Students create first CSJMM TV news program!

As part of a TV Reporting course taught by Nino Orjonikidze and Nino Japiashvili, CSJMM students produced a professional quality 29-minute TV news program. Please watch the first part of the  program and then congratulate the Class of 2012 and their instructors. Then continue reading this post.

Goal 4 of the “Journalism School Partnership Program,” for which I’m the principal investigator, is to “improve experiential learning opportunities.” The three specific objectives are:

1. Develop “capstone experiences.”

2. Improve student-run media.

3. Improve the internship program.

In the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC), at the University of South Carolina, a “capstone experience” is a semester-long period when students work intensively to produce a professional quality product. SJMC journalism students either work 40 hours+ a week to produce a 30-minute TV news program five days a week (Monday through Friday) or they work 40 hours+ a week to produce either a printed or online newspaper.

CSJMM students just completed a smaller-scale version of a “capstone experience.” I take NO credit for implementing this capstone experience, but I believe students gained a lot and had fun, so I hope future students will have a similar opportunity.

What would truly be exciting would be for students at the SJMC and students at CSJMM to jointly produce a multimedia news program. Imagine if the news program had a theme—such as health care. Students from both schools would report and edit health care stories. Then an international team of student managers would coordinate the international program. US students would better understand the US healthcare system by learning about the system in Georgia and vice versa. Of course, such a project would be challenging, but the rewards would make the effort worthwhile.

Expectations about expectations

The following is a transcription of a conversation between IQ (imaginary questioner) and Keith Kenney.

IQ:  How do you set a level of expectations for your students?

KK: I keep one eye on what potential employers need, and the other eye on past students’ performances in the same course. I set high expectations because the job market demands skilled employees who can think critically.

IQ:  Don’t students complain that your expectations are too high?

KK: Yes, all of the time. But I don’t expect students to instantly learn something new. I like to use the saxophone example. When I started to learn the sax, I took lessons, practiced, and after a year, the best I could do was play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Learning was not easy; nor was it quick. Therefore, I give students multiple chances to improve. For example, in my photojournalism class, students can redo an assignment as many times as they like. Each time I provide feedback and I explain how they can make their photos better. If students have the time and a desire to learn, they could redo every assignment until they receive a grade that would make them happy.

IQ:  But isn’t that a lot of work for them and for you?

KK: Of course. But it takes a lot of work to learn . . . and to teach. Don’t get me wrong. I hate grading, and I’ll become impatient if students keep handing in poor work. I suggest that students show their work to a classmate before letting me see it. Classmates can often point out basic problems and help fix those problems.

IQ:  So do students generally get As in your classes?

KK: No. They usually don’t have the time or motivation to try a second time, much less a third time.

IQ:  Well how do you motivate students?

KK: Good question. Whenever I see a sign of improvement, I praise a student’s effort. When students receive praise for doing something, they want to keep doing it. An A grade is not really praise. A written comment is better. A verbal comment is best because it shows that you’re personally interested in a student and it can lead to a conversation. Students in large lecture classes, with little interaction with their professors, are difficult to motivate.

IQ:  So do you enjoy seeing students outside the classroom?

KK: Of course! I want to really know the students and I want them to get to know me. I don’t want to be “the photojournalism prof.” I want to be “Keith.” Moreover, I believe that half of all learning for a course occurs outside the classroom. A class is a place and time when students and an instructor can easily interact together, but, ideally, interactions amongst students and between students and instructors occur far more often than class times.

IQ:  What happens when other professors expect more or less than you?

KK: You already know the answer—it creates problems. Let’s imagine that two instructors offer sections of the same photojournalism course in the same semester, and one has the reputation of low expectations, which is the same as saying that s/he gives high grades for average work. What happens? One, students in the low-expectation classroom will learn less. Two, unfortunately, more students will enroll in the low-expectation class. Professors need to communicate amongst themselves.

IQ:  It may be easy for a couple of profs to compare expectations about a course they both teach, but what about inconsistencies amongst all the courses in a major? I mean, what can you do if a photojournalism prof is tough, but the graphics prof is easy?

KK: The solution is coordination. A department’s faculty members should meet once a year at least in order to share their expectations. Students are not just taking individual courses—they are earning a degree—and administrators should ensure that the instructors and their courses are working together to provide the best possible education.

IQ: But how can instructors with very different courses “coordinate”?

KK: By sharing their learning outcomes and grading matrices. It may be difficult to compare the content of courses, but the language of learning outcomes is common for all courses at a university. Comparing grading matrices is more difficult. But one’s grading should match one’s learning outcomes, so commonalities exist. My undergraduate students at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina take approximately 40 credit-hours inside the school and 80 credit-hours from other colleges at USC. Students take courses at the 200-level, as well as the 300-, 400-, and 500-levels. We really push the higher level learning outcomes, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation during the upper-level courses.

IQ:  But aren’t you currently working at the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management (CSJMM) in Tbilisi, Georgia? Isn’t USC participating in a Journalism School Partnership program with CSJMM? Do faculty members at USC have the same expectations as the faculty members and students at CSJMM?

KK: Welllllllllllllll . . . if you think that coordination at the department level is difficult, imagine what it must be like coordinating expectations at the international level!

IQ:  OK. But how is it going?

KK: As I said before, I set high expectations because without high expectations people make little progress. I may meet some initial resistance, but when both parties work hard together, they can meet those high expectations. And the secret is to share learning outcomes and grading matrices because these are the key instruments in education.

