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New Corporate Communications Media Center Funded by Grant

3/25/2007 —

Kathleen Taylor Brown, Assistant Professor of Communications, received a $35,000 grant from the University's Office of Education Technology Services (ETS). Brown, adviser to the campus newspaper, the Penn State Greater Allegheny Collegian, is using the monies to enhance and revise the course curriculum for the related course, Communications (COMM) 260W: Newspaper Writing and Reporting.

With the rapid advancement of digital technologies, newspapers have seen a decline in readership as the population turns to television and the internet to obtain their information through real- time imagery and on-the-spot reporting. A major problem with this form of communication, however, is a decreased credibility as opportunities for unethical transmission of information become more prevalent. Brown's proposal calls for transforming the COMM 260W course into a vehicle for teaching Greater Allegheny students the skills and tools necessary for responsible journalism.

As a forerunner to the current project, Brown and the Penn State Educational Partnership (PEPP) under the direction of Darrell Thomas worked with McKeesport Area High School during the Spring semester of 2005. The partnership sponsored the participation of 12 high school students in a learning experience with Penn State, giving the high school students the opportunity to write community news articles for publication in the Penn State Greater Allegheny newspaper. Through online methods such as Penn State's ANGEL online classroom format, live "chat" sessions and email messaging, the high school participants and their college counterparts collaborated as they reported news online and used convergent media for that purpose.

Brown's currently funded project takes the 2005 partnership to the next level. During the Spring 2007 semester the COMM 260W course is being presented as a fully integrated, online course, employing video and audio pod casting. The course will also focus on how the new technology impacts socialization of the emerging ethical standards that shape the professional practices of online media reporting. The project will also continue the University's partnership with the local high school students through PEPP.

The technology received through the grant includes iPod Nanos, Mac computers, microphones, and more. The students in COMM 206W will broaden media horizons by using this technology to become “real-time street reporter[s].” They will be using the iPods and microphones to conduct interviews coinciding with the course. These interviews will then, with the help of Penn State staff, be created into iPodcasts. For class submission, the Podcasts will be uploaded to the Internet giving students the opportunity to blog comments and critiques to further improve their learning.

To take the Podcasts one step further, Brown’s COMM 471 class, a class focusing on public relations media and methods, will use the technology along with video cameras to help students understand communications from a broadcasting point of view. With the help of Penn State staff, COMM 471 students will be producing iMovies. Eventually, if time permits, the iMovies may also be uploaded to the internet and discussed critically through a controlled blogging site.

ETS funding secured for Brown's proposal is being used to purchase iPods, equipment for setting up a podcasting studio, digital and video recorder-cameras, software, iTunes music store cards and a web application necessary to host the ETS servers. Penn State Greater Allegheny is joining in the support of the project by covering travel expenses, course supplies, training and technical assistance, space for a studio and office, and hosting an awards luncheon. The campus will also provide the evaluation assessment and research tools necessary to study and assess the initiative.

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