curriculum (2)

Living online is hard work

The internet is a strange place.


But you need to understand it.

That's why a professor asked me to create a series of tutorials to present to her class across three sessions.

The tutorials walk students through everything from HTML and CSS syntax to the incorporation of JavaScript plugins and the creation of directories.

It's been a learning experience for everyone. For starters, I learned exactly how much or how little people know about the way the internet operates, and I was surprised when I realized these students didn't understand the concept of directories or paths.

That is, until I remembered I was in the same boat less than a year ago.

Then I remembered the time-sucking tutorials I had to get through just to gain a basic understanding of client side languages. I spent months Googling answers for concepts that elude people less technically minded than the folks writing open-sourced things' documentation.

Yet I did it. I'm continuing to do it. My professor asked me to help others do it. And others are attempting to do it on own their own, as well. Why? If learning is such a frustrating, time devouring commitment, why do people care enough to try?

The answer: We live our lives in part behind computers. And the Internet of Things is promising to bridge the chasm between cyberspace and meatspaceSimply put, we are digital citizens.

Don't believe me? According to Pew, 70 percent of American adults have home broadband connections. As of 2013, 56 percent own smartphones. Thus, the way we consume information has changed, and as you've heard time and time again, so must mindsets around sharing information.

None of this is new, yet not many universities seem to be responding to this reality in their curriculum.

That's why I suggest colleges and universities add courses to their mandatory curriculum to help students perform in the digital space.

These courses could focus on specific topics:

• Web 101: What happens when you click a button & the internet as a physical thing

• Foundations of client-side languages

• Basics of digital correspondence and presentation (possibly complementing speech classes)

• Social media management & etiquette

• Management of personal identity and reputation online

• Web security

Ball State requires students to take a finance class that teaches them how to pay taxes, budget and plan for their financial futures. The point is to teach students basic skills they need to be functional adults.

I believe we need to supplement these meatspace skills with cyberspace ones.

Because simply put, even though we are digital citizens, we are not digital natives. Knowing how to point a mouse and post to Facebook isn't enough. We need to be intentional in our words and actions online, just as we would in the tangible world.

Here are some readings so you can empower yourself:

• We Need a Digital-First Curriculum to Teach Modern Journalism

• At the intersection of journalism, data science, and digital media: How can j-schools prep students for the world they’re headed into?

• Cindy Royal: Are journalism schools teaching their students the right skills?

Read more…