Friday, March 23, 2007

JACC Converge

Day one of the 2007 JACC annual convention is in the books. Some 600-plus students and advisers from 51 California community colleges are meeting in Sacramento for the 52nd annual event.

Multimedia is a big theme of this year's convention. The Sacramento Bee's Manny Crisotomo opened the convention with a keynote presentation on a series called "The Weight" that he worked on about America's first (and only) residential high school for obese teens (located in my hometown of Reedley; I may have been the only Reedleyite in the room). Well done and inspiring. I saw some of my students analyzing what was shown and thinking about how we could use some of the techniques for our own publication. Ahhh, the next step, one of the things I love about teaching.

Also interesting to note is that a group of students and one faculty adviser is working on a multimedia project covering the convention. Take a look at JACC: Converge. To say I'm especially proud that the students come from Cerritos College and are being advised by adjunct Cerritos instructor Amara Aguilar (a former student of mine) would be an understatement.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My successful SoundSlides project

Once again, thanks to the folks at SoundSlides for helping me get my editor recognition project back on track. I've now successfully completed the project. See it at here. When it works, it is really slick.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My failed SoundSlides project

UPDATE:Kudos to the folks at SoundSlides. They got back to me (see comment below) and we worked it out. I was working with an older version of SoundSlides. But after updating, running a couple of tests, discovering an anomaly with one of the images, etc. we got it to work. Now I've just got to find time to do the tweaking for the final version.

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Soundslides is a great program for creating slide shows for the web. I have been training my students and encouraging them to use it at

And while I have practiced with the program so that I could teach it, I didn't have an opportunity to create a project of my own until this weekend. And I failed.

Twice each year the Journalism Association of Community Colleges honors California community college student publication editors for their leadership by presenting them with certificates of merit. Many schools change editors every semester, that's why we do it twice a year. The students work long hours and are the backbones of our publications. And in most cases, the editorships are non-paid positions, though most receive academic credit. (Credit that does not transfer to the major if they transfer to a four-year university.) It seems the least we can do.

At this year's JACC state convention --next weekend in Sacramento-- we thought we'd do something else a little different and put together a visual salute to the editors, too. A PERFECT PROJECT FOR SOUNDSLIDES! For the last four weeks I've been collecting images for the project and sat down this weekend to put it together.

For sound I thought I'd play some music. I thought this would be the hard part because I needed to merge the three pieces (two-plus, actually) into one file. Apple's iTunes and GarageBand made that amazingly simple.

So I was ready for Soundslides. I imported the audio. Then I imported the jpeg images: 62 of them! It seemed to go quickly and then the tumbling boxes did their thing with a message indicated that it was still importing Image No. 62. I waited. It took a while. "Not a problem," I thought. "It's got to resize all those images." So I waited some more. I waited one hour, two hours, four hours, eight hours! The boxes kept churning away. I went to bed. When I woke up in the morning it was still churning away on the last image. So I cancelled.

"Must be too many images for it to handle at once," I thought. So I removed half the images and tried again, thinking that I could add the rest of the images one by one later. After two hours of churning on Image No. 31, I cancelled. I tried again with 10 images. Same thing. So I gave up.

But I had worked so hard to collect the images. I turned to iMovie and within a couple of hours had put together the video for the JACC web site. I also imported a larger version for the presentation.

If anyone can help me figure out why the program couldn't close out the last image let me know. I don't know if I'll have time to redo it for next weekend, but I'd sure like to try. The upside? While waiting for all those images I kept taking walks. Instead of the normal 3.5 miles I try to get in each day, I clocked 11!

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Will college publications all be digital in 25 years?

Robert Kuttner, columnist for the Boston Globe, predicts in the Columbia Journalism Review that newspapers will all be digital within 25 years. Despite gloomy forecasts and a late start, most newspapers have engaged into a viable transition to digital.
An easy prediction to make. If he's wrong, who 25 years from now will remember that he predicted it?

But it is an interesting notion.

Will college publications all be digital in 25 years? There's a good chance. Maybe sooner.

Bigger universities seem to be having luck in drawing large student audiences to their current web sites. For California community colleges it seems to be a bigger challenge. Sure, we can build an audience and it IS true that students spend a lot of time online. That doesn't mean that community college students are gravitating to online student publications. I still maintain that one of the real reasons many of our publications exist is that schools want to give students a way to communicate. Our biggest number of campus readers probably comes from pass-by readership. That is, the students who read our print edition most often DON'T seek out the publication, it is just handy as they are walking by the many distribution points we have on campus. We haven't learned yet how to get them pass by our web sites out there on the whole World Wide Web.

Of course, I have some thoughts. If we could just campus computer labs to set our sites to set the default URL of browsers to the campus publication, that would jump start things. But college are more likely to set the college web site as the URL.

The bigger answer, of course, is that we have to stop simply repeating the print edition and put new content on the web site that students WANT to seek out, something they can't elsewhere.

What makes the prospect of all digital publications at colleges most likely is the cost that is involved in printing. As school budgets shrink and print advertising shrinks, the inexpensive printing of paper-based publications is going to rack up the pressure to go online only.

But advertising is also going to slow down the process a bit. That is until local advertisers see more value in online advertising than print advertising. And that's not going to happen until student publications build LOCAL audiences. At the Cerritos College Talon Marks, for instance, clearly two-thirds of our online readership comes from the East Coast or Europe.

I've predicted in the past that California community colleges are about to see their first online-only student publication. Cypress College would like to be that first publication, but LA Harbor may give it a run for the money. Or it may simply be a school that currently does not have a student publication and sees online as the only option to starting one. And it may happen sometime during 2007.

JACC is poised to accept an online-only publication in its various competitions. Currently, in all writing categories, schools may enter any story as long as a version of it did not run in the print version of the publication. That's a stupid limitation, but better than the alternative that no online version of a story may be entered. As for photos, the rules are different. Only printed versions of photos may be entered in photo competitions; there is a separate online-only photo competition.