Could you imagine hearing “Students! Take out your laptops and go to URL http://Ur395fg34…” from your Journalism professor instead of pulling out your text book?
Maybe you’re already hearing something similar to this in your classes.
In that case, you are exactly where Eric Newton wants you to be: in the intersection of journalism education and the digital age.
A recent article on the Poynter Institute’s website entitled, “Journalism textbooks have seen their future and it is digital”, profiles Newton, a journalist and senior adviser to the Knight Foundation president, and his idea that digital journalism should be taught mainly in digital form. His website “Searchlights and Sunglasses”, a digital book/online teaching tool embodies this theory. The digi-books are updated as weekly, monthly or in some cases, hourly, as opposed to the one to five years it takes for conventional textbook updates.
With the benefits of using a digital textbook, the question lies: have classrooms seen the last of the traditional printed textbook?
Howard University’s Assistant Professor of New Media Ingrid Sturgis doesn’t think so.
“I use print because not everybody learns in the same way.” Professor Sturgis says, “I think everybody takes the information in a certain that is best for them. If you go without a textbook [there may be] a student that might want to read something in print and they don’t really want to see it on a screen. I have some students that don’t want to do anything on a screen!”
Cameron Smith, a senior Strategic Communications major at the Missouri School of Journalism thinks otherwise. When asked if he sees textbooks being phased out of his journalism classes, he says “I have noticed over the past year that teachers really aren’t using books anymore. They’re giving us “E-Res” links. So we do all our reading through the E-Reserve which is nice because you don’t have to pay for anything.” Smith likes the fact that digital books are being constantly updated, something he believes is more practical for students learning journalism.
Sophomore Journalism student at the Missouri School of Journalism Sequoyah Moore found herself somewhere in the middle seeing the continued benefits of printed textbooks and convenience of online textbooks.
Moore states, “I prefer to study from websites or other online resources. The ease of being able to simultaneously read from a digital textbook and take notes on programs like Microsoft Word makes studying much easier. The traditional method of highlighting in textbooks and taking handwritten notes seems to take much more time and energy.” But then counters, “I don’t see printed textbooks phasing out completely in classrooms any time soon. Many of my own journalism courses have only used digital resources, but there are staples like AP Stylebooks and the like that probably won’t leave the hard copy format for a while. Relying on digital resources is incredibly useful in classrooms, but it’s not always dependable simply because the use of computers is not always dependable or productive.”
While there is no stopping traditional print forms of news and other media from moving more and more onto digital platforms, there does seem to be a happy medium between the two realms that Newton’s “Searchlights and Sunglasses” recognizes: each page of the website allows users to download and print out PDF versions of the page.
Sadiyyah Rice is the digital intern for the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, recording secretary for the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists and video editor for Higher Education Channel Television (HEC-TV).