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A free summer seminar for experienced high school journalism advisers

From the 23 teachers who attended this workshop in July 2019, we have included Solutions Journalism Story Ideas, other Story Ideas for a whole range of topics and Tech Examples of something they learned, many of these for data visualization, plus some resources anyone can use in the future for these topics.

Project Based Learning in Journalism, Back Off and Turn them Loose

Students can be amazing. 

But what if I told you that education holds them back and we as educators are afraid to turn them loose, because that means we are not in control. 

If you read or watch nothing else watch Look Good, Feel Better: Twenty Time Project (Alexi Edmonds) and see what a shy kid in my Perspectives class accomplished and how proud she was of it. 

As journalism educators we would like to think we are better at this than most teachers, but I can promise you we can do better and our kids will thrive with it.

Multiple speakers this week talked about project based learning (PBL) or some type of it.

The 360 video project got me thinking about how we can apply real project based learning to journalism and make sure it is beneficial for our programs, students and community. A day or two later we talked to a few people about solutions journalism and it hit me again. Bring this to my kids, all my kids. 

In my Language Arts classes I have been doing this for years. It was developed by Google (weird, right?) and it is called The 20time Project: How Educators Can Launch Google’s Formula for Future Ready Innovation (Brookhouser, 2015). Google originated the movement, starting it by giving their employees 20 percent of their work week to work on whatever they wanted. Google did it so they got to keep what employees developed during this time and it worked. I imagine most of you have heard of Gmail, Adsense and perhaps Google Maps. The list goes on and on, but those, plus a lot more, are all rumored to have been developed by an employee during their 20time work. will give you an overview of how one teacher uses 20time in his classroom. My wife saw him speak years ago and said you have to try this with your high school kids. She threw me a book and I started it that fall, blindly I might add. That started an amazing journey that has led my students all across the city to nursing homes, hospitals, cancer centers, homeless shelters, skate parks, county parks, National Guard bases, elementary schools, day cares and so many other places.  

This video was listed at the beginning, but I wanted to put it with the rest of the links. This is one of my students with her 1 minute check in video. She crushed it and it had nothing to do with makeup.Look Good, Feel Better: Twenty Time Project (Alexi Edmonds)

Another one of my kids with her final presentation. Lauren’s 20time Speech (cite full name)

An entire playlist of resources I use. Resource Playlist

I would love to talk about this for hours, but I know everyone is about ready to stop reading. So for your reading pleasure I am going to list a few things I have learned through successes and failures over the last few years.


Go All In This is not the type of project where you can start it and just decide halfway through you do not want to commit the time. You have to trust the process.
Learn the Process, It Works There are a lot of people who have tried this and it is successful, but you have to do the research. If you are interested email me. I will send you folders full of resources.
Your Excitement is Key Kids feed off of our energy. I know you all just said, “I know that.” But do you do it every day, and does it truly show? When you pitch this project to kids you have to be the most excited version of yourself you can be. Sell the project, sell the idea and the kids will follow.
Find a way of tracking that works for you and your kids

But the most important part of this is you cannot take all their time. They have to have time to work. So stand back and be a resource. As journalism teachers we are good at this part of it.

I have my kids blog. They are not big fans of it, but it helps me track them and holds them accountable. They also have to respond to other people’s research and they do that using a method from a great book called They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing (Berkenstein and Graff, 2018). Check it out; you will love it and your kids will probably see it in college.

  1. Weekly Blogs and writing along the way, Writing and Reading Standards galore
  2. 30 Second Elevator Pitch, Multimedia Standards, Speaking and Listening
  3. 1 Min Commercial about halfway through where they have to sell their idea and why it is worth continuing. Multimedia, Speaking and Listening
  4. Final 10 Min Ted Talk, Every Language Arts Standard and simply amazing
Raising Money Sucks Every kid in our school thinks you can help others by raising money. There are other ways. Yes, there are some students who can handle it, but it requires a strong student and support from someone to help them so they are not held accountable for the money. Be careful.
Failure is Ok A lot of students will never achieve their ultimate goal, but the things they do along the way are amazing. Let them fail.

So how can we use this in Journalism? We already do, but the method is different. Perhaps we can start using some of these steps and ideas to keep our journalists on track when they engage in one of those longer assignments.

Try something new this year and see what your kids can do.

Turn them loose.


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One Comment

  1. I’m glad we turned you loose on this blog. Nice work!