New Media Students Keep Life on the Cutting Edge in the Classroom

"New Media is a high maintenance class," says Communication Prof. Cyndi Allison Wittum. "If it's in a book, then it's already 'old' media." Wittum does use a text that covers some of the history of media and includes some sociological and psychological studies related to media use. She thinks studen...

"New Media is a high maintenance class," says Communication Prof. Cyndi Allison Wittum. "If it's in a book, then it's already 'old' media."

Wittum does use a text that covers some of the history of media and includes some sociological and psychological studies related to media use. She thinks students need to know the background in order to understand the new technological world.

"It's hard to explain these huge advances to students who can't imagine a time when you had to go to the theatre to see a movie and when all phones were connected to the wall," says Wittum. "I still remember when my Granny got a color television set with a remote channel changer and how amazing I thought it was to sit on the couch and cruise through all five channels."

It didn't take Wittum long to figure out that there would no way to cover all the new advances in technology. She tracks the news and covers the key changes in media, but she can't cover every new upgrade, gadget, software, or website trending during a semester.

"My students are digital natives," says Wittum. "This is the only world they have known. Many of my students are experts in various areas of media."

So Wittum decided early on that the best way to teach the class was to have the students explore various areas of new media. Each student signs up for a topic of interest that includes some type of recent media innovation. Along with general readings and classroom discussions, students spend the entire semester doing research and then putting together a new media style paper complete with in text link citations (clicking hyperlinks from electronic copies of the papers take readers directly to sources including photos and videos).

"The first time I went with the research approach, I was blown away," says Wittum. "The students really invested in finding information and putting together papers that included fabulous data."

Wittum remembers reading through the New Media research papers and wishing that all the students in the class could see what classmates had learned and captured in their research papers.

"It really seemed a shame that all that information was sitting in my lap when it could have added so much value for all the other students," says Wittum.

Wittum explains the obvious solution was to wrap up each semester with class presentations. Students could take the research and put the materials together to share with classmates. In some cases, students are even able to get new devices to share or pull up online sites and give live demonstrations of the new technologies.

"I couldn't wait to get to class and see what students would be sharing," says Wittum. "One student told me that he could not believe that our 50 minutes were up and that he wished we had longer classes for presentations. It's not often students wish they could stay in class longer."

A wide range of topics were covered in New Media this semester ranging from barcode scanning (including how to create your own web site barcode) by Raven Canty  of Seagrove to ooVoo (an online conference calling system) by Amanda Drake of Salisbury.

Mark Freeze of Salisbury introduced the class to the GoPro camera that can be attached to the forehead, waist, or a vehicle to take digital video of extreme sports like skiing and skydiving. The camera can even be used while scuba diving to capture images under the water. Mark got a few gasps from the class when he tossed the $300 camera on the floor, but he explained that it's built to take abuse and is virtually indestructible.

The class got a glimpse of the future when Arsherres "Reese" Jenkins of Lexington covered virtual reality glasses that are currently under development. The glasses could potentially displace cell phones, because all the data that can be viewed on a phone would be visible through the glasses. The high tech glasses would be the ultimate in multi-tasking. You could walk, talk, and see all your stored information at the same time along with making/taking calls and texting.

"Teaching New Media keeps me in the loop and on my toes," concludes Wittum. "It becomes a very collaborative exploration with all class members both sharing and learning. It's not an easy class to teach, but I gain so much and have so much fun that I always look forward to having the opportunity to teach New Media and learn along with my students."

Student Project Topics:
James Abbott of Winston-Salem – Spotify
Rebekah Brown of Cleveland  – Nook eBook
Raven Canty of Seagrove – Barcode Scanning
Holly Chriscoe of Seagrove – Vp-200 video phone (for the deaf and hard of hearing)
Brandi Cockerham of Mocksville – Pinterest
Steffi Cook of Alpharetta, Ga. – YouTube
Toni Crough of Pittsburgh, Pa. – iCloud
Amanda Drake of Salisbury - ooVoo
Shea Flood of Manasquan, N.J. – iPad3
Mark Freeze of Salisbury  – GoPro Camera
Jessica Gaskill of Salisbury – iPhone (Siri)
Adam Haynes of Salisbury – Akai MPC
Rebecca Heffernan of Clemmons – Samsung Galaxy Note
Arsherres "Reese" Jenkins of Lexington – Virtual Reality Glasses
Lili Kiefer of Langnau am Albis, Switzerland – Cell Phone Cramming
Garrett McAuliffe of Kernersville – SiriusXM Radio
Leslie McMillan of Salisbury - PhotoBucket
Jarrett Murphy of Greensboro  – MMORPG (games)
Josh Owens of Mt. Pleasant – Viral Marketing
Jamesha Thomas of Salisbury – Promethean Board (smart board)
Cameron White of Columbia, S.C. - Twitter
Ethan Winn Gretna, Va. - DirecTV


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