Thursday, October 27, 2016

Maricopa County Community Colleges Work to Save Students Millions

After tuition and housing, books and supplemental instructional materials can be a substantial percentage of a student’s budget. Since 1978, the cost of college textbooks has increased by 812 percent. This is a faster increase than even health care or home prices. On average, a student will pay $655 for textbooks per year. This is just an average, meaning 50 percent of students are paying more than this; not surprising when just one book can cost as much as $300. The cost goes even higher when supplemental materials are added in. Students in some classes spend up to an additional $150 per semester for art or other supplies.

There is a growing movement among community colleges to decrease the cost of learning materials used in the courses they offer. They are doing this through the switch to Open Educational Resources. These are any resources that are available at little, $40 or less, or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning or research. OER are generally digital resources and tend to focus on online or hybrid courses; however, they can also be used in traditional classroom settings. Beyond electronic textbooks, the materials include learning applications, syllabi, online quizzes and exams, and instructional videos and any other type of material that can be delivered to the students electronically. These materials are usually released under a Creative Commons license.   

Maricopa County Community Colleges, which Glendale Community College is a part of, started the Maricopa Millions OER Project in Fall 2013. The project’s goal is to substantially lower student costs associated with course materials with low or no cost options. No cost courses have no additional fees beyond the tuition. Through Spring 2016, the project has generated nearly $6 million in savings for MCCCD students. To assist students in locating classes with no or low cost textbooks, a search option has been added to the student information system’s Find A Class section.  

However, the benefits to students can be hard for them to appreciate as there is a savings involved instead of an easily noticeable out of pocket expense. The experience of former GCC student Dawn Creighton brings some perspective. She says that when she was attending GCC, “There was no book advance and that caused the hair raising situation of having to pay for my books, including expensive math books, on my own before getting any of my grant money.”

The OER Project not only benefits the students; it is also benefiting the instructors. Jeff Del Nero, faculty member in the GCC Art department, told his Art Marketing class, “Being able to use online materials takes pressure off of the teachers.” By having these materials available, teachers don’t have to require their students to purchase often expensive textbooks.

In its current form the project appears to be a success all around. However, MCCCD is continuing to evaluate more OER materials and expand their use in more classes. The project timeline calls for the use of OER materials during live classroom session starting in the 2016-2017 school year.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

One of My Journalism Heroes

While I can name quite a few heroes I have in journalism, the majority have either passed away or retired. Also, like many participating in a growing trend, I have cut the cable and no longer watch any of the major television networks. Instead of my news being served at a regular time on a regular channel, I have to make the effort to seek out those who I trust to convey truthful news to me via the Internet. One of those who I turn to again and again is Rachel Maddow.

Rachel Maddow is the host of The Rachel Maddow Show on the MSNBC news network. She has a bachelor’s degree in public policy and as a Rhodes Scholar, she earned a doctorate in political science from Oxford University. From 1999 through 2005, Maddow worked as a radio host on several programs ending up on Unfiltered for Air America. After Unfiltered was cancelled, she began appearing on several news shows as either a co-host, substitute host or a regular panelist. In 2008, she started with MSNBC, which eventually led to The Rachel Maddow Show.  

While journalism serves a purpose beyond entertainment, we tend to watch what entertains us. Rachel Maddow entertains me, but not in a yuck-yuck way. She intelligently dissects the current events and delivers them to her viewers with wit and barbed humor. While she tackles political issues with a liberal leaning, she does not consider herself to be part of partisan politics.

I like the way Rachel Maddow tackles the issues, looks beyond the obvious and delivers news and commentary in a way that makes me feel better informed. And entertained.     


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Volunteers Tend the Gaucho Urban Garden

Several students and a faculty member gathered on October 14, 2016 to tend Glendale Community College’s Gaucho Urban Garden. It is located on the GCC main campus between the Language Arts and Humanities buildings. The garden was started three years ago and anyone who is interested may participate in its care. Meeting dates and times are listed on GCC’s website in the Events Calendar.

Angela Schwendiman, from the Biology faculty, talks to the student volunteers about they are going to be planting in the community garden. The north section of the garden will be planted completing the work started two weeks earlier in the south section.

Angela Schwendiman shows the volunteers how to prepare the soil before the seeds can be planted. The plants are arranged in sections like a square foot garden, and they are watered by an ecological drip irrigation system.

April Truscott, Biotech, Alex Garcia, Nursing, and Alyssa Figuerroa, Nursing, plant root and leafy vegetables in alternating sections so that nothing becomes overly crowded. Unlike most of the United States, Arizona has a low desert climate and the growing seasons are reversed. Planting is done in the fall and harvesting happens throughout the winter and spring before the temperatures become too hot.

The volunteers get their hands dirty helping to maintain the Gaucho Urban Garden. Their hard work benefits everyone at Glendale Community College. Angela Schwendiman, the faculty adviser, says that when the vegetables are harvested, they are given out to anyone who is interested, not just the volunteers who have worked in the garden.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Online Branding Questions Concerning Journalists

Why would a professional journalist want to create an online resume site or web       presence?
It makes sense for all professionals, including journalists to have an online presence in the age of the Internet. Virginia Commonwealth University has a guide for journalists about creating a digital portfolio for journalists. An online presence allows prospective employers a place where they can:
  • View your collected works in one place.
  • The overall website shows them that you are able to put together an effective communications package.
  • It also shows them that you can produce news content for multiple platforms.
What kinds of tools would you use to build your site?
There is a plethora of tools available for building a website. has an article how to promote yourself as a journalist online. They do advise that as a professional, you should invest a little bit of money in registering your own domain name. Some of the tools that they talk about include:

What considerations do you have to keep in mind regarding branding and consistency? How does this help a reader or potential employer find you?
By having a presence on the Internet and in social media that is consistent and strongly portrays your brand as a journalist, you make it easier for prospective employers to find you. Using the same information about yourself on multiple websites and social media outlets allows the search engines to return more results concerning you and your work. Without this search engine optimization, SEO, you are dispersing your online presence under multiple search terms that people might not know. If you go by Susan, use it consistently and don’t call yourself Suzi when you’re feeling informal.
What types of files will you collect to present and link to (be thinking what types of digital formats)?
You should be including examples of your work including articles, pod casts and videos that you have produced. File formats can be recognized by their file extensions, .xyz. Most web browsers can handle multiple file formats, but it is best to stick to the most commonly used ones. These include .docx, .mp3, .mpg, .jpg, .gif, .tif, .au, and .pdf.
The PDF, Adobe’s Portable Document Format, is particularly useful for archiving documents. This is a reliable and nearly universal format.
How will you organize your site? Explain and provide one link from a search of professional journalists' websites as an example.
There are certainly many ways to set up a website for your digital portfolio. After looking at the sites of a few professional journalists, I really liked the look and simplicity of the website of John Tedesco, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News. It had a home page with links for just four additional pages: about, blog, clips and contact. This covered all of the pertinent information without overwhelming.
This was contrasted by the website of Timothy Harper, a freelance writer and journalist, which has a menu of twenty different pages and many clickable links within the text of each page.
Finally, how can creating a web presence help you work or represent yourself better as a professional?
I think maintaining a web presence allows potential employers and readers to see that your writing is consistent and that you have the ability to produce content in multiple formats for multiple platforms. Showing consistency is central to being seen as a professional and to building your reputation as a journalist.   


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Amy Goodman is Facing Prison for Being a Journalist.

I am sharing this story at 5am. I just read about what is happening to a respected and longtime journalist. Please take the time to follow this link and read about Amy Goodman's fight standing up for here rights as a journalist covering an unpopular event.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What is Our Greatest Ethical Obligation as Journalists?

This is a quick overview of a few of the many guiding principles laid out in the code of ethics on the Society of Professional Journalists’ website. It is truly a great resource for both beginning and seasoned journalists. These principles are so important to the idea of what makes up an ethical journalist, that they are prominently held by many journalism organizations. These include the Ethical Journalism Network, and in the NPR Ethics Handbook.   

I do not think that only one of these principles can be labeled the greatest. I believe that these principles need to be incorporated as a whole. They need to inform how reporters approach the responsibilities that they assume when they take on the task of being a journalist. However, the overarching principles of seeking the truth and reporting it, and being accountable and transparent resonated with me the most. These were presented and feel to me like the bookends that prop up the entire code.

Under the principle of seeking the truth and reporting It, I was drawn to the idea that journalists must take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. I feel that if more journalists took this to heart, the public would be able to spend less time fact checking the information put out and more time actually exploring the content provided about the issues that are affecting their lives. While the public should remain vigilant about the information they choose to believe, it can become a daunting task to verify what is coming from the many diverse sources available in the Internet age. Constantly having to comb through these sources to find reliable information can lead to frustration and a turning away from those sources.

This ties in with being accountable and transparent. A journalist should be up front with their audience and explain how and why they approach the job of being a reporter. With the journalist’s motivations clearly stated, the public can spend more time engaging with what is being reported, and less time trying to work out why it is being reported. Also, being able to clearly see the motivations of the report allows the public to build a rapport with and a trust in the reporter.

One last thing I would like to explore is from the middle of this great list of guiding principles. It is a succinct principle that might be easily overlooked. In fact, I feel that it has been overlooked by many reporting in the last weeks of the 2016 Presidential campaigns. The warning about pandering to the lurid curiosity of the public seems to have gone straight out of the window. While the current candidates are working hard to engage our attention, the journalists seem to be buying in and giving the public the entire peepshow. I feel that many are going beyond writing about the antics, and instead, are using the antics themselves as the content of their reports.