the chance to teach it now. It is also clear every single day that the need for communication professionals and professors is plain.

“The storytellers are the ones who seek out the greatness in others and want to scream their information from the rooftops. They see something that is usually overlooked, or forgotten, or hated, and see the beauty. And if you don’t feel up to the challenge, then find a new major, because we’re going to be changing the world.”

From: Thought Catalog – though I must say, this essay starts off very poorly indeed.

Thoughts on teaching media, digital, and other 1s & 0s