Collaborative Learning, Collaborative Journalism.

On 6th June we were joined by colleagues from across the country to discuss collaborative learning and collaborative journalism. The event, funded by the HEA, featured two plenary presentations followed by a workshop which suggests that there is a need for further discussion of the key points. To this end the group are hoping to reconvene in a year to discuss more case studies of practice.

Sharon Wheeler (Portsmouth Uni) collected the day’s tweets on Storify which are quite rich in relevant links.

Events & handbooks

12 months on, Paul is using stories & streams again with our online journalism students while Jen has taken on some of the ideas from our project in her work at UWS.

The book: redux

Since we completed the pilot project last year the initial version of the handbook has now been launched on LeanPub - help yourself, it’s free as in beer.

The seminar & workshop

We presented about this project in 2012 at CEMP and at a HEA Seminar in Winchester and people liked the cut of our jib. Some folk even said they’d like to try it out. So off the back of that we’re hoping that some of you would like to come to an all day event to discuss collaborative journalism education. It’s also free, but you’ll need to pay for your own travel.

We’re not just going to tell you about what we did, we want to learn too so we’re hoping that attendees will come with their own case studies and ideas.

We’re surprised to have had genuine enquiries from colleagues in North and Central America (as well as interest from folk in the UK, some of whom can get the bus here) and so we hope you’ll add your name to the list. Sign up at the HEA website.

Collaboration call

Would you like to share your experiences of teaching collaborative journalism?

We are using this method of teaching and learning again in 2012-13, and we already know of two universities that will be trying this approach. Want to join us? Take a look at Paul’s teaching resource book.

We’d like to convene a symposium in summer 2013 to discuss the ways in which we have tackled the teaching of collaborative journalism.

If you are using our resource (or if you have your own methods) and are interested in meeting with colleagues to discuss this approach, please email or

Stories & Streams – some early findings

We submitted a brief overview of the project’s findings to the ADM-HEA Networks Magazine which was published over the summer. The article explains some of our rational, approach, and some results from the project, which are summarised below:

  1. Students produce work that is more distinctive, succeeding in breaking away from the ‘churnalism’ that had characterised previous cohort’s efforts; work is now original, unique and in-depth.
  2. The use of stream workshops, rather than whole class lectures, appeared to be successful in generating more activity in the students than we might normally expect.
  3. The approach enabled students to develop transferrable and soft skills; research suggests that these skills, which are hard to teach.

Teaching Collaborative Journalism – the eBook*

Paul has launched the ‘Teaching Collaborative Journalism‘ eBook* today. Essentially it’s a handbook to running Stories & Streams yourself.

Paul steps you through some of the rationale to the project – covering pedagogy and industry relevance – and then outlines how you could bring this approach to your classroom.

We very much hope you’ll adopt some of these ideas in your classroom, and we’d like to hear from you if you intend to do so.

* don’t get too excited, it’s just a google doc, not an .epub or .mobi or anything like that


Stories & Streams 2: levelling up for 2012-13

I’ve just had my workload planning meeting for 2012-13, and one thing that loomed quite large in my mind as I went into the meeting was: how do you solve a problem like JJ?

You see Jen has moved permanently back to Scotland (where she is, right now, giving a paper on Stories & Streams to her colleagues at UWS). This has left a gap in my teaching plan and money in my pocket. So what to do?

The thought occurred to us that we might use this as an opportunity to put more emphasis on the students’ needs, and to give them more responsibility for their learning. What if we took that cash – the cash that would have paid for JJ’s time – and gave it to the students? Who would they call to come in and teach their class? Who would they ask to help them breakthrough to reach their goals?

And that’s what we agreed to do in my workload meeting. I’ll take some of Jen’s hours, but the bulk of them are being given to a guest speaker programme that we as staff will have no control over. Students will instead need to plan interventions and make them happen – we’ve removed the last barrier (cash) to them doing this, and now the responsibility lies with them. As with the first group, they will be drawing on our networks to achieve this, and together we will create the learning moments they need to develop their skills.

Jennifer Jones on Learning and Teaching at Birmingham City University

As I am a visiting lecturer at the university and not based in Birmingham, I was asked to record a short video from Glasgow (where I *actually* live) to contribute to the case studies for the BCU Skillset accreditation process. Here, I talk about my role at BCU and in particular the Stories and Streams project where I get the chance to reflect on what makes our adventures in transformative media pedagogy so *damn* exciting. And it also looks dead gritty, urban and real (and Scottish). Thanks to my colleague at UWS, David McGillivray for the ‘artistic vision’ in the below video.

Comparing Apples & Oranges: the iTunesification of HE

In the late 1990s and early 2000s much was made of the McDonaldization of universities: the standardisation of service in response to a more consumer-like mindset by students. It is this tendency towards a narrow idea of student experience that makes the delivery of a programme like Stories & Streams feel problematic to us as educators: we are going into a room without PowerPoint – how will students know when they have done learning?

This morning I skimmed through The Guardian‘s education supplement which is something of a special this week on applying to Higher Education. I’m now worried about a new front that has opened up in the fight to reduce a drift towards a consumer mindset in students, something which for the moment I will have to call the “iTunesification of HE”.

iTunesU is a platform for the digital distribution of educational content. Arguably it’s the glossy boutique shop front end of the OER movement, and part of a wider movement towards egalitarian online classrooms which are championed in the technology press - all worthy projects which I broadly support (although aspects are problematic).

There is some fantastic content on iTunesU which is offered to us as bite size chunks of knowledge; as iTunes makes the song the unit of music rather than the album, so iTunesU is reductive to the point of a lecture. Removed from the framework of a course, adrift from a relationship with a tutor, and divorced from the need for independent study, iTunesU offers us the ability to dip in and consume learning instrumentally. This chunking up and reduction to morsels of knowledge is being communicated and understood as indicative of educational programmes: the common sense now, as promoted in The Guardian is to taste these portions of learning ahead of time. This must chime well with the student consumer and reinforces their understanding that learning is chalk and talk, and they can just catch up with the PowerPoints later.

Something like Stories & Streams does not translate to iTunesU. Content that does well on iTunesU is slick and didactic, but this project deals in the messy and works with the individual: this programme of learning has a face for the radio, not for TV. It’s ugly, but rich with potential to learn and engage with the concepts.

If we are to reduce discussion around education to value, I know that learning that is focussed on individuals means they are getting better value for money. I also know that student-led learning is more complex and labour intensive for staff to produce. This personal interaction does not remediate, and so it is not present in the digital narrative, it is sidelined by spectacle; this valuable and expensive work is cheapened and under valued because it does not present well in the shop window.

And that’s what iTunesU is, let’s make no mistake. I was involved in early meetings at BCU about joining the service, and I talked through processes around quality control with marketing colleagues. Quality control doesn’t mean learning outcomes and student experiences, it doesn’t mean deep learning, it means gloss and a winning smile.

iTunesU is a marketing project, and the product it sells is suspect.

Heading North

Last weekend I was invited to the #media2012 pre-games meet in Manchester. I was attending for two reasons. The first being to present the #media2012wm group, our plans and also promote the event we’re putting on June 29th/30th. Secondly I was there to get ideas for my own event planning as well as to network with attendees and other #media2012 hubs from across the country, building relationships and knowledge around what it takes to create a sustainable citizen journalism group.
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