Whether it’s creating web pages, building code, illustrating graphic, or writing copy, I want my students to approach questions and problems with design thinking as their lens and then communicate appropriately to their audience.
By design thinking, I mean this: I hope that students will engage in a process that begins with identifying a problem, moves on to creating and testing a solution, and then continually seeks to improve upon or iterate new solutions until the problem is solved. Our news experiences are designed products, and they are continually redesigned as technology changes. I want my students to learn, no matter what the topic, that design is a language, an art, and a science. Through this process of thinking, my students can then appreciate the everyday nuances in a newspaper layout or inject their own curiosity into how a web story is packaged, and then bring this process into every project they start and complete.
The most important development of my academic teaching career and personal growth has involved the creation of the Great Game of Education and the Open Book Classroom model. This is a system I have developed that bridges the classroom and the office. It’s an open communication method based on Jack Stack’s Great Game of Business and Open Book Management, and it is something that I bring to the classroom from my professional experience as an editor and a consultant.
A key part of design thinking and the Open Book Classroom is group work, because as the late David Carr said in his much-shared Press Play journalism course syllabus on Medium.com: “While writing, shooting, and editing are often solitary activities, great work emerges in the spaces between people.” Group work is itself a design exercise because collaboration mandates effective communication, idea sketching, task delegating and producing content as a unit. I know that some students resist group work, but I believe that work in teams is valuable as it is an important aspect of the workforce, especially in media. I would say that collaboration is one of my core student learning outcomes, which is then blended with the digital savvy they need as multimedia journalists: how to research and ask good questions, how to compose thought-provoking photographs, how to edit concise video, and how to create stories that feature a narrative arc with a decisive moment and a suite of compelling characters.
For my students to be good reporters, writers, designers and critical thinkers means that sometimes they are pushed beyond their comfort zones. I want to show them how to be brave, how to be creative, how to speak their minds and how to keep their integrity as media professionals in an environment that will constantly ask them to push themselves.
There has never been a time in history when Journalism—the kind with a Big J—was more important than now, and my goal every time I enter the classroom is to inspire and to challenge my students to contribute to the tradition and the importance of reporting with their own, unique voice. When they come back to visit campus and regale me with their stories, I know my work paid off.
Classes at University of Denver
- Newswriting and Reporting
- Online and Visual Journalism
- Publication and Graphic Design
- Web Design and Content Development
- Advanced Newswriting and Reporting: Podcasting
- Networked Journalism
- Video History of World Pro Skiing
- Media Startups
- Cannabis Journalism
- Strategic Communication Seminar