IQ:  So are you helping CSJMM faculty members with their courses’ learning outcomes and grading matrices, and will they match the learning outcomes and grading matrices at USC?

KK: Yes, we’re working together on these things. And, yes, I hope we’ll end up with a good match.

IQ:  Well, good luck!

KK: Thanks!

The “ties” that bind us together

Copyright Baadur Koplatadze, 2011

People who know me know that I like unusual ties. As a visual communications professor, I think it is appropriate that my trademark is visually interesting ties. When I gave some presentations in Tbilisi in April 2011, I wore a couple of my favorite ties. Then I was invited to a press conference at the American Embassy to announce the Journalism School Partnership Program between USC’s SJMC and GIPA’s CSJMM. I can’t remember if I wore a tie, but I remember that GIPA’s rector (like a president) did not wear a tie. Moreover, I clearly remember that Giorgi Margvelashvili said that Georgians don’t wear ties. OK, I thought, but I was not convinced.

Later the same week, Maia Mikashavidze took me to a piano recital in a beautiful concert hall. I studied the way the men were dressed and, indeed, found that none, or almost none of the men wore ties. Giorgi’s statement was confirmed. When I returned to Tbilisi September 1, I didn’t bring any of my ties.

Last night the American ambassador, John Bass, hosted a cocktail party to announce the arrival of the embassy’s new Public Affairs Officer. The invitation said “business attire,” and I work black slacks and a white long-sleeved shirt. As you have undoubtedly predicted, every man—at least 100—was wearing a tie except me. No problem; it is not the first time I’ve been under-dressed and feeling a bit foolish.

Then . . . I saw the rector, Giorgi, at the ambassador’s home, and guess what? He was wearing a tie. So we joked around for a while and had a good laugh.

Giorgi asked me how I’ve been enjoying my stay in Georgia. I said I’m having a great time—I love the people, the food, the scenery, my apartment, and so on. I just don’t have a tie, I joked. Giorgi immediately removed his tie and gave it to me. He was insistent. I agreed to take his tie on the condition that we “share” it. So, we shared the tie, and now this incident has become one of the stories that “tie” us together.

Not all fun and games . . .

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

These men were playing backgammon in the park, and I’m also enjoying myself thoroughly, but I do have a list of jobs to accomplish in the next 11 months.  The jobs at the top of the list need to be accomplished first.

•Deliver a presentation on “total quality management,” i.e. program assessment, to GIPA’s administrators

• Advise the director of GIPA’s PhD program on ???????

• Suggest additions to CSJMM’s website and consult on process for maintaining a current, useful site

• Create formal policies and procedures for CSJMM

• Establish formal hiring and firing rules for faculty and staff

• Establish an evaluation system for faculty, staff, and students

(OK—STOP—I can hear you snickering!)

• Train new faculty members

• Train the trainers in visual communication, media ethics, and so on

• Evaluate and modernize the current curriculum

• Develop a strategic plan for CSJMM

• Build a foundation for a new master’s degree program at CSJMM

• Outline and establish ways of cooperation with USC

• Plan student exchange program with USC

(If you don’t stop laughing, I won’t continue!)

• Develop an internship policy and database

• Create an action play for Year II of CSJMM’s and USC’s Journalism School Partnership Program

• Improve student-driven multimedia reporting and develop a new documentary component at GIPA Media

• Develop a 6-month non-degree program in media management

• Conduct classes in visual communication for CSJMM students (Matt Haught will do this, not me)

(OK, I’m done, except that I’ll also teach a course in photojournalism and a course in media ethics)

Arrival in Tbilisi

CSJMM background information:

The University of South Carolina’s (USC’s) School of Journalism and Mass Communications in Columbia, South Carolina is now partners with the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management (CSJMM) at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Susanna Melo (left) and Natia Metreveli, staff member of CSJMM. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.

Due to a $742,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State, the two schools are participating in a three-year partnership program to improve the standard of journalism instruction and to assist in the institutional development of CSJMM. The partnership is designed to assist CSJMM to increase its capacity to deliver programs of the highest international quality for instruction and research in journalism. By training future journalists and media practitioners, CSJMM will play a critical role in setting the standards and providing the necessary skills to develop and maintain independent media in the Caucasus region. Such independent media should then play a critical role in ensuring the free flow of information necessary to maintain democratic systems of government.

My role:

My wife, Susanna Melo, and I arrived September 1, 2011, and we’ll be living in Tbilisi for 11 months. During this time I’ll work with the school’s administrators to either revise or create policies and I’ll work with faculty members to improve their teaching. I’ll also help everyone revise the school’s curriculum.

“We’re a family,” said Natia Metreveli, of CSJMM

The school will celebrate its 10th anniversary during the summer of 2012. Several people at the school have told me that for the first decade, it has functioned as a large family. Indeed, Maia Mikashavidze served as dean from the beginning until April 2011, when she resigned in order to apply to the PhD program in USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She is now studying in Columbia. Tiko Tsomaia was one of the first graduates (November 2001) and is now a faculty member. But more importantly is the atmosphere that has been created within the school. Co-workers are also friends. People enjoy working at the school. They don’t watch the clock or count the hours they’ve worked; instead, they do what needs to be done. Since the staff, faculty and administrators get along so well, employees seldom leave the school.