A Critical Thinking Exercise About Studies

Every year at TEACHAPALOOZA educators share stories about how they are trying to find ways to get students thinking more critically about the information they hear and read. Here is a great case study.

The University of Maryland released a study that suggests a particular brand of chocolate milk may help young athletes who suffered concussions to recover. The questions arise whether the study makes any scientific, let alone logical sense. Then we learn that the milk company helped pay for the study.


Why the First Five Minutes of Class is Crucial

Here are strategies to help you get every class off on the right foot:

Open with a question or two.

What did we learn last time? 

Asking students to tell you what they already know (or think they know) has two important benefits. First, it lights up the parts of their brains that connect to your course material, so when they encounter new material, they will process it in a richer knowledge context. Second, it lets you know what preconceptions students have about your course material. That way, your lecture, discussion, or whatever you plan for class that day can specifically deal with and improve upon the knowledge actually in the room, rather than the knowledge you imagine to be in the room.

Reactivate what they learned in previous courses.

Write it down.

Frequent, low-stakes writing assignments constitute one of the best methods you can use to solicit engagement and thinking in class. You don’t have to grade the responses very carefully — or at all. Count them for participation, or make them worth a tiny fraction of a student’s grade. If you don’t want to collect the papers, have students write in their notebooks or on laptops and walk around the classroom just to keep everyone honest and ensure they are doing the work. Limit writing time to three to five minutes and ask everyone to write until you call time — at which point discussion begins.


Crowdfunded Journalism Rises

During TEACHAPALOOZA 2015 we heard predictions that crowdfunding for journalism would rise. It has.

Poynter.org reports:

In the first nine months of 2015, crowdfunding projects devoted to journalism raised more than $1.74 million on Kickstarter, according to the report. That’s up from $49,256 in 2009, the year Kickstarter launched. The amount of crowdfunding projects has also increased, growing from 17 to 173 projects over that same period.

Likewise, the contributor base to journalism projects on Kickstarter has also expanded, increasing to 25,651 people in 2015 from an initial 792 people in 2009.

An Ethics Lesson: Why CBS Aired Graphic Death Video

In August 2015, CBS’ 60 Minutes re-aired some of the most graphic video it has ever aired. (It first aired in April 2015.) The program included video of victims from Sarin gas attacks in Syria.

Scott Pelley explains the decision. Watch the interview, which includes clips of the video in question:

“If you don’t see it, I don’t believe the impact truly hits you,” Pelley tells Silvio. “Even though people will be disturbed by what they see, it has to be seen.”

Eyewitness cellphone videos, broadcast on 60 Minutes, show the aftermath of the 2013 sarin gas attack and the horror that victims of all ages suffered — including seizures, vomiting, and respiratory failure.


Ask your students, what would have happened if Jews in Germany and Poland had cellphones and could have posted their plight on the Internet?

“That’s not the kind of thing you want to report on for a couple of days and then walk away and never remember again,” Pelley says. “You want to never forget that that kind of thing happened — and that’s where 60 Minutes comes in.”

Google Tools for Educators


Our TEACHAPALOOZA friend Vanessa Schneider at Google shared amazing tools with us including:

Storytelling with Google’s Geo Tools – Tutorial site:


Getting started with Fusion Tables – Tutorial site:


Movie Making with Google Earth – Tutorial site:


Teachapalooza Demo Data (for practice!):


Google Media Tools:


Google Media Mailing list:


Let’s take a closer look at  Google Public Data .
This powerful search tool makes it easy to look at thousands of data sets from around the globe.

Click on the image to go to the website

Click on the image to go to the website


Google trends can help you find out what people are searching for.
Not only can you find out what’s hot, you can find out what is hot where you are.

Google Trends can also tell you WHEN people search for certain topics.

Click on image to go to website

Click on image to go to website

Google Trends Visualize
See what his hot in a constantly updated visual.

The constantly changing screen shows you what people are searching for on Google.

The constantly changing screen shows you what people are searching for on Google.

Vanessa Schneider's constantly updated blog : click on image to link to site

Vanessa Schneider’s constantly updated blog : click on image to link to site

Google Charts
This is a way to visualize data 

Screen shot 2015-06-12 at 3.00.06 PM

Eric Newton’s Keynote on the Teaching Hospital Concept

Eric Newton says his concept of a Journalism Teaching Hospital would include six elements:
1. Students doing the journalism;

2. Professionals mentoring them to improve the quality and impact of the journalism;

3. Professors bringing in topic knowledge and raising issues;

4. Innovators pioneering new tools and techniques;

5. Academics doing major research projects;

6. Everyone working together with an emphasis of not just informing a community but engaging it. The sixth element is not a type of person, it’s a way of doing things: working with each other and a community.

The background document on which the notion is based.

Eric says:

The teaching hospital for journalism education rests upon the ancient idea that people learn by doing. There’s a quote often attributed to Ben Franklin in the United States. It is on all the quotation websites. You can look it up. It says, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The only problem with that: Ben Franklin may have never written it. No original can be found. When you do your homework, however, when you learn by doing, you discover this idea is not 200 years old. It is more than 2,000 years old. A Confucian philosopher Xunzi seems to have written it down first. It’s a Chinese proverb, commonly translated thusly: “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.” Education thrives through learning by doing.

In other fields, science students work on real experiments with their professors. Sports students participate in actual sports. Computer science students program real computers. Journalism educators interested in learning by doing could find examples in studies of agriculture, law, the arts, education, science, sports and many other fields. But I believe medicine, and its concomitant, the teaching hospital, holds the most promise for journalism education — because like many news organizations, the teaching hospital is deeply rooted in community.

The teaching hospital

In these hospitals, medical students under the tutelage of actual doctors learn how to draw blood, how to insert catheters, how to set broken arms, even deliver babies. Why? Because book learning and passing tests are just not enough to teach you how to be a doctor. How many of you would like to go to the doctor’s office, only to have your young physician say to you, “Well, gee, I read about this in my textbook, but I’ve never actually inserted a catheter before, so, bear with me…”.

Thankfully, in the United States, there are about 400 teaching hospitals. They develop new cures and treatments. They set high standards for patient care. And they treat the most difficult cases while serving the poor. At the same time, they train more than 100,000 new doctors and other health professionals every year.

So if giving physicians real-world experience is part of their education, of course it should apply to journalism. Young journalists need to employ objective techniques to collect facts. They need to use the latest equipment. They need to learn how to communicate clearly. They need to understand that journalism is not about them, it’s about the community. Communities need news for their social health as much as they need clean water and clean air for their physical health. News and information are the lifeblood of communities.

But at this point no journalism education program mirrors exactly an actual teaching hospital. In my country, that may be a controversial statement. We have deans and directors who raise money by extolling the virtues of their journalism and mass communication programs. That is hard work under difficult circumstances. Many people, including more than a few university presidents, don’t appreciate journalism. Journalists have this irritating habit of telling everyone uncomfortable truths. So it’s an uphill battle, with funders the likes of me saying universities should care more about the future, and many news companies not willing to fund journalism education in the present.

There is some good news. American foundations are not only investing more in media at triple the growth rate of their other grant-making, but we’re also investing more in journalism education. The teaching hospital model is helping with that. But if schools don’t do actual journalism, it heightens the criticisms of those who argue that foundations should pour their money directly into critical areas like investigative reporting